Industry is still missing opportunities to save energy

April 2nd, 2014, Published in Articles: Energize, Articles: Vector


Research commissioned by ABB has confirmed that energy efficiency remains a high priority for executives in industry. Of more than 300 surveyed in the manufacturing and power sectors by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), almost all said energy efficiency will remain a crucial success factor for their companies in the next two decades. But three quarters of those same executives said they faced barriers to improving energy efficiency and data from the EIU report indicates that these barriers are affecting more companies.

Significant progress has been made over the past 20 years in the most energy-intensive industries. Many producers in the steel industry, which is the main industrial energy consumer, have dramatically reduced consumption by switching from blast furnaces to the electric process, which uses only half the energy. However, among producers which use the electric process, there are wide national and regional variations. The potential for further energy savings is estimated at around 40% or 250-million tons of oil equivalent (Mtoe), which is equivalent to the energy consumption of France or Brazil.

Similar considerations apply in the cement industry, the third-largest industrial energy consumer; if the main producing countries were to have the same energy efficiency as the world’s best performers (Mexico, Germany and the US), the energy consumption of the industry as a whole would drop by 20% or 50 Mtoe.

According to the EIU survey, the three main barriers to investments in energy efficiency are the lack of a clear-cut financial case, a lack of funds for large infrastructure investments and the lack of actionable information about energy efficiency options. The survey also showed that while information about the benefits of investments in energy efficiency had improved, 71% of companies said that “industries need clearer benchmarks for what constitutes energy efficiency” in their sectors. Some of those which have invested have used internal benchmarks, comparing plants of different ages, to gauge the value of investments.

ABB’s CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer says that it’s difficult to make the right decisions concerning resource efficiency if there is no agreement on benchmarks and companies are afraid of missing out on growth opportunities. He says that the industry need to make a greater effort to raise awareness of the opportunities offered by energy efficiency, and to continue investing in technology, working with politicians to make sure that a regulatory environment exists which strives for predictability and clarity in energy efficiency.

Contact Natasha Mathebula, ABB SA, Tel 010 202-6156,

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