Energy efficiency in industry and the role of technology

Since the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, improvements in energy efficiency have had a huge impact on the world we live in. In this video interview, Professor Jero Ahola, LUT University in Finland, talks to Panu Virolainen, CTO, Motion Business Area, ABB about the past, present and future of energy efficiency.

Two of the main topics they discuss are power generation and power consumption. Ever since the invention of the steam engine, developing ways to generate more power from the same amount fuel has been crucial to driving technology forward. And, equally, finding ways to do more with less energy has also been important. However, to improve our energy efficiency in the future, Professor Ahola emphasizes that we need to view energy systems as a whole because energy losses always accumulate throughout the whole system.

From about 1750, when the industrial revolution got underway, until the modern day, we have managed to improve the efficiency of power generation from 1% with coal-fired steam engines to 60% with gas turbines. There have been similar efficiency improvements on the power consumption and use side, for example with the transition from incandescent bulbs to LED lights, and now the change from internal combustion vehicles to electric vehicles. As Professor Ahola points out, the world is moving towards electricity-based systems. As a result, digitalization will also be playing an increasingly important role. As Professor Ahola says, “the first step in energy efficient actions is measurement. You have to know where you are in order to do something.” This means that new, real-time measurement systems and analyses will be needed to minimize and optimize our energy use.

The first step in energy efficient actions is measurement. You have to know where you are in order to do something.

In addition, there is a lot of research on ways to improve energy efficiency, as well as ways to reduce emissions. In his own research, Professor Ahola has worked on ways to extract CO2 from the air and turn it into valuable products, some of which could be used in new types of batteries.

Watch the video to find out more about the most promising technologies, the role of digitalization and the latest research into the energy efficient systems of the future.

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