Energy management and further training promote energy efficiency in companies

May 02, 2017

Energy efficiency is an important topic for companies because it can save them energy costs and enhance their competitiveness. As the new bulletin of the Fraunhofer ISI‘s German Manufacturing Survey shows, however, there are large differences between companies and industries when realizing energy efficiency measures. According to the study, further qualifications and energy management systems help companies to identify saving potentials.

The energy consumption of industrial production accounts for about one quarter of the total energy demand in Germany. This is why saving energy and using it efficiently are particularly important topics here. This is true from a macroeconomic perspective, because energy efficiency can help to achieve Germany’s long-term energy and climate targets. On the other hand, far-reaching energy efficiency measures also entail lower energy costs for companies and enhance their competitiveness in the long term.

But what are German companies actually doing to implement technical energy efficiency measures? What are the differences between them and how can companies further improve their energy efficiency? Bulletin 70 of the German Manufacturing Survey with the title “Energieeffizienz im Betriebsalltag” (Energy efficiency in companies’ daily routines) addresses these questions. Topics also include the use of energy management systems and the role of further qualifications for using energy efficiency technologies and strategies in companies.

Companies with high energy consumption are more likely to emphasize energy efficiency

One finding is that energy efficiency strategies that are easy to implement are already being applied by relatively large numbers of companies: For instance, 72 percent of the surveyed companies indicated they use measures like turning off machines or installations that are not in use. The increasing complexity and costs of energy efficiency solutions effect their implementation: While about 58 percent of larger enterprises with more than 250 employees use technologies to recover energy, this figure is only 26 percent for small enterprises with fewer than 50 employees. Smart control and regulation systems for energy-optimized process management, and control systems that automatically turn off machines are also used by a much bigger proportion of large companies.

Angela Jäger, co-author of the new bulletin and coordinator of the German Manufacturing Survey at Fraunhofer ISI, points out the correlation between a company’s energy consumption and their choice of energy efficiency option: “The figures from our survey show that companies from energy-intensive industries like glass and ceramics, chemicals or metal production that have high energy consumption tend to implement expensive and complex energy efficiency options more often than non-energy-intensive companies with low energy consumption.“ Furthermore, according to Jäger, the production layout and production technologies used also influence which energy efficiency options are selected.

Energy saving potentials in companies are best identified by energy management and qualified personnel

Dr. Clemens Rohde, who conducts research on energy efficiency at Fraunhofer ISI, points out that companies first have to recognize any saving potential before they can realize it: “It is possible to identify efficiency potentials using energy management systems, for instance, that systematically record the energy flows in companies.“ The survey shows that more and more companies are relying on such management systems: While only 5 percent were used in 2012 on average, this had increased to 21 percent by 2015. Energy management systems are not only being applied in large companies, but increasingly also in medium and small enterprises. The results underline that their use in companies is also accompanied by more frequent implementation of energy efficiency measures – especially of more complex solutions: For instance, companies with management systems (63%) are more than twice as likely to use technologies to recover energy as companies without such systems (33%).

In addition to technical solutions, access to qualifications and new knowledge also help to trigger changes in companies, identify saving potentials and use efficiency measures effectively. If companies allow informal learning via on-the-job measures or formal qualifications such as attending IHK courses, they also use technical efficiency solutions more often. This is clearly revealed in strategies such as turning machines off when they are not in use, retrofitting energy-efficient components or replacing machines prematurely. Offering qualification opportunities can significantly promote the implementation of energy-efficient solutions and strategies in companies.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI analyzes the origins and impacts of innovations. We research the short- and long-term developments of innovation processes and the impacts of new technologies and services on society. On this basis, we are able to provide our clients from industry, politics and science with recommendations for action and perspectives for key decisions. Our expertise is founded on our scientific competence as well as an interdisciplinary and systemic research approach.