Opinion Tarak Mehta - 12/June/2023

Energy efficiency is no longer a question of “why?” but “how?”

The available evidence makes a compelling case for energy efficiency: it is essential to reaching Net Zero, proven technology is widely available, and it can greatly reduce a business’s operating expenditure. However, progress is still quite uneven. It is time for action, says Tarak Mehta from ABB Motion

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The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of FORESIGHT Climate & Energy

The need to share best practices now outweighs the desire for competitive advantage

There are several barriers we must overcome to embrace energy efficiency and reach net zero emissions. A recent survey highlighted that cost is the most common concern for businesses but they have also faced setbacks due to Covid-19 and the energy crisis, among a range of other challenges.

Concerningly, a majority of business leaders say that high energy costs may delay their progress toward their sustainability and carbon reduction targets by as much as five years.

While cost, Covid-19 and energy price barriers are real, there is a deeper obstacle that we must also overcome: a lack of awareness about the immediate actions that businesses can take.



A global industrial effort like the one required to reach net zero emissions has never been done before. It requires unprecedented changes across every industry, and we are in a race against time.

When we think about the decarbonisation journey in this way, it is unsurprising that many industrial businesses do not know where to start.

Knowledge is power and it can help businesses overcome the other obstacles to going green. For example, cost is their top concern, but they should see investing in energy efficiency as saving money over time.

In fact, while energy prices are high, payback periods for new, energy-efficient machinery have dropped from years to months in many cases.




To give one example, industrial electric motors consume more than 45% of all power generated worldwide and are often the most energy-intensive part of an industrial facility.

Some businesses remain unaware that developments in motor technology have vastly improved their energy efficiency—even over relatively new motor models from the past decade. If every business around the world switched to high-efficiency motor systems today, global electricity consumption would drop by as much as 10%.

Others may be deterred by the belief that upgrading their motors would involve a long period of downtime that they cannot afford. This belief is incorrect—modern high-efficiency motors are designed to act as drop-in replacements for older models, greatly simplifying the upgrade process and minimising downtime.

Decision makers should also know that variable speed drives (VSDs) can be connected to both new and existing motors to enable more precise control and efficient operation. In pump and fan applications, for instance, a VSD can reduce power consumption by around 25%. Despite this, just 23% of the world’s industrial motors are fitted with a VSD.

Drawing attention to these facts, and other information that encourages businesses to make the right decisions is essential. Many have heard the International Energy Agency’s statement that energy efficiency is: “The first fuel—the fuel you do not have to use—and in terms of supply, it is abundantly available and cheap to extract.” However, fewer know how to put this idea into practice.



This prompts an important question: How do we share knowledge? Businesses are in competition, so they are naturally disinclined to share information. Sharing knowledge and best practice is critical to reaching the Net Zero ambition by 2050.

Initiatives like the Energy Efficiency Movement often comprise market competitors, but they share knowledge out of a commitment to sustainability.

This approach also enables businesses to act as a beacon for others in their sector. They can see proof that positive change is not just possible, it is straightforward and financially viable.

Industrial businesses across the world need to be convinced that “energy efficiency” is not just a buzzword. It is a straightforward, powerful strategy that they can put into action today to reduce emissions—and it saves money. In short, it is our collective responsibility to spread information about energy efficiency as far and wide as possible.•

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