For Europe, 2022 has been a real “watershed year” on the energy front. Recent geo-political events that have triggered a rapid rush of speculation, coupled with the constant state of urgency resulting from climate change, are prompting the Government to implement immediate measures to support businesses, public administration and civil society.
Today, the objectives appear well defined: to support research into alternative energy sources and to ensure greater energy efficiency in public, private and industrial buildings.
Energy efficiency: what it is and how to achieve it
Energy efficiency could be interpreted as the ability to use the right amount of energy to satisfy a given need, avoiding waste.
Ultimately, implementing an energy efficiency plan means carrying out a series of interventions aimed at reducing consumption and obtaining the maximum result with the minimum amount of energy possible or its more rational use and oriented towards renewable sources.
To promote energy efficiency in Italy, a number of regulations have been issued and some interesting incentive mechanisms promoted. Among these, the most important are:
tax deductions for building upgrades
energy efficiency certificates
the superbonus for specific energy efficiency works.
In general, regulations and incentives are not only issued to save money, but also to try to activate a virtuous mechanism aimed at protecting the environment, through the reduction of waste and the consequent preservation of resources.
Promoting energy efficiency also in industry
Improving energy efficiency has always been an underestimated topic globally, especially for cost and emission reduction issues. There is much discussion about how each of us can, in our own small way, contribute to energy savings and reduce our energy bills, but the huge positive impact of energy efficiency in industry is still not properly emphasised. In fact, industry is the world's largest consumer of electricity, natural gas and coal, accounting for 42% of total electricity demand and 45% of total CO2 emissions: from these numbers it is easy to see how the importance of energy efficiency in the industrial context is never given due weight.
Very interesting in this context is the work of the international EEM (Energy Efficiency Movement) forum, whose participants share a common vision in terms of regulations, incentives, investments and innovation to try to achieve a more energy efficient world. In particular, the EEM forum provides concrete guidance for industrial decision-makers to better address the issue of energy efficiency.
Implementing a national energy efficiency plan: a look at the “energy-hungry” sectors
In order to realise a real 360° energy efficiency plan, it is necessary to identify the so-called “energy-hungry” macro sectors, i.e. those characterised by high energy consumption: industry, civil society and transport. Within each macro-sector, there can be various sectors that can be analysed in terms of energy efficiency:
Energy-hungry companies with a consumption of 1GWh or more belong to this grouping. In general, the energy efficiency of these production plants can be achieved through various types of interventions, starting with the improvement of power quality up to more structural interventions. For this type of company, there are several obligations, including a four-yearly energy diagnosis (or “energy audit”), and periodic energy efficiency interventions or opportunities to access incentives. Small and medium-sized enterprises are not classified as energy-intensive but are nevertheless required to adopt voluntary energy efficiency management systems.
Hospitals are critical infrastructures, almost always composed of several buildings that are usually characterised by very high energy consumption. The costs and investments required to support energy efficiency in hospitals are certainly significant. However, there are dedicated incentives that can be availed of.
Research carried out by the Energy & Strategy Group in 2018 reports that the total investments in energy efficiency made in Italy by Public Administrations amount to an average of 2% of total investments, for a countervalue of less than EUR 150 million. A meagre figure that demonstrates, once again, the amount of work that still needs to be done in this direction. If we look at the type of intervention carried out and the technologies adopted by PAs, the above-mentioned study shows how there has been a concentration on lighting, condensing boilers, surface matting and wall insulation: too little to achieve adequate levels of energy efficiency.
Energy efficiency measures: which are the most effective
Among the most effective interventions aimed at achieving better energy efficiency are:
“Elementary Energy Hygiene” actions. These can be easily implemented by manually or automatically switching off equipment or lighting (smart lighting) when not in use and replacing fluorescent or halogen lighting fixtures with LED technology. In addition, proper and regular maintenance of all energy-consuming equipment (inverters, humidifiers, etc.) can contribute significantly to achieving efficiency targets.
Interventions to support thermal energy needs. In order to regulate energy consumption in this area, it is necessary above all to intervene on the insulation of building walls and plumbing and air ducts. Other interventions may concern the installation of renewable energy systems such as solar thermal, the use of heat pumps and condensing boilers.
Adoption of energy self-production systems or renewable energy sources. In this sense, photovoltaic systems, co-generation (the supply of electricity and heat, which guarantees a better energy yield than the two separate productions) or even tri-generation (combined production of electricity, heat and cooling from a single primary source) are the most widespread technologies.
Cloud Migration. For companies with a strong IT component, we suggest moving data and applications from physical servers to the Cloud. In this way, savings of up to 90% on energy consumption can be achieved.
Control 1st for energy efficiency
In addition to the invasive interventions aimed at achieving energy efficiency, there is an increasing need to employ IT solutions for energy management and distribution in buildings and production complexes.
Beta 80 Group's Control 1st platform natively integrates the BMS (Building Management System), EEMS (Energy Efficiency Management System) and PDMS (Power Distribution Management System) functions to guarantee monitoring of operational continuity and energy efficiency of plants, connected in such a way as to obtain global awareness of the "state of health" of its infrastructures. Furthermore, through the activation of the Asset Management application, Control 1st extends the plant management functions to provide CMMS (Computerized Maintenance Management System) services, centralising and simplifying ordinary, extraordinary, scheduled and evolutionary maintenance processes.
Example of BMS/EEMS/PDMS tools integrated with the Control 1st platform.
The holistic approach that originally characterised Control 1st is, therefore, extended to the management of the assets that an organisation is responsible for maintaining, such as equipment, materials and other resources deemed necessary.