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Effective Monitoring For Energy Management

World Cement,

Energy is the key ingredient in the manufacture of concrete, and one that has been cited as a significant obstacle on the road to a low-carbon age.  Said to be responsible for 5% of the world’s carbon emissions, the industry is only too aware of the need to reduce its energy consumption and carbon footprint too.

It’s no surprise then, that the next few years will be defined by an increased focus on monitoring and targeting for cement producers.  The introduction of the government’s CRC Energy Efficiency scheme is ushering in one of the biggest changes in energy management the UK has seen for a generation. 

However, the regulations, which came into place in 2010, have not had the smoothest of starts.  In October 2010, the Chancellor’s spending review revealed that the revenue generated through businesses purchasing ‘allowances’ for their energy use would no longer be fed back into the scheme as financial rewards for high performing businesses.  Instead, it will be invested back into the treasury – a move that has led some to declare the scheme little more than a tax on carbon.

However, the CRC (or rather what it represents) holds significant opportunities for UK manufacturers.  The scheme’s league table system is set to reward forward-thinking firms with a kind of ‘carbon credibility’ that will offer a competitive advantage as green issues increasingly influence commercial decision making.

As a gas supplier, Shell has long been keen to improve its customers’ understanding of their patterns of consumption – after all, monitoring energy use is the first step towards managing it. Automated Meter Reading (AMR) is one solution.  The technology puts the user in control of their consumption, by allowing access to accurate, day-to-day gas usage information at the click of a mouse.

The AMR device is fitted to an existing meter and electronically records the amount of gas consumed.  This data is made available to customers via a secure website, where it can be displayed numerically or graphically, in a variety of units of measure and downloaded for analysis.  It is also simultaneously available to the gas supplier - allowing estimated billing and physical meter readings to be replaced with accurate invoices based on actual consumption.

The benefits are wide ranging – from the ability to track and compare gas consumption across multiple sites, to prompt and precise reporting.  Access to this information allows trends to be identified and useful management data captured to drive and monitor the success of efficiency initiatives. 

The impact of AMR on energy management can be profound. By giving manufacturers a much deeper appreciation of the base-load and volatility of their gas consumption, AMR allows them to work with their supplier in an informed way to select the most appropriate contract.  This minimises the risk of consuming too much or too little gas and the resultant costs and penalties that can arise.

It must be stated that AMR devices are not the same as ‘smart meters’.  Through the Industrial & Commercial Shippers and Suppliers (ICoSS) Group, Shell Gas Direct is working with its peers, OFGEM and DECC to ensure that the rollout of AMR is seen as “Industry Smart” –implemented in parallel to smart meters for domestic customers and small commercial customers. 

With initiatives like the CRC, there is an opportunity for a much better flow of energy consumption data into industry boardrooms.  Technologies like AMR provide the tools needed to make this happen.  Gas consumers should view the CRC as an excellent chance to mitigate the environmental impact of business, but also as an opportunity to put that information to good use to protect their bottom line.

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