Confindustria Ceramica

Diagnosi energetica_impreseby Thomas Foschini22   Maggio   2018

Energy auditing, obligations and opportunities

The new regulatory obligations affect the entire sector and must be based on real consumption data rather than estimates

By 2019, Italian ceramic companies must once again fulfil the obligations imposed by Legislative Decree 102/2014, article 8 of which requires companies with more than 250 employees and revenues above 50 million euros to perform a four-yearly energy audit. However, in accordance with Ministerial Decree of 21 December 2017, the obligation now applies to all companies with an annual energy consumption of more than 1 GWh regardless of their size, rather than the limit of 2.4 GWh established by the previous decree. And according to the new Guidelines issued by ENEA (Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development), audits must now be based on actual monitored data obtained from measurement campaigns and/or continuous monitoring systems rather than on estimates as was permitted in 2015.

The legal requirements of auditing
On the face of it this would appear to be yet another hurdle placed in the path of ceramic companies, almost of all which fall within the new definition of “energy-intensive companies”. To satisfy legal requirements, they will have to install a certain number of measuring instruments (entailing a minimum investment of at least 10,000 euros) and carry out a dedicated audit in the three areas covered by the ENEA Guidelines: “production process”, “auxiliary activities” and “general services”.
This means that the electricity consumed by the company canteen – however irrelevant it may appear for calculating the average consumption of a company in the sector – is very likely to end up being considered an essential component of the “general services” consumptions. Likewise, a sensor installed on a latest-generation press will measure its electricity consumption while perhaps neglecting leaks from the company’s compressed air supply network, which in fact are responsible for enormous inefficiencies. While these are extreme cases and very precise criteria are obviously in place for defining the levels of coverage of the measured data, the advantages for companies deriving from an energy audit conducted exclusively in accordance with the regulations would in all likelihood be very limited.

“Smart auditing”, what it is and how to do it
The negative scenario described above can be avoided if the energy audit carried out in accordance with legal requirements includes an “intelligent” analysis that genuinely helps to improve the company’s efficiency and consequently its competitiveness in the short and medium term.
 “Four years ago the obligation for companies to carry out energy auditing was introduced from one day to the next,” explains Barbara Mazzanti from the Centro Ceramico, who for years has been working on energy auditing as part of the team led by Prof. Maria Chiara Bignozzi. “The initial obligations introduced by the Ministry were fairly bland, and to meet legal requirements it was sufficient to produce estimates based on average energy consumption. The fundamental aspect of the new obligations is the fact that the audit must be based on actual measurements rather than estimates, while the obligation to perform monitoring every four years remains in place. This is causing a great deal of concern amongst ceramic companies, in turn attracting the interest of the energy service companies (ESCOs) which supply systems for permanent monitoring of consumption and energy management and above all provide certification of the results.”
So how can this obligatory investment be made into something useful now and even more so in the future? “The first step is of course to read the Updated guidelines,” observes Mazzanti. “The next thing to do is to identify a figure capable of performing the audit. Rather than relying on an energy manager from within the company, it is now necessary to engage an Energy Management Expert provided by the ESCO.” One such ESCO, Fedabo, partners with Centro Ceramico di Bologna to provide a complete package of services including consulting.

Energy audits, investments and above all behaviour
But in order for all of this to be really useful for the company, “it is essential that the audit is based on significant energy uses”, Mazzanti explains. “While this may result in a request for plant adaptation, in most cases (given that many of our companies are already at the forefront of innovation) it simply involves organisational and/or behavioural changes.”
For example, this means turning machines off when they are not needed, turning warehouse lights off on Sundays and checking for leakages in the compressed air production network: simple solutions that bring maximum results for minimum investments. Based on data that the Centro Ceramico has been collecting for a number of years (subsequently performing cluster analysis and making the results available to the association), no fewer than 23% of the adopted measures concern the compressed air system, while a further 25% consist of the simple expedient of installing LED lighting systems. “On average, just 10% of the measures relate to the main production activity, confirming that the sector’s companies have been making these investments in advance.”

Energy management system and the Ceramic Factory 4.0

After meeting legal requirements and identifying the truly significant areas of action for optimising consumptions, the third step is to install a full-scale energy management system consistent with the principles of the Ceramic Factory 4.0. What does this mean? Firstly, it will not be necessary to install a new line supervisor given that almost all ESCOs propose open systems capable of integrating and dialoguing with existing platforms.
According to Caterina Dentoni Litta from TEP Energy Solution, a company that proposes the EIS (Energy Intelligence System) audit platform, “The aim is to build a system specially designed to monitor the energy performance of a plant and if necessary integrate it with production variables. The obligation to monitor real data rather than just making estimates marks a very important step forward that helps improve awareness. But to prevent this obligation from becoming counterproductive, it is essential to take a further step forward and design the audit system in such a way that the measuring instruments are installed at the points of significant energy consumption. The ENEA guidelines have been drafted in a sufficiently broad and general way as to allow them to be adapted to this purpose without affecting the legal requirements.”

