Electric drives – Energy-efficiency is increasingly regulated

The energy-saving potential of electric drives is enormous. Political pressure is now increasing, and the EU Commission has started to extend the regulations for drive components to systems. The ZVEI will involve itself actively in this process.

If all electric motors in Germany were replaced, around 38 billion kWh of electricity could be saved.
© Ingo Bartussek -
Würde alle Elektromotoren in Deutschland ersetzt, könnten rund 33 Milliarden Kilowattstunden Strom eingespart werden.

In the year 2010, total electricity consumption in Germany amounted to 530 billion kilowatt hours (kWh). Nearly 40% of this, 200 billion kWh, was used by motor-powered machines and systems such as pumps, fans, compressors, lifts and conveyor belts.

Around 35 million 3-phase motors are currently in use in Germany. Many of them are much more than 10 years old. Only a few of them comply with the energy-efficiency classes IE2 or even IE3.

About 15 percent are already equipped with modern electronic speed control. Doing this would make sense for about half of all motors – wherever the machine load can be controlled by the speed. This is usually done today with energy-wasting mechanical means such as flaps or valves.

If the approximately 35 million electric motors currently in use were replaced with energy-saving motors of classes IE2 and IE3, and, if applicable, with electronic speed regulation, 38 billion kilowatt hours of electricity could be saved in Germany every year. This corresponds to the electricity production of 16 power plant blocks of the 400 MW class.

How quickly can these potentials be realised? The common replacement rate of old motors is three to five per cent per year. Usually, it would therefore take over 20 years before the existing stock of motors is modernised. In order to accelerate this modernisation, the EU Commission has now issued product-related requirements on electric motors as part of the Eco-design Directive. Since mid-June 2011 therefore, all motors brought into market in Europe have to meet at least the efficiency class IE2. Further increased requirements will be brought into the market in 2015 and 2017.

The next step – Expansion into complete systems

The previous EU Directives apply primarily to products. Now however, the system approach is increasingly becoming significant. As part of the Eco-design Directive, the EU Commission has introduced four new lots concerned with machines and systems such as pumps, fans, compressors, lifts and conveyor belts and their electric drive systems.

In order to create common standards in advance, the motor and drive experts are currently working at top speed on two orders, which the EU Commission awarded last year to the standards organisation. The subject of these orders is the extension of the existing IEC measurement procedures and efficiency classes to all types of motors, and the determination and definition of system efficiency levels. Especially the latter requires the interaction of different players, and will result in a huge change to current planning and procurement procedures.

The results of the standardisation work go into the lots

In order not to detract from the export strength and the international competitiveness of European manufacturers, the EU Commission is prepared within limits to take global developments into account with regard to the new efficiency requirements. The results of the international standardisation work will influence the four new lots 28 to 31. It will however stick to the aim of setting legally binding energy-efficiency figures for complete systems such as pumps and fans. Users will then probably be forced to give consideration to optimisation measures in advance of the tender. Manufacturers and consultants today already offer optimisation tools for this purpose on a voluntary basis, presenting the profitability of energy-efficiency investments. With a legal obligation however, there is a danger that efficiency and the technically best solution will be subjected to the primacy of the lowest energy consumption. The first regulations of the new generation can be expected from 2016. The ZVEI will be taking an active part in their formulation.

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