A new era of energy management

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When it comes to energy usage, the industrial sector plays a major role across the globe. According to a recent article on the Plant Services website, figures from the US Energy Information Association show that 50% of the planet's total delivered energy is consumed by industry, and this is expected to increase by 107 quadrillion Btu in just 25 years' time.

With high volumes such as these and ever-increasing energy prices, it's perhaps little wonder that energy management has become such an important issue for manufacturers throughout the world.

But for those organisations who feel they have done everything they can to reduce their energy bills - whether that's retrofitting projects or upgrading their HVAC systems - there are two new kids on the industrial energy management block that are giving the sector a boost: smart energy grids, and smart industrial operations.

Smart grids are automated energy delivery networks that supply a dual flow of electricity and information. By delivering real-time data and balancing supply and demand levels almost instantaneously, they are able to reduce pressures on energy infrastructures; decrease blackout instances; and help users balance usage with peak energy rates - all of which help lower costs.

But the systems prove even more valuable when combined with information-enabled 'smart' manufacturing. With smart, connected devices that deliver greater insights, as well as the merging of information technology (IT) and operations technology (OT), organisations can make their processes efficient and, as a result, improve overall productivity.

What's more, smart industrial operations can be utilised beyond manufacturing uses, providing innovative ways for businesses to monitor their energy consumption.

Some industrial firms favour a 'top-down' approach to energy management, which involves measuring consumption patterns against production output; while others take a 'bottom-up' approach, using energy management systems to monitor energy during production.

However, what's emerging now is a new holistic way to tackle energy management, where connected devices make the collection and sharing of data even easier, and intelligent networks boost the flow of information.

With this approach, energy-consumption data can be obtained, monitored and shared in much the same way as production data - allowing managers and operators to make adjustments where necessary to make their energy usage more efficient, and lower their outgoings.

 Smart grid

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