Energy efficiency – where cost and sustainability first meet
August 30, 2023
August 30, 2023
The Metro de Madrid is the 7th longest metro in the world, covering 293km with 300 stations. It uses about 600 GWhs of electricity annually – around 0.25% of Spain’s total electricity consumption. About 5% of this power is used to run the ventilation system, made up of around 1,000 fans. The city had committed to reducing its electricity spend - but needed to balance energy efficiency with passenger comfort and safety. Accenture worked with the Metro to develop an artificial intelligence ventilation system that optimizes airflow.
The system relies on the physical design of the metro stations, travelers’ frequency, operational restrictions and dynamic inputs of hourly electricity prices and weather. Machine learning modules continually improve the way the system runs, recalibrating every eight hours. This system has reduced the cost of running the ventilation system by 25%, and avoided 1,800 tons of CO2 emissions – the equivalent of keeping 390 cars off of the road each year.
The Metro de Madrid is a leading example of how to embed energy efficiency. Station operators don’t need to think about how to run the fans more efficiently because the fans do it themselves – the next level up from motion-activated lights or escalators.
Energy efficiency is where cost and sustainability first meet in many industries. Telcos, for example, spend between 20-40% of the cost of running their network on energy – an obvious target for reduction. It’s not just energy-intensive industries that see benefits from greater efficiency. For the average retailer, cutting energy costs by 20% boosts the bottom line as much as increasing sales by 5%. With energy prices about twice as high in Europe than before the pandemic, energy efficiency is a business as well as sustainability imperative.
Yet for many organizations energy efficiency is still a ‘bolt-on’ program – doing an energy survey, upgrading equipment to the most energy-efficient model, and working around the edges to improve processes or incentivize employees to turn off lights.
Recent advances in technologies and better use of data and analytics mean organizations can drive further savings and accelerate their transition to net zero. The difference is digitally enabled operational energy-efficiency – being able to use intelligence to change the way you operate your buildings, manufacturing processes or fleet to save energy and optimize cost. This changes energy efficiency from a program into an embedded capability. The opportunities for efficiency improvements are vast – typically 10-30%, depending on the industry.
Accenture has been using practical measures, from lighting, and cloud migration to HVAC, to automate and optimize systems generating $326M+ in energy cost savings – without even owning any buildings.
When starting to embed energy efficiency in an organization, the short-term (6-12 month) focus should be on data and analytics to create a comprehensive view of energy use:
In the medium-term (1-2 years) businesses need to focus on delivery, tracking continual improvements and embedding energy efficiency decisions into automatic controls and processes. The levers to improve efficiency will depend on the industry, but companies can look across:
Energy efficiency is a short- to medium-term activity. In the long term, businesses need to look beyond continuous improvement in energy efficiency and transform where their energy comes from as part of Total Enterprise Reinvention.
Demand reduction is a significant step in decarbonizing and embedding sustainability into the fabric of corporate culture. It is a stepping stone to a deep understanding of how, where and when companies use energy, which then allows them to change their energy mix to clean energy sources.
Understanding energy demand enables flexibility in energy use, allowing companies to incorporate a high percentage of variable renewables like wind and solar into their mix. The clean, electrified economy will operate differently than today’s, and data-led energy efficiency is fundamental to creating that economy.
This blog is part of a series discussing how leaders can embed sustainability into different aspects of their organizations to create value and impact. The other topics are: