Doctoral dissertation: Industries can improve their energy performance through measurement
Industrial companies do not always invest in energy efficiency even though it would bring economic benefits. A doctoral dissertation examined at Aalto University tells why: there are no indicators for energy performance.
In her dissertation, Leena Sivill, Licentiate of Science (Technology), examined the improvement of energy performance from the perspective of internal management of industrial organisations. Measurements help to make energy performance a visible objective that steers the operations of the entire organisation.
The birth of the dissertation can be traced back to 2001. That year the Aalto University researchers specialising in energy technology were invited to the Kaipola paper mill of the UPM company. The personnel at the mill suspected that the systems recovering the waste heat generated by the paper machines were inefficient.
According to Leena Sivill, the systems were old and lacked the gauges for measuring the efficiency of the systems.
After making the measurements with hand-held meters, the researchers constructed a mathematical model of the heat recovery systems and analysed the manner in which the systems operate. The results showed that the potential for energy savings in paper machines was more than 100 gigawatt hours per year. This would be enough to heat about 4,000 single-family homes.
- In monetary terms, it meant savings of more than one million euros per year, Sivill explains.
Industry accounts for half of Finland's energy consumption. According to Sivill, Finnish industrial companies have been very good at making their operations energy efficient.
- Easy improvements are no longer possible. However, rising energy costs and technological improvements mean that one can always aim higher, she adds.
In her dissertation, Sivill tested the hypothesis (based on the lessons learned at Kaipola) that measurements are a factor seriously hampering the efforts to make Finnish industry more energy efficient. She interviewed 32 persons working in energy intensive industries. They included both employees and members of the top management. The interviews made her more convinced that industries should invest in more advanced performance measurement systems.
She urges companies to make measurements of energy performance part of their daily operations: “All members of the organisation who can contribute to more energy efficient operations must have tools for assessing their own work”.
Those in charge of the production processes must be able to see from the meters how their action impacts the energy consumption at the plant, while the company management must get a picture of changes in energy performance and how it can be improved.
Sivill is convinced that when companies make energy performance an objective, things will start moving.
What happened at Kaipola? When the researchers of Aalto University returned to the mill a few years later, the energy saving efforts initiated by the employees had brought results.
- Nearly all improvements we had suggested have been put into effect and more than 80 per cent of the targeted savings have been achieved, says Sivill, expressing her satisfaction with the situation.
Photo: Leena Sivill now uses her experience as a researcher at Aalto University in her job as a consultant for strategic management in the energy and forest industries.
Text: Petja Partanen/Tarinatakomo
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