Making the right moves toward energy efficiency

Making the right moves toward energy efficiency

Jukka Hannuksela sees the harmonization of international (IEC) standards into local and national standards as the first and most important step when discussing the energy efficiency performance of electric motors. Having unanimous and unified methods enables manufacturers, regulators and customers to test, assess and classify the energy efficiency of electric motors.

Driving change through regulations

The progress and evolution of adopting IEC standards as national standards also outside of Europe has been the result of intensive and effective collaboration between all stakeholders participating in different IEC technical committees and working groups. The next steps that would be extremely beneficial for industry, end users and manufacturers would be the harmonization of directives, regulations and different kinds of registration schemes in countries and perhaps in regions, as is the case in Europe for example. But it is worth noting that this is even more complex that the harmonization of standards. And all this will not happen overnight.

The developments in energy efficiency in low voltage motors are usually generated through directives, regulations and standards, depending on national legislation. Directives and regulations are national, country-specific or regional, as is the case within the EU for example. Since they are created by governing bodies there is no true alignment and standardization when it comes to marking, registration and validation of products. This makes life more complicated, not only for motor manufacturers, but all equipment manufacturers delivering their incorporated motor products or spare parts around the world. There are however certain requirements that are becoming globally common and accepted as a minimum requirement. Jukka sees this as a positive development. “In most markets with regulations regarding the minimum efficiency requirement the IE3 or equivalent energy efficiency class is becoming the accepted norm. But as requirements continue to become stricter every year, we are already seeing IE4 class electric motors become more common. In the EU for example, the IE4 class will be mandatory in the 75-200kW range from mid-2023 onwards.”

“It is extremely important to set legislation that truly has a positive impact on sustainability and efficiency.”

Setting the right efficiency targets

Jukka Hannuksela has seen the rapid development in sustainability regulations driven by the need for reducing CO2 emissions by improving the performance and energy efficiency of entire processes. He recognizes the urgency of the situation in terms of the environmental impact industry is having on the world around us, but at the same time urges governing bodies to take their time in preparing, defining and passing new regulations. “It is extremely important to set legislation that truly has a positive impact on sustainability and efficiency. This sense of urgency runs the risk of resulting in technical requirements and targets that are increasingly difficult to comply with, that don’t deliver equally tangible benefits.”

Already it can be seen that it is becoming increasingly difficult for smaller electric motor manufacturers to stay on top of all the regulations in place around the world. It takes considerable muscles and a global network to both follow and meet the coming changes in all local regulations. And efficiency will not only mean energy efficiency and performance. More and more we see it relating to the increasingly efficient use of materials, for example when designing motors for higher performance, considering material recycling at the end of product life, or planning the re-use and repurposing of products. Today, such definitions as circular economy or circularity can be widely seen in many circumstances when talking about efficiency.

The key to environmental performance

Jukka has also seen the drastic changes taking place in the environment over the past 30-40 years. “As a typical Finn who loves to spend time in nature, I share concerns over global warming. At the same time, we must recognize that energy demand is increasing all the time. Especially those of us inhabiting the cold and inhospitable North are dependent on energy to heat our homes and electricity as a part of our lives.” So, if energy is something we can’t live without, but excessive consumption is becoming harmful to our environment, the only logical solution is to seek out more efficient ways to use it. This is exactly what modern electric motors are designed to do.

Developments in engineering and technology

When seeking to improve the operating efficiency of typical low voltage motors, which are still today mostly induction motors, we generally mean increasing a motor’s size and mass by increasing active material use in components, namely the rotor and stator. This enables us to reduce power losses in the stator and rotor of a motor, leading them to run cooler. Improving efficiency allows motors to run at cooler temperatures, helping them last longer, requiring less service and maintenance.

The key challenge for the future according to Jukka Hannuksela is finding ways to increase operating efficiency and the performance of whole systems, including not just a motor but all the other components in the operating chain without continuously increasing the physical size of motors. This will lower the threshold and allow for the replacement of old motors with newer, more efficient ones without the need to rebuild motor foundations and surrounding structures. “This is something motor manufacturers like ABB are working towards in the case of induction motors, but also by exploring and developing new technologies such as synchronous reluctance motors (SynRM),” Jukka Hannuksela explains. He also reminds us, “not forgetting circularity and sustainability”.

“Energy efficiency is the key to tackling climate change and ensuring sustainable development.”

Whatever the future holds, energy efficiency is the key to tackling climate change and ensuring sustainable development. The universal truth is that we can’t live without energy. The demand for industrially produced goods and commodities is not going away. Neither is the demand for electrically powered devices. It is the shared responsibility of governments, industries and societies to find ways to improve the efficiency together.

Jukka Hannuksela
Head of Global Standards and Compliance 
ABB IEC Low Voltage Motors