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Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock during the past few weeks, you probably are aware of the 2021 COP26 Climate Change Convention in Glasgow, Scotland, UK. Media sources are still being been bombarded with sound bites coming out of speeches at the event by national leaders and related worldwide protests over the various effects of air/water pollution that are fueling climate change. As a RAM professional, you may have even asked what you and your team can do to help fight the problem. The answer is simple: You can do quite a lot.

Industrial manufacturing and service corporations are among the world’s largest fossil- fuel energy users. When those fuels are burned for process-heat generation and comfort and the manufacture of electricity, the combustion process produces and emits various “greenhouse” gases” (the largest being carbon dioxide [C02]). While all agree that energy production and usage is essential to life, we can also agree that energy waste is a deadly sin. In short, energy losses lead to environmental, climate, safety, and corporate financial losses.

For many years, Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) has been teaching us to examine failure consequences and the acceptability of risk inherent in our maintenance practices. Accordingly, today, it’s no longer acceptable for a site to not have an energy-management program underpinning its maintenance excellence program. The lack of that type of underpinning constitutes risk to the organization, individuals, and the bottom line.

The good news is that common sense and standard precision-maintenance practices can have a significant impact on a plant’s energy-usage profile through elimination of energy waste. Success is easily calculated based on C02-emission savings, lower energy costs, and asset-efficiency gains in reliability uptime and throughput. And that success is available at little cost.

In the late 1980s and early 90s, increased energy requirements and aging power generation facilities forced the Canadian provincial mandated electrical generation industry to review its long-term planning strategy. At that time, prohibitive costs and environmental issues made it politically unacceptable to build new generation facilities (as is still the case today). The situation created demand management as a viable alternative.

Canadian power corporations developed various “Power Save” incentive programs that enticed consumers with free or subsidized energy-efficient devices and copious advice on how to reduce energy use and waste. Industrial consumers were treated to a similar cache of subsidized programs, including free energy audits; rebates for energy-efficient motors, compressed-air controls, and efficient lighting; and ample reference material (with excellent case studies) on successful energy-program management. This seemingly paradoxical approach to energy-demand control was, understandingly, viewed by industry with caution and skepticism.

Hindsight allows us to review the past with better understanding and glean from its initiatives. Had the price of electricity and economic climate been the same as it is today, greater program success might have prevailed. Unfortunately, the subsidized nature of the Canadian program may have diminished its perceived value: Many corporations lined up for the pilot program handout, but they reneged when it came time to spend their own money and implement learned successes plantwide.

With energy-saving-program costs accelerating, electrical and facility-maintenance costs rising, and deregulation around the corner, the power-generation companies refocused their efforts on survival. This led to those companies cancelling or seriously reducing their energy-saving/waste-reduction programs. Today’s industrial consumer, though, would be wise to follow the lead of those past energy-program initiatives and recognize the impact maintenance has upon energy use.


Adopting an asset-management approach over a pure-maintenance approach forces us to consider how assets are being used or loaded, and analyze the consequence of our current usage/loading practices.

In industrial applications, electrical energy is converted into movement, heat, or light, referred to as work output. The amount of energy required to deliver a measure of work output is expressed by the formula:


Energy Requirement = Work Output + Frictional Losses

From this we deduce that lower frictional losses result in less energy required to perform work. For example, an ammeter connected to a poorly lubricated motor-driven chain-conveyor system will show that considerably more energy is used to overcome metal-to-metal friction than a correctly lubricated chain moving at the same speed. In another typical example, a misaligned motor-driven pump assembly will create excessive side forces, resulting in frictional (heat) losses. And a loose, poorly shimmed (soft foot) motor will result in vibration that causes frictional energy losses. In all cases, excess energy is expended (or wasted) and component/machine life is significantly reduced, thereby incentivizing maintenance with two tangible reasons for adopting a common-sense, precision-maintenance approach to energy-waste elimination.

The following paragraphs detail some basic strategies that can be employed for little capital and major gains in energy-waste reduction. When embarking on this type of program, consider working with your local energy utility provider to develop a “before and after” measurement strategy. If your machinery and systems are “smart,” it will be relatively easy to identify energy savings; for non-smart machines, an isolated amperage draw energy metering system will be required.

1. Optimized Equipment Use. Because equipment consumes energy in a “no load” state, as it does when idling, Maintenance must work with the Production Planning department to address idle-time reduction through improved planning and/or use of automated control systems.

