The Energy Efficiency Enablers
Oct 29, 2013
Pascal Cros

Variable speed to save energy

Electric motor driven systems account for around 45% of all global electricity consumption, and those used in industry consume 69% of the total market consumption. The shift from fixed speed to variable speed motors could reduce energy consumption in industries like water, cement paper or chemicals, to name a few, by 25-30%. If this shift occurs by 2030, it will avoid the erection of the equivalent of 300 nuclear reactors, or, the equivalent of half of China’s current generation capacity, 60% of US capacity, or 75% of Europe capacity. (Source, International Energy Agency)

Pump systems used in industrial applications represent 20% of this challenge, in which 60 nuclear reactors could be saved if the traditional mechanical flow regulation using a choke valve would be systematically replaced by Variable Frequency Drives. For example, a high pressure desalination water pump operates between its nominal output and 60% of it. When working at 60% of its nominal output, energy consumption goes from 85% of nominal consumption with a choke valve down to 20% with a Variable Speed Drive, representing 75% of energy savings. If the pump operates at full speed two-thirds of the time and at 60% for one third, a Variable Frequency Drive will allow the operator to save 25% of electricity.

Do more with less

This will inevitably become our motto on this planet for the coming decades, as today’s 7 billion people – forecasted up to 9 billion by 2050 — will face an increased scarcity of natural resources (source: UN report). Energy being among the most important resources, energy efficient solutions is the natural way to do more with less, yet they require a different investment approach during business planning to properly capture the benefits long-term. An in-depth analysis of the asset’s entire life is essential to properly assess how energy efficient solutions optimize the total cost of ownership, and therefore improve the investment’s value.

Partnering is the way to go

With projects involving opportunities for variable speed like water and industrial pump systems, we have to move away from the traditional customer-supplier negotiation. Customers and supplies alike should consider a shift toward of sharing the value of a predetermined contract towards a much closer partnership approach to reveal solutions that stretch the individual value of each MWh consumed in the system. The best technical solution will become possible only through a seamless integration of their respective expertise, process and application on the customer side — with energy systems and solutions on the supplier side — in order to build an efficient and sustainable solution together.


Pascal Cros

I am the General Manager for General Industry at GE’s Power Conversion business. This business focuses on providing complete electrical solutions to the water industry, as well as all process industries such as cement, paper or chemicals. Global challenges in these industries present unique opportunities to contribute to the development of the essential needs of countries and communities around the planet.