Energy savings in the industry and building Sector

Energy efficiency makes it possible to save money, lower carbon emissions and achieve environmental goals. Nearly every country in the world has an energy efficiency policy or plan in place. Many businesses already have energy efficiency management systems and incorporate energy efficiency principles into operations, but there is a long way to go before we reach the level of efficiency that can be achieved.

The field of action for the energy transition to a zero-emission future can be divided into two main categories: energy supply and demand. While activities in energy supply focus on supplementing fossil fuel sources with renewable energy, energy efficiency is at the center of demand-side strategies.

What is energy efficiency?

Energy Efficiency is the most effective and efficient way a company, consumer, homeowner, or building uses energy and can reduce fuel consumption, water usage, and carbon footprint.

The concept of energy efficiency is not new. However, it has become increasingly relevant due to rising energy costs and concerns about environmental issues. If existing technologies are used more efficiently, global energy consumption could be reduced significantly without compromising economic growth or quality of life.

Energy Data GmbH and this article focus on the two largest energy-consuming sectors: Industry and buildings.

Industry Sector

The industry sector accounts for nearly 40% of total global final energy use. Energy-intensive industries are already the focus of many energy efficiency improvement programs. However, cross-sector technologies and practices can significantly decrease total energy consumption because they play a role in all industrial sectors, including small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and non-energy-intensive industries.

Building Sector

The building sector is responsible for another one-third of the global energy demand. And about 75% of buildings in the EU are energy inefficient today. Therefore, a large amount of energy is wasted. Improving existing buildings and striving for smart solutions and energy-efficient materials when constructing new houses can minimize such energy loss. The EU’s total energy consumption could be reduced by 5-6% by renovating existing buildings.

Energy Data

The falling cost of smart sensors and meters makes it possible for even small organizations to monitor their energy usage in detail. These devices can be embedded in energy management software which is then used to optimize energy performance. It is a highly data-driven optimization process that relies on the data collected from these devices and external data sources. External information, for example, can be relevant data from energy markets or weather data which can be purchased and integrated into existing systems by “energy-data-as- a-service”.

A standard approach to energy management is to identify the systems, processes, or appliances with the highest energy consumption. These systems offer the most improvement potential, but different approaches are needed depending on the technologies and use cases involved. The following sections will briefly overview the energy efficiency potential in the cross-sector technologies of lighting, electric motors & pumps, HVACR, air compression, and IT infrastructure & computing power.


Lighting accounts for more than 20 percent of all electricity consumed in commercial buildings and 10 percent of the electricity used by homes. Retrofitting the lighting system with more efficient light bulbs and fixtures can reduce lighting costs significantly. Energy savings from lighting alone could reduce global electricity demand by up to 20 percent and avoid 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually by 2030.

Not only hardware changes can have significant impacts. Algorithms that adjust the timing of lights or their levels to the intensity of natural sunlight can also help reduce energy consumption.

Electric motors and pumps

While electric motors are mostly hidden from public view, they are found in almost every built environment. Many applications fundamental to our modern way of life are powered by motors or pumps: from fans and conveyors for manufacturing and propulsion systems for transportation to compressors for electrical appliances and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems in buildings.

Electric motors are used in many industries, including food processing, cement manufacturing, paper production, mining, and chemicals. Energy efficiency is the key to reducing emissions from these processes.

Electric motors are responsible for a significant amount of energy consumption, so enhancing their efficiency can seriously impact a business’s bottom line. Electric motors are typically designed with high power density to provide more torque at lower speeds. The lowered speed helps reduce the energy required to run them and increases their overall efficiency. Frequency converters for controlling the speed of electric motors are among the most effective means of saving energy – even in existing machines and systems.


The energy efficiency of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, cooling, and refrigeration (HVACR) systems is not only a key factor for reducing CO2 emissions but also one of the elements which will help us to achieve energy savings targets. Heating and cooling are responsible for half of the EU energy consumption. The primary energy savings opportunities for HVACR systems are due to their large share of energy consumption in buildings and their long lifetime. They include the use of heat pumps instead of electrical resistance heating, improving the design and materials used for radiators and pipes, using more efficient fans for air distribution (e.g., variable speed drives or DC motors), etc.

Insulation, temperature control, and changes in output can save much electricity. Depending on the insulation or temperature variation, about six percent more electricity is used for each additional degree of refrigeration or heating output.

Heat recovery systems can improve energy efficiency by recovering waste heat and using it to heat or cool other buildings or processes. This process reduces the amount of electricity required for heating, cooling, and indoor air quality needs. For instance, an industrial process that produces steam that might otherwise be lost can be connected directly to a district heating network or used to heat nearby buildings, thereby saving fuel costs and reducing CO2 emissions.

Air Compression

The use of compressed air has a long history in industrial processes and applications. In particular, many industries rely on air compressors as a part of their production process. That is why air compression is significant leverage in overall energy efficiency.

The basic principle of increasing the efficiency of an air compressor lies in reducing losses. These losses include mechanical, electrical, and pressure loss. Mechanical losses occur when there is friction in the moving parts of an air compressor. Electrical losses occur when there is friction between moving parts and stationary parts as well as between moving parts that are not in contact with each other (e.g., windings). And pressure loss occurs due to the resistance of the process fluid through valves, fittings, filters, and piping systems.

IT Infrastructure and Computing power

Datacenters use a lot of energy. Most energy efficiency measures are aimed at better cooling and power distribution, more efficient infrastructure, and reducing the waste heat generated. The trend toward centralized cloud solutions has more potential for energy savings than numerous small on-premises solutions (economies of scale). However, it is a fact that we need more computing power each year.

Current approaches to increase the power of Machine Learning models involve more complexity. The complexity comes at a cost to the system: increasing complexity by four times can increase energy use up to eighteen thousand-fold. This suggests that hardware improvements alone will not be sufficient for high energy efficiency but new software architecture models are necessary.

Motivation for Energy Efficiency

Most energy efficiency actions are motivated by legislative requirements or costs rather than
climate change. The Energy Efficiency Directive and the Energy performance of buildings Directive are the two important legal texts that set the legislative boundaries and restrictions concerning energy efficiency for all EU members. With EU Green Deal these directives are most likely to be revisioned towards more ambitious targets, including heating and cooling performances, indoor air quality and structural alterations between buildings and their environmental impacts.

New regulatory frameworks should consider differences in the building stock across EU countries and
avoid weakening specific industries’ international competitiveness. However, businesses and organizations should take proactive measures above governmental policies and always consider the lifetime costs when investing in new technologies. Higher initial investments might justify lower lifetime costs due to energy savings. Another positive side-effect is that energy efficiency measures often go hand in hand with the overall performance optimization of an organization. Last but not least, sustainability and efficiency will become increasingly important in the future as a means to attract environmentally conscious customers and employees.


  1. topics/energy-efficiency/heating- and-cooling_en
  2. focus-energy-efficiency-buildings- 2020-lut-17_en
  3. ai-power-consumption-exploding/

Jan Nagel
Energy Data GmbH
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