See in the article the reasons for the adoption of the most-used clean energy sources, their advantages and disadvantages, the benefits of renewable sources in the optimization of the energy matrix, and the adoption of an energy management system as a strategic ally.
According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), global energy consumption will increase 28% by 2040. Therefore, in recent years sustainability targets, conscious consumption of energy and utilities, optimization of the energy matrix, and energy efficiency are front and center in governments and corporations.
With this backdrop the global search for solutions that more effectively reduce the financial, environmental, and social impact of energy consumption is increasing in intensity. Partnerships are increasing between governments and companies to mitigate the impact of the increase in energy and utilities consumption. Examples include adherence to the points of Agenda 2030, the Paris Agreement, certification in standards oriented toward better energy management (ISO 50001), among other actions. All of these initiatives are linked directly to the adoption of clean energy through renewable sources.
In this article we talk about how it is possible to use clean energy, its advantages, and disadvantages, the optimization of the energy matrix using renewable sources, and the importance of efficient energy and utilites management in making the investment effective.
What is clean energy?
According to a study by BP Global conducted in 2017, the sources of energy used most frequently are coal, oil, and natural gas. Among other actions these components emit CO2 (carbon dioxide) in their combustion, one of the gases responsible for aggravating the greenhouse effect, which causes the heating of the Earth, and consequently causes a number of changes in the environment.
Given this need for the reduction of the environmental impact in contrast to the progressive increase in energy consumption, companies increasingly seek the adoption of clean energy to achieve the balance between consumption and sustainability.
Clean energy comes from all renewable sources that do not emit polluting gases into the air nor toxic residues in the course of their use, thus reducing the impact on the environment. Most of these necessarily depend on primary materials on the planet: water, sunlight, wind, and gas. Some renewable sources that used to have high acquisition costs are increasingly accessible because of the increase in demand and technological evolution. All of them have the same principal characteristic of not emitting pollutants, which does not mean that do not have disadvantages:
- Wind energy: works by capturing the wind through wind turbines. The turbines need to be installed in places where the amount of wind is relatively constant. It is an inexhaustible source, does not emits polluting gases, and does not generate waste.
Its disadvantage is that it produces visual and noise pollution due to the continuous rotation of the blades, in addition to the risk to birds and the dependence on the weather conditions for the production of energy;
- Solar/photovoltaic energy: one of the most used sources and the one currently having the lowest acquisition cost, solar energy is generated by photovoltaic panels. It can be added in any location that has a large incidence of sunlight.
The disadvantages are that, despite the abundance of sunlight, systems based on solar energy depend on collection the collection and storage technologies whose production has a significant environmental footprint (mining, production process, and waste including heavy metals), in addition to depending on local sunlight.
- Tital energy: a way of generating energy through the movement of the tides. There are two types of energy that can be obtained: kinetic energy and potential energy. Its construction is similar to that of hydroelectric power plants.
One of the disadvantages is their cost of acquisition and maintenance, which is high, in addition to changes in the speed and intensity of waves that may cause some impact on local biodiversity.
- Biogas: this is the type of energy produced from the decomposition of organic matter by bacteria and the consequent conversion of the chemical energy of gas into mechanical energy by the combustion process. Biogas can also be used in boilers for energy cogeneration.
Although polluting the environment to a lesser degree than non-renewable sources, accidents and leaks in storage units can cause localized damage to the environment, and a high cost of investment is also involved.
- Hydroelectric energy: the use of the potential energy of the flow of water, commonly controlled by dams, for large-scale energy generation.
In order to install a hydroelectric plant, a large area must be flooded, and depending on its extent the environmental impacts can be significant due to the emission of greenhouse gases, and displacement of local populations can carry high social costs.
All sources considered clean can be consumed through contracts with third parties, such as purchasing through the free energy market, for example, or from consuming company itself, with models of microgeneration or minigeneration. Some of these sources have high investment costs, but most renewable sources can be added to an energy consumption matrix.
Microgeneration and minigeneration arise from the process of installing small generators of renewable sources in the consuming unit. There is a difference between the two options:
- Distributied microgeneration: installed power up to 75kW;
- Distributed minigeneration: installed power exceeding 75kW and less than 5MW.
If the generation of electricity is greater than consumption, the remaining credits may be deducted from the bill, or sold to other companies if the operation is made on the free energy market.
Today the options for using clean energy are enormous, and it is even possible to generate clean energy in one's own energy matrix, not to mention the reputation the company will have in the market for adopting renewable sources. In spite of this, it is necessary to understand how this significant cost of renewables will help the company's energy matrix so that the overall reduction in costs, continuous improvement of processes, and reduction in energy consumption will be efficient.
The optimization of the energy matrix through clean energy
Energy from renewable sources, despite high investment expenses and some issues regarding sound, appearance, temperature, and construction time, is a strategic way of linking sustainable consumption and the reputation and visibility of the company in the market.
Using initiatives that draw on renewable sources can bring renewal to the energy matrix and contribute to the optimization of processes, the reduction of costs in the medium and long term, an increase in energy efficiency, and a reduction in the emission of polluting gases.
Given changes such as these, processes, despite being updated, will be come increasingly complex, which demands that energy management be even more sophisticated, involving routines, planning, and budget management to achieve the desired results.
A system of energy and utilities as a strategic ally for good results of the new energy matrix
Initiatives such as substitution in the energy matrix by renewable sources contribute directly to the increase in complexity of management, bringing enormous day-to-day challenges to companies in the areas of energy management, such as the capacity to manage the volume of information delivered and to work in an integrated routine in order to make it possible to achieve planning goals.
Given this complexity, an energy and utilities management system can be implemented to make it possible to promote the monitoring of energy consumption in real time, tracking possible incidents mitigating the risks of production, and controlling the emission of pollutants in the atmosphere, in addition to integrating the company's production system with their energy and utilities management system.
Through planning and management, it is possible to predict the future consumption of energy and utilities, to manage contracts, monitor invoices, and simulate future scenarios in order to determine the return on investment from any change in the energy matrix, in addition to showing that new projects adopting clean energy can be implemented.