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2 March, 2021

Factory managers don`t rate drives as energy savers

25 July, 2008

A survey of British manufacturing managers with engineering roles has revealed that they do not regard variable speed drives (VSDs) as being the best way of cutting their companies’ energy bills. The survey, conducted for ABB and shown exclusively to Drives & Controls, reveals that the 67 engineering managers surveyed placed VSDs at the bottom of a list of the ten most effective measures for cutting energy bills.

Joint top of the list were negotiating better prices with their company’s existing energy suppliers, and fixing compressed air leaks. The engineering managers also gave high ratings to changing energy suppliers and using more efficient lighting.

ABB chart

The survey, conducted for ABB last year by Benchmark Research, also included 52 managers with financial and accounting roles. More than half of them believe that changing electricity suppliers is the best way to reduce their companies’ energy costs. The chart above shows the favoured methods for cutting energy bills for both the engineering and financial managers.

ABB had expected the survey to show significant differences in attitude between the financial and engineering managers, with the latter appreciating the role that high-efficiency technologies could play in cutting energy bills. "We wanted to expose the ignorance of the financial managers," says Steve Ruddell, ABB’s energy spokesman in the UK. "We weren’t expecting similar ignorance in the engineering community."

The financial mangers believe that clamping down on visible waste, such as inefficient lighting and compressed air leaks, is important. Investing in equipment that makes industrial processes more efficient came at the bottom of their list.

"This list is back to front," says Ruddell. "Making industrial processes more efficient can save much more than the other methods, but financial managers are simply unaware of the savings they can make. Most companies can save thousands of pounds worth of electricity and some can even save hundreds of thousands of pounds by upgrading existing processes, often at comparatively low cost.

"Changing electricity suppliers is not going to make much difference at all in a market where prices rise across the board," he adds. "In addition, this does nothing to reduce the company’s carbon footprint, which also ought to be a priority."

Ruddell puts part of the blame for the misconceptions on the Carbon Trust whose publicity campaigns have highlighted the energy savings possible through using high-efficiency lighting and switching off domestic appliances rather than leaving them in standby. But the Trust has given little publicity to the much larger savings possible by adopting more efficient technologies in industry. "Although the Trust is taking revenue from industry," says Ruddell, "it is not serving industry".

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