Opinion - 15/July/2021

Energy efficiency will power industry’s decarbonisation efforts

The IEA regards broader adoption of energy efficient technology as the “first fuel” in tackling climate change. High efficiency industrial motors and drives could cut global energy consumption by up to 10%, according to Morten Wierod, president at ABB Motion

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

Future-proofing equipment improves energy efficiency and bottom lines at a faster rate

In May 2021, the International Energy Agency (IEA) published a landmark report setting out its roadmap for the global energy sector to achieve its net zero ambitions by 2050. The IEA describes the roadmap as one of the most important and challenging undertakings in its history. The message is clear: we are in a crisis. The time to act is now.

However, the roadmap offers some encouraging news. It points out that increased energy efficiency can play a vital role as the first fuel in tackling the scale of this unprecedented challenge. The IEA’s view is that adopting energy efficiency measures will allow the world economy to grow 40% by 2030 while using 7% less energy than today.

There is still one often overlooked energy efficiency technology that is vital on this road to net-zero: high-efficiency electric motors controlled by variable speed drives (VSDs).

Electric motors are an integral part of modern life. They drive the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems that maintain buildings at a comfortable temperature. Motors power the myriad of pumps essential for the supply of freshwater and are found in a broad range of industries from steel to food and drink. In the EU alone, there are estimated to be around eight billion electric motors in all applications, which account for almost half of the EU’s energy consumption.


The challenge is that too many of the world’s motor-driven systems are based on outdated and inefficient technology that wastes energy unnecessarily. However, legislation is in hand to address this. The EU’s new Ecodesign Regulation (EU) 2019/1781, came into full effect in July 2021 for low-voltage induction motors and VSDs. This requires a wide range of industrial electric motors to meet the IE3 premium efficiency standard.

The implications for energy savings are huge. Mandating the use of higher-efficiency motors, together with VSDs that regulate their speed to meet demand and save even more energy, will enable the EU to save 110 terawatt-hours by 2030. That is the same as the annual electricity consumption of the Netherlands.

These changes are just the first step in a two-year process. In July 2023, the Ecodesign regulation will expand to raise the base level for certain motors to IE4 ultra-premium efficiency.


However, to achieve the maximum impact on energy efficiency, industry should look beyond what the legislation calls for now. Instead, it could adopt even more advanced technology that is already commercially available. IE5 ultra-premium efficiency motors and drive packages are already easily available on the market. Thinking ahead will surpass the regulatory demands of today and tomorrow, as well as delivering exceptional energy efficiency that feeds right into the bottom line.

Investing in the latest energy-efficient technology can have a major impact. A recent study highlights that if the world’s 300 million industrial motor-driven systems were replaced with optimised, high-efficiency equipment, global electricity consumption could be reduced by up to 10%. That’s roughly equal to more than 90% of the annual consumption of the entire EU.

Practical examples are useful to illustrate the difference that efficient technology can make. Campbells, the American food and beverage manufacturer, wanted to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions at a plant in Australia. It replaced all the old inefficient motors in compressors and cooling systems with modern IE5 motor and drive packages. By doing this, Campbells reduced the energy consumption of the plant by 14% and the carbon dioxide emissions by 131 tonnes per year. The success has prompted Campbells to start planning the optimisation of other plants worldwide.

At this crucial stage, energy-efficient motor and drive technology promises to be a vital factor to help put the world on the path to net-zero. It also comes with the important upside that saving energy means saving money. Industry can enjoy a fast return on investment that will deliver long-term benefits for the planet.

Do you have a thoughtful response to the opinion expressed here? Do you have an opinion regarding an aspect of the global energy transition you would like to share with other FORESIGHT readers? If so, please send a short pitch of 200 words and a sentence explaining why you are the right person to deliver this opinion to opinion@foresightdk.com.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related articles

There is no absolutely excuse to delay investing increasing amounts of carbon revenues in energy efficiency, say Richard Cowart and Catharina Wiese from the Regulatory Assistance Project

A perfect match: Using carbon revenues to finance energy efficiency

There is absolutely no excuse to delay investing increasing amounts of carbon revenues in energy efficiency, say Richard Cowart and Catharina Wiese from the Regulatory Assistance Project

Read more

In the hands of engineers

Theme on Energy Efficiency part 3/5: Better engineering everywhere can cut industrial energy use in all applications

Read more

Smoothing the way to energy efficient policies

Clear policies and a long-term vision will help energy efficiency play its full role in the energy transition, argues Dominique Ristori, Director-General for Energy at the European Commission

Read more

Shipping industry coasts towards decarbonised future

Efficiency measures have cut greenhouse gas emissions in the shipping industry, but if the sector is to be part of the climate solution, radical action to adopt new cleaner fuels is the only answer

Read more

Ships emit vast volumes of black carbon from their smokestacks, a much more powerful carbon forcer than carbon dioxide

The tide is turning

If the global marine transportation sector were a country, it would be ranked sixth in terms of CO2 emissions. A number of progressive leaders in the industry are starting to explore alternative ways to propel their ships, but more investment is needed.

Read more

In search of a cure for cannibalisation

As the wind blows, the sun shines, and green generation rises, demand is saturated. Market prices fall, but renewables are caught cannibilasing their own investment case. Special report part 1/3

Read more

An EV future is in our hands

On World EV Day, the stage is set for electric vehicles to become the mainstream mobility choice, as long as the main actors play their part, says Frank Mühlon, head of ABB’s Global E-Mobility Infrastructure Solutions

Read more