“As evidence from implemented national and international programmes has shown, systems optimization measures can attain average efficiency gains of 20 to 30 per cent with a payback period of less than two years.”
Optimizing an energy system in line with the international standard ISO 50001 comprises a systematic, holistic, multidiscipline approach with a simple goal – minimizing energy consumption, achieving energy- and cost-savings, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint. Optimizing energy systems helps entire organizations, institutions and enterprises (both public and private sectors) to improve their energy efficiency and by that, increase profits, minimize environmental impact and reduce their energy dependence. This helps enterprises deal with possible energy price volatility, contributing towards their flexibility and adaptability to the ever-changing market parameters.
But why optimize a system at all? The process of optimizing an energy system, by itself, provides the engineers with an in-depth knowledge concerning the system parameters, allowing them to achieve efficiency, energy- and cost-saving, as well as sustainability. Replacing components of a system, or replacing an entire system in general can be quite costly, as well as have detrimental effects on the environment, considering the technological waste it produces. Therefore, one focus in energy systems optimization lies in identifying possible areas for improvement and energy savings opportunities in conducting simple changes in the operational or maintenance regime in order to achieve an optimum, or specific adjustments in the existing equipment, i.e. implementing no- or low-cost measures to gain substantial improvement in energy performance. This conditions continual monitoring of the key operational parameters in order to determine whether the system is operating in an optimal mode even when it is introduced to changes due to external circumstance. Another reason for regular monitoring is determining which actions and measures to take when the criteria isn’t met.
Optimizing an energy system enables us to get the most out of it. In the past, getting the optimal design, the optimal operational and maintenance regime, or optimizing any processes in a given facility has been based on the experience of the facility’s engineers and staff. The absence of a specific frame for conducting any changes in a given system creates a certain gap when it comes to ensuring that the system would operate smoothly, efficiently and effectively within certain predefined constraints. ISO 50001 gives the framework for improvement, it gives the guidelines, the pointers for gaining sustainability, however the concepts and systematic procedures, as well as the need for them, remain the company’s choice.
Considering the complexity of the continuous processes happening in a given facility, as well as their specific parameters, the necessity for energy savings, reducing environmental impact and improving a company’s image is ever increasing. In an energy-intensive industrial sector such as ours, enhancing design, performance and efficiency of a system requires a systematic approach. The key is to observe the system as a whole rather than to separate its components. The system ages as the facility gets older, it becomes less efficient and it generally costs more to operate.
Industry is the second biggest consumer of energy in the Republic of North Macedonia after the residential sector. In 2014 industry accounted for about 30% of final energy use in the Republic of North Macedonia or 515.21 ktoe (3rd NEEAP). The industry sector generates approximately 28% of the national GDP and it occupies nearly 30% of the labour force. Iron and steel, glass and construction materials, food and beverages account for 85% of industrial energy consumption.
Several strategies have been created in the past years in order to limit the negative environmental consequences of the industrial development, resulting in energy efficiency being considered as one of the most cost-effective measures to mitigate climate change.
It has been estimated that industry globally has the potential to improve its energy efficiency by more than 20% at affordable costs through the wider implementation of best-available technologies and better energy management practices. Additionally, according to the 2030 climate & energy framework, the goal of at least 27% improvement in energy efficiency needs to be kept in mind.
Based on experiences in the industry sector, it has been shown that an energy efficient system might not yield the anticipated results concerning improvement in energy consumption, if the operational and maintenance regime are not well-adjusted, or the components of the system itself are not designed and operated to achieve energy- and based on these- cost savings.
UNIDO’s focus on system optimization in industry is mostly based on the above-mentioned low cost or no cost measures, aiming to go beyond the simple energy efficient equipment approach.
In the Republic of North Macedonia, the optimization of energy systems comprises two thematic areas – Steam Systems- and Compressed air Systems optimization. The train-the-trainers approach that UNIDO uses aims at equipping local industry and energy efficiency experts with the expertise, methodologies and tools required to develop and implement energy system optimization projects and practices. The programme produced 11 certified experts in Steam Systems optimization, from both private and state enterprises in North Macedonia. The Compressed air Systems optimization module is still in progress.