Energy conservation in the food industry

Inflated energy costs are critically impacting food and drink businesses throughout the EU and UK. Cutting waste and a switch to more energy efficient electricity is the solution.

Soaring energy costs and a high carbon footprint are cooking up a crisis for the EU and UK’s food sector. Cutting waste and a switch to more energy efficient electricity is the solution.

Inflated energy costs are critically impacting food and drink businesses throughout the EU and UK. In its March 2022 report, the Office for National Statistics showed that 60% of the industry reported being hit by rising energy costs, compared to only 38% across other sectors. Energy markets have been worsened by the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which has caused oil and gas prices to spike to their highest levels in nearly a decade.

The industry’s rising energy costs are inextricably linked to its outsized dependence on fossil fuels, with the food and drink sector emitting 156 million tonnes of carbon emissions in 2019 – equating to 17% of the UK’s carbon footprint. To offset this, it is vital that businesses begin turning to more efficient and sustainable solutions to make all processes less energy intensive in order to improve energy conservation in the food industry.

Energy usage within the food industry

Good management practice is central to addressing energy efficiencies in food processing factories. Steps need to be taken by stakeholders to integrate the many methodologies available to optimise the use of energy, monitor and control food and drink processing power. These include setting specific energy targets, conducting objective analysis based on optimum measurement policy, and turning to electric alternatives to replace fuel-driven, energy intensive equipment. 

While integrating motion sensor lighting and solar panels are some of the more common solutions used by food and drink stakeholders to conserve energy via equipment, the need to upgrade electrical infrastructure is often overlooked. In reality, old and outdated high voltage (HV) equipment is a huge cause of unnecessary energy use: the European Commission estimates that 2.9% of all energy generated across the EU and the UK is wasted through HV transformer losses. Vattenfall can help resolve this with energy-efficient high voltage electrical networks for food and drink processors.

Older HV equipment is, by its nature, outdated and not as efficient as newer, modern alternatives. “There are inherent copper and iron losses in all HV transformers, but as a general rule the older the transformer, the less efficient it is – and the more heat losses occur,” explains Gary Jacobs, Business Development Manager at Vattenfall. “Modern transformers adhere to the current UK and EU Tier 2 directive (548/2014), meaning they offer significant reductions and no-load losses compared to their predecessors, and are therefore much more efficient at lowering energy consumption in the food processing industry and optimising food processing power”.

Electrical infrastructure for food and drink manufacturers: with Power-as-a-Service

While upgrading infrastructure brings with it upfront costs, having equipment that uses less energy to run will invariably save businesses more money in the long run through lower energy bills. 

“The cost of electricity is going up by the minute,” Jacobs testifies. “And the higher the cost of electricity, the more food and drink business owners are having to pay for losses of old HV equipment. Every second that heat is needlessly emitted into the atmosphere, owners are footing the bill. And these costs are being passed on to already hard-pressed consumers, so we all pay a price for this inefficiency.”

For food and drink companies who are serious about implementing energy conservation initiatives, partnering with Vattenfall can offer a complete solution. Vattenfall provides power as a service for the food and drink industry, and takes full responsibility for the business’ HV electrical infrastructure by owning their networks and managing all efficiency, regulatory and environmental issues. Through its Power-as-a-Service offering, the energy company buys a facility’s HV infrastructure and optimises equipment such as switchgear systems and transformers in line with the specific energy conservation targets of each partner. 

Energy cost reduction and sustainability issues aside, it’s also important to ensure a company’s HV electrical systems are fit for purpose, and have the capacity to support future growth ambitions – especially pertinent as companies transition to EV electric delivery fleets. With Power-as-a-Service, electrical infrastructure upgrades are entirely managed and funded by specialists, ensuring the continuous and most efficient and sustainable operation of all electrical systems.

Find out how more about how Vattenfall can help UK food and drink companies reduce risk, increase energy security and transition to net zero.

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