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2020 / 2021 Edition

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Partnerships Can Help Profits In The Minerals Sector

Working with Action Energy to improve energy efficiency

The minerals industry is one of the UK’s largest consumers of energy, using an estimated 10 million MWh per year, at a total annual cost of about £150 million. Saving 10% on its utility bills would swell sector profits by £15 million. Many companies in this sector have already taken some steps to improve their energy performance, recognizing that it makes sound business sense. Not only does it save money on utility bills and increase profits, it frequently improves all-round site efficiency and can help companies comply with site licensing requirements.

However, energy efficiency is an issue about which few quarry managers have in-depth knowledge. What they do know a lot about are the operations and energy use at their sites. Clearly, a partnership linking energy efficiency expertise with site-specific operational experience would yield significant benefits for quarry operators. That is exactly the premise behind the ‘Energy Efficiency Partnerships’ scheme offered by the Action Energy programme (formerly the Energy Efficiency Best Practice Programme (EEBPP)).

Partnership benefits

The scheme was established both to reinforce the energy-saving efforts of high-energy-use companies with existing savings targets, and to help those without targets to set and achieve them. A partnership can provide participating companies in any industry sector with a wide range of site-specific support services including free energy surveys, seminars, literature packs or training, as appropriate. Areas covered include:

  • energy management
  • utility systems
  • combined heat and power
  • motors and drives
  • buildings, lighting and transport.

Each partnership is an informal and completely confidential arrangement between the company and Action Energy, tailored to meet the company’s specific requirements and timescales. Participating companies can use any, or all, of the services offered under the scheme. Two mineral companies – Singleton Birch and Tarmac Central – are among a variety of businesses that have already signed up to partnerships.

Site energy assessment

The key to future partnership activity is the site energy assessment at the host company. It is conducted by an independent consultant, appointed for his or her relevant operational experience, and is an in-depth review typically taking about 5–7 days on site, plus reporting time. Working with company staff, the consultant will identify:

  • the main energy-consuming activities on site
  • opportunities for saving energy within these processes
  • how to make savings
  • the cost/benefit ratio of each opportunity identified.

The types of measures identified may range from no-cost good housekeeping practices, through process or equipment modifications, to longer-term investment projects. The consultant can then help the host company to develop an energy savings plan for the range of measures identified.

Following the consultant’s report, Action Energy and host company staff will discuss and prioritize the areas for action. Action Energy will put together a literature pack based on those priorities from its extensive list of free publications. These include good-practice and benchmarking guides, case studies and training materials. One of the latest guides was prepared specifically for the minerals sector — GPG 315, ‘Energy and Resource Management: Fuel, Power and Water: A Guide for Managers in the Minerals Industries.’

Site- or company-based training is available on a variety of subjects and can be tailored according to the company’s needs. Topics often covered are:

  • energy management
  • policy issues
  • monitoring and targeting
  • process control and instrumentation
  • new energy-efficient technologies and techniques
  • transport issues.

Action Energy staff will assist with training, awareness, monitoring and targeting as well as attending company energy steering-group meetings and producing motivational literature/posters.

Specialist advice

The energy savings plan is likely to include some simple ‘good housekeeping’ measures – such as switching off equipment when it is not required – and some measures that are more costly to implement. If necessary, Action Energy can arrange for other specialists to advise the company on some of these measures, for example motors or drives. Assistance is also available to help make the financial case for energy-efficient purchases.

Following a seminar on motors and drives, one manager from an existing partnership company explained: ‘At 0.43p/kWh on electricity, the climate change levy will cost us many millions of pounds — although we have the opportunity to reduce this considerably with reduction linked to negotiated agreements. This seminar, as well as raising awareness of the opportunities to reduce our electricity consumption through more efficient design and operation of motors and drives, is being held to help protect the profitability of our business.’

Electric motors consume about 64% of the total electricity used in UK industry, though for this particular company the figure is closer to 90% on some of its sites. The importance of improving motor efficiency is therefore quite clear.

Is there a catch?

There is no hidden catch for partner companies, simply the chance to save money on utility bills through improved energy efficiency.

The utilities manager of one participating company is clear on this: ‘The work we are doing in this area will help our long-term survival. Every pound saved goes to the bottom line, and the Government and the country will be winners too as the energy savings made will make a significant contribution towards Kyoto emissions targets.’

To establish a partnership all that is required of the participating company is that it formally requests the support in a letter and, at a later date, informs the Action Energy team of the measures undertaken and the energy savings that have resulted or are expected. Quarry managers who are interested in finding out more should contact Action Energy’s Industry Team to arrange an informal discussion, either via the website or by telephoning the free Helpline, run jointly by Action Energy and Envirowise, on 0800 585794.

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