The energy market has changed a lot, am I right?
Who knew that we would be sitting here looking at electric-powered steam boilers as the optimal economic and environmental choice vs natural gas?
The spike in natural gas prices and the UK's renewable energy programme really starting to pay dividends for those using electricity. An impressive 40% of the UK's electricity is now generated from renewable sources. And in the summer of 2020, we went 68 days without using any fossil fuels for electricity. So if you're heavy on electricity use in comparison to natural gas this is excellent for your scope 2 reductions.
Currently, our industry standard is 29 kWh/hl of packaged beer.
Not bad. But there are clear industry leaders and I've put together a list of 8 ways they have become industry-leading.
If you are resourceful (great plug) with your brewery's electricity and diligent at optimising usage you can comfortably achieve 25-20kWh/hl packaged beer without big capital investments. With some small-to-medium investments, you could get to 20-10kWh/hl packaged beer.
Firstly, where does all your electricity go? Well the Brewers Association (American) have produced this dope chart that shows exactly that.
I would say nothing shocking here but really interesting to see generally where the biggest consumers are. Refrigeration requires the most electricity and from my experience, offers the biggest saving potential too.
In this piece, we will mainly look at 7 CAPEX options but if you read into what the technology is actually doing, you can sometimes adapt that principle to your brewing team without the need for CAPEX. Also, I will provide a brief list of free electricity-saving wins at the bottom.
Here we go.
1) Data 🤓
Every brewery achieving under the industry standard shares one thing in common, they all collect their electricity data. Taking meter readings every month is simple, quick and reliable. Not only will it build you a picture of your electricity usage you can benchmark it against other breweries to find out how you rank.
So if you haven't started already, now you have no excuse!
2) 🏃 Running an air compressor? Hows ya leaks?
If your brewery has an air compressor this is important. Air compressors are solid consumers of electricity depending on the level of pneumatic valves, size/capacity of compressor and type of compressor, your brewery could be using somewhere between 1,200 - 20,000+ kWh a month.
Naturally, leaks are a problem as your compressor is having to work harder to maintain pressure in the system. Now you could be fooled into assuming you would hear/feel any leaks in the system but actually cracks in gaskets and air tubing can produce leaks that are only detectable by ultrasonic. These add up to be seriously substantial. In 2020 Bell's Brewery in the States saved 151,000 kWh a year, if that was in the UK that would be £22k+ in savings. Wild.
Does this sound interesting? Get in contact to find out how Brew Resourceful can help 👍
3) Don't like the cold? 🥶 Well your glycol does.
On the theme of leaks, we're talking about a different kind of leak here. For those who remember the legendary 5 common sources of gas inefficiency article we discussed heat losses. Well in this article we are looking at heat gain. Glycol lines must be insulated. If you don't you are loading your plant unnecessarily by allowing the ambient heat to warm up your glycol, causing a waste of electricity as your compressor works harder. To some, you will be thinking, obviously. But plenty will be doing this.
4) Do you even vapourise bro? 😶🌫️
CO2 must undergo a vaporising process for us to use as we buy in liquid form but need the gaseous solution for production. This heating-up process is usually handled by either electricity or steam. However, the energy-efficient option is using glycol to vaporise your CO2. That's correct, glycol is heating up your -56.6°C liquid CO2 to gas form, what's super smart about this is it actually decreases the loading on your glycol plant. So you now not only have you stopped using electricity/steam you are actually decreasing your electricity consumption. It might not be the CAPEX project of your dreams but it's cool.
5) LED 💡
Stop using fluorescent and halogen bulbs, and switch to LED. They are 60% more efficient than their life span is claimed to be 10 years longer.
By replacing fluorescent bulbs at the brewery with LEDs, Bell’s saved the equivalent of 127,000 kWh per year or enough electricity to power 12 homes for one year.
6) Motion detectors 🥷
Once you've switched to LED now it's wise to use them less. Motion sensors are a fantastic way of ensuring lights are not left on unnecessarily without having to change the behaviours of the people working. Although, it is very wise to place the sensors in areas where people could be working but sat down, I've had the lights go out on me whilst entering the day's brew data with the motion sensor and/or light switch somewhere in the black abyss.
7) Have you tried turning it off and on again?
So the price of your electricity changes hourly throughout the day. The price is linked with the demand, with the peak times being morning and evening and the quiet times being the night. But what is cool, is the national grid will pay you to reduce your commercial electricity in those peak times. Then not only can you be paid for not using as much, you can also benefit from the nighttime far cheaper rate.
All sounds great but like me, you're probably thinking, that will never work in a brewery. But actually, it does. Naturally, there is an investment required. There is a company called Gridimp that has a control box that fits into any standard electrical cabinet, it then uses machine learning to understand your electricity demands and cycles certain parts of your business/brewery on/off.
The payback on this device is less than a year, as it reduces your electricity usage and significantly reduces your bill. It's dope. Drop me a message if you want to know more!
Alternatively, you can apply the same principle but with other aspects of your brewery. I was once asked if I could only crash my tanks at night when the rates were cheaper, and I said no. Now, I see the error of my ways, it's 100% possible and actually makes a serious amount of sense. Why not see if it is possible for you?
8) Source of your electricity ☀️
If emissions are a concern, which they should be unless you're a monster, then here is a quick way to drop those Scope 2 emissions.
Ensure your electricity supply is coming from renewable energy, energy partners such as Octopus and others only supply renewable energy. Switch to those instead of fossil fuel-burning sources and you've just helped reduce your business emissions, who says sustainability has to be difficult?
Want to go one step further? Then solar photovoltaic panels are a popular source of electricity. They aren't for everyone as they have specific requirements such as roof slope, space and direction as well as complexity if you don't own the building. But they are a great way of navigating the aforementioned peak demand prices and you can store and sell back to the grid too.
Additional free electricity savings tips:
Turn off equipment when not in use
Turn off lighting when not in use
Clean air filters
Clean condenser coils
Clean exhaust fans
Conclusion - Invest some money, watch the returns pile in
One positive of the energy price spike is it really helps reduce the return on investment times on energy-saving CAPEX projects.
So whilst budgets are ALWAYS tight in breweries there is a clear environmental saving AND economic saving.
Deciding which one to go for is often the difficulty. There are a lot of projects and not a lot of capital so how does one decide? If you would like to talk through your options with me, for free then please book a chat with me here. I just love these topics and I'm super happy to pass out as much free advice as I can!
Look forward to hearing from you