Industrial insulation could bring massive cost and emissions savings, industry-funded research has found, with energy efficient investments earning back their cost in two years at most.
Energy audits at 180 industrial plants revealed that they were missing out on savings of more than 750,000 MWH/year.
The audits found that insulation could bring reductions of 500,000 tonnes of global warming CO2 to the plants. That is roughly equivalent to the annual gas emissions of 110,000 cars.
The research was funded by the European Industrial Insulation Foundation. It evaluated the progress of its Technical Insulation Performance Check audit programme, a standardised tool for plant owners to assess energy losses from poor insulation.
The findings were welcomed by the European Commission’s top civil servant for energy, Dominique Ristori.
“The survey findings demonstrate the usefulness of standardised thermal energy audits as well as the cost-effectiveness of remediating problems with industrial insulation to save energy and reduce emissions,” he said.
The Commission is pushing for greater energy efficiency and for ways to cut carbon emissions as part of its Energy Union strategy.
The plan has the twin goals of fighting climate change and making the bloc less vulnerable to shortages. The EU has also set a 2030 target of an increase in energy efficiency of 27% compared to 1990 levels.
Ristori, director-general of DG Energy, said industry needed to intensify its insulation efforts.
He said, “Industrial insulation savings could contribute substantially to the EU 2020 and 2030 energy reduction goals while also lowering EU dependency on foreign energy imports.”
The EU imports more than half its energy every year. Meeting Europe’s full efficiency potential would cut gas imports by 40% over the next fifteen years, according to the executive.
The risk of dependency on foreign imports was brutally exposed by the eruption of the Ukraine crisis, and Russia’s willingness to use energy supply to exert political pressure.
180 plants have used the audits since 2010. The research, published yesterday (11 May), gives a picture of how much energy is being wasted.
But three out of four of the industrial clients have already or plan to act to improve their insulation, according to the EIIF.
Such investments will be paid back after one or two years through the cost savings from greater efficiency. At least € 23.5 million could be saved, the EIFF said.
The EIIF is a Switzerland-registered trade association, which promotes industrial insulation as a way of achieving sustainability.
The European Commission has recognised the huge potential of energy efficiency, vowing to “put efficiency first” in its Energy Union strategy.
“The energy we don’t use is our first fuel,” Commission Vice-President in charge of Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič has said.
Greater efficiency also reduces emissions, which is vital if the EU is to make good on the commitments it made at the UN Climate Change Conference last December.
But an influential expert group warned last year that private investment in energy-efficient renovation of private and industrial buildings needs to increase five-fold by 2030, if the EU is to hit its 2020 and 2030 targets.
The Energy Union will cut across a number of policy sectors including energy, transport, research and innovation, foreign policy, regional and neighbourhood policy, trade and agriculture, according to the EU executive's plans.
Plans for the Union have developed beyond questions of security of supply to encompass issues such as fighting climate change.
The Renovate Europe campaign says that, thanks to modern technology, buildings' energy demands can be cut by 80%. But, it adds, in order for that to happen, there needs to be an effective regulatory and legislative framework in place.