Energy audits and production data
Essentially, the service provider performs an inspection and identifies the forms of energy (electricity, heat, etc.) and user devices that need to be monitored. “Even in the absence of specific obligations, it is often very useful to install additional measuring instruments along with performance measuring systems.” In other words, this means determining whether a kiln or a cooling system are consuming a large quantity of energy because they have a high output or whether they are simply wasting resources. These raw data are “processed and published in periodic reports made available to the client company”, which is where an audit carried out using dedicated supervision software can be really useful. Even scheduled maintenance can be reprogrammed if it is found to be carried out late or in a non-compliant fashion, resulting in wastage of resources and energy (this is the most typical case, notes Caterina Dentoni Litta).
Data logging certainly helps. “After installing a system of this kind it is the clients themselves who, faced with actual figures rather than just impressions, realise that corrective action needs to be taken in specific areas. The essential thing is to reduce complexity and identify three or four useful variables to be monitored, logged and subject to statistical correlations. A SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) application does not itself make any useful contribution to an energy audit because energy must undergo specific analysis, if possible crossing energy data with production data.” And it can cost as much as hundreds of thousands of euros a year, as in the specific case of a ceramic company which has monitored kiln consumptions and correlated them with the kiln loading system, observes Dentoni Litta.

From Italian Legislative Decree 102/2014 to European certification ISO 50001
Given that at least the smallest companies in the industry are likely to want to meet only the minimum legal obligations of energy auditing (installation of the required number of measuring instruments in the areas established by the regulations), experts believe that a fairly effective way of making the energy audit useful is to tie it in with European ISO 50001 certification (“Energy management systems”).
The difference with respect to the Italian law lies in the use of the word “significant” in reference to the energy sources that need to be monitored. So instead of the company canteen and other relatively insignificant contributions to company consumptions (less than 5% of the total), monitoring is restricted to significant uses. An intelligently designed energy audit is the first step along the road towards the concept of quality management audit that lies at the heart of European certification and which the entire sector will have to adopt within a few years (essentially, once an audit has been designed in compliance with Italian Legislative Decree 102/2014, compliance with ISO 50001 is just a small step away).

What are the companies asking for?
Given that the monitoring activity should already be under way (the audit must be produced by 2019 based on 2018 data, albeit with the get-out clause that monitoring may be performed in reference to any “representative” period, which may be less than a year), what are the sector companies’ requests from the service providers? Here too the companies’ needs are fairly clear. The larger companies which have already adopted a supervision and monitoring system require a reporting and data analysis activity because they often lack both a figure capable of performing these activities and the time to do it. The smaller companies on the other hand are entirely unfamiliar with the performance and utility of an energy audit.
The Smart Audit solution proposed by Edison caters specifically for these needs as it is sufficiently modular and flexible to enable even SMEs to fully enter the world of the energy audit 4.0. “Smart Audit is in effect a digitised audit,” explains Fabio Spinelli from Edison. “The system collects data within the factory and uploads them to the cloud, after which they are analysed remotely from the site in Milan. Edison provides companies with both a software platform and a temporary Energy Manager who sends regular reports to the client and provides consulting.”
While TEP Solution does not use a proprietary system (what is being offered is a benchmark analysis of the most widely used and/or dedicated software solutions), Edison proposes a full-scale platform which once again “is characterised by an open language, i.e. the maximum interoperability with other platforms adopted within the company, provided they too are configured with an open language”.
While working in a wide range of different fields, the fact that Edison has carried out more than 300 audits since 2015 has enabled it to construct a database divided up by sector. “This,” explains Spinelli, “has allowed us to develop models and strategies that are sufficiently specific to achieve regulatory compliance while offering additional services with potential added value for the client.”
Examples include White Certificates, which have become much more difficult to obtain over the years, and elimination of high energy-consuming practices, an additional service that can be offered together with the monitoring plan pursuant to Legislative Decree 102/2014. In practice, Edison proposes supplementing energy measuring instruments with monitoring of production variables (from an application for managing alarms above a certain peak machine consumption through to a full-scale Power Quality system for stabilising the electrical power supply).
“The fact is that not everyone can afford to hire an IT engineer specifically for the energy audit,” concludes Spinelli mentioning several large ceramic sector companies. “Simplifying management and control and establishing precise correlations with cost centres is our idea for transforming the regulatory obligation into an opportunity, even in the case of small and medium-sized enterprises.”

Meetings for further information at the Centro Ceramico
Amongst upcoming events discussing energy audits and environmental issues in general, there will be two meetings with companies organised for 14 and 21 June by the Centro Ceramico (refer to the centre’s website for the programme and details). In particular, the 14 June meeting entitled “New developments in energy efficiency: from White Certificates to possible scenarios for the ceramic industry” will explore the topic of energy audits.
However, one question remains in the back of everyone’s minds: “To what extent will energy consumption really affect product pricing?” Not in general terms but focusing specifically on the use of different raw materials, processing cycles, pressing, decoration, etc. “Better knowledge of these aspects might lead to revised pricing, improved margins and a focus on more profitable product types, particularly from the standpoint of energy.” So perhaps the legal requirements that the entire sector will have to meet over the coming weeks really are an opportunity in disguise.