The average household has no control over how we are being charged for our basic energy units; the only elements of control we have are how conservative we can be in using energy, and what energy package we choose to be on.Until this month, the latter could make quite a difference, with consumers shopping around (as we are often advised to do) and switching providers, as well as tailored packages. However, the recent change to increase the energy price cap arguably levels out the playing field. Is there much difference between one provider and another anymore?As to how this may evolve with time, who knows, but times are already considerably tougher for the average household, so we have to be optimistic that things will improve. For businesses, while the fundamental issue remains that wholesale energy costs are at a record high. Further, as business rates are not covered by the cap, it is additionally challenging for businesses to predict and manage how much they are going to pay for their energy.Martyn Williams of industrial software supplier COPA-DATA has looked at how companies might be able to at least curb the rising energy costs in industry, and there a number of fundamental factors in play here. In industry, energy costs have always been a substantial but essential expense – particularly for facilities that operate with a vast array of equipment. With many manufacturing operations using equipment that may not be the most energy-efficient, as they were acquired and installed some years or even decades ago, there is commonly a legacy factor to overcome. On the plus side, he identifies, there are ways to improve efficiency by installing complementary automation, such as variable speed drives (VSDs) or soft starters to manage the energy output of motors, replacing oversized motors and pumps, and running pumps at their efficiency speeds. However, these efforts can be misplaced if manufacturers do not have a full overview of where energy is being consumed. As it stands though, the reality is that most manufacturers simply don’t have the capital expenditure to invest in more efficient machinery. Unfortunately, one of the most common barriers to efficiency has been competition from other revenue-generating projects for funds. However, the current cost of energy is now at a level that cannot be ignored should businesses want to maintain their profits and, in some cases, stay afloat.The backbone of good energy management is the collection and analysis of energy data. Manufacturers need clear insight on how much energy is being used, where and what for. While many manufacturers believe they do have some kind of energy data management system (EDMS) in place, these are often relatively basic. In fact, some are only as sophisticated as a domestic smart meter and are inadequate for an industrial facility. Ideally, manufacturers need an EDMS that can collect data from equipment of any age or manufacturer. Legacy equipment often is not Internet of Things (IoT)-compatible, so it is advisable to opt for an EDMS that can communicate across a range of protocols. This can ensure it will connect with the programmable logic controller (PLC) in question. Often, you will not yield as much data from legacy machinery as native IoT-enabled equipment, but you can gain enough insight to identify key pain points. In common with domestic consumers, this one included, many companies seem now to be wistfully regretting their decision not to invest in solar panels. A quick look at incentive schemes, costs of initial investment, pay-backs, perhaps shows that the barriers to adoption may be more attractive and palatable than ever before. Could this be a light at the end of an ever-darkening energy cost tunnel, maybe?More on COPA-DATA here.If you've any comments, experiences, insight or opinions on this, please feel free to share them with me at: email@example.com.
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