In a Lean Manufacturing environment, production throughput can be decreased to a slower, more consistent rate, to eliminate energy surges when assets are constantly asked to perform above their respective design specifications. This strategy also serves to eliminate idle time, which can be significant. In fact, a study by the Research Institute for Energy Economics concluded that during a single 8-hr. shift, machine tools consumed a disproportionate 30% of total energy consumption when they were left idling during operation breaks and non-productive time periods. If capacity is abundant and idle time still exists, Maintenance may wish to shut down the machine and perform a “pit-stop” form of maintenance, with quick repairs, calibrations, lubrication, and other short-plan activities that can be done in 30 minutes or less.

2.  Attention to Cleanliness. Dirty machines not only make it difficult to spot leaks and isolate problems quickly, but their surfaces can fall victim to a troubling “thermal blanket” effect. This blanket of dirt can contaminate manufactured product, air filters, and lubricants, while raising the machine-component and lubricant operating temperatures. Such conditions can lead to premature failure, downtime, and poor machine running conditions that require excess energy.

Good housekeeping also provides a healthier, cleaner working environment. Learn more in the article, “Industrial Housekeeping: A Tier-One Maintenance & Energy Management Strategy” (link below).

3.  Best-Practice Lubrication. For equipment uptime, longevity, and energy efficiency, lubrication control is an absolute must. Lubrication-related causes of energy waste include:

  • lack of lubricant creating a metal-to-metal-friction condition
  • over-lubrication creating internal fluid friction
  • incorrect lubricant choice causing either a metal-to-metal OR fluid-friction condition
  • thickened viscosity of a dirty, contaminated, or oxidized lubricant causing fluid friction.

Using an energy efficient lubricant of the correct viscosity can produce savings of over 7%. (Ref. 1)

Performing an automated lubrication system tune-up can produce savings up to 18% (Ref. 1). Learn more in the article, “Tuning Your Lube System” (link below).

4.  Compressed Air Systems. Compressed air is a utility requiring energy to produce. Often compressed air is thought of as being “free” or inexpensive. Reducing and eliminating compressed air losses will significantly lower energy running costs, typical areas of focus include:

  • uncontrolled air leaks at fittings, valves, etc.
  • open air lines exhausting to atmosphere (blow off lines)
  • system air pressure set too high
  • compressor incorrectly sized for system, constantly cycling.

Air leaks alone provide a potential savings of over 9%. Use of energy-reducing synthetic compressor lubricants can provide savings between 4% and 8%. Reduced process air can result in a 5% energy saving. Improved controls can provide savings up to 4.5%. (Ref. 1)

5.  Electrical Connectivity. Poor electrical connectivity causes energy to dissipate directly to ground. Not only is energy wasted, but a fire risk is also created. Typical areas of focus include:

  • loose wire connections
  • defective connective devices (knife gate, switches, etc.)
  • defective fuses.

A simple loose connection creating a 0.1-Ohm resistance to ground on a 400-hp motor can lead cost over $9,000 in terms of energy waste (power cost of 5.5c per/kW). (Ref. 1)

6.  Power Transmission. Virtually all power transmission systems utilize mechanically coupled devices. If the driver/driven components are misaligned in either the angular or offset plane, they will significantly reduce energy efficiency.

  • Proper alignment can produce energy savings in the region of 6% to 15%. (Ref. 1)
  • Improperly tensioned belts can result in energy efficiency losses up to 15%. (Ref. 1)

Regarding the many areas where a Maintenance department can directly impact energy waste, focusing on the above six will eliminate many of the hidden energy wasters under the direct control of the maintenance department.

Emissions tend to be invisible and without reference in the industrial and corporate world. In order to give them value, they must be given currency. In the case of CO2, we can convert kWh electrical savings directly to lbCo2/kgCO2, or visa-versa.

Information from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), in 2020, and the UK Carbon Trust, In 2020, provides us with the following Energy and Carbon conversion rates:

U.S. Coal Produced Grid Electricity   1kWh = 2.23lbsCO2 or 1.01364kgCO2 (EIA)

U.S. Nat. Gas Produced Electricity    1kWh = 0.91lbsCO2 or 0.41364kgCO2 (EIA) 

Natural Gas       1kWh = 0.1837kgCO2 (UK Carbon Trust                                

Diesel Fuel         1ltr = 2.54603kgCO2 (UK Carbon Trust)

Gasoline            1ltr = 2.16802kgCO2 (UK Carbon Trust)

When calculating energy-program savings, it is extremely important, to provide results in terms of dollars and CO2-emission reductions. This will show that your efforts were worthwhile to your operations and the planet.

Dr. Patrick Moore is a name many will recognize as one of the founders of Greenpeace. (He was often photographed at the helm of the Rainbow Warrior ship championing global conservation issues back in the 1970s.) When challenged at some point about energy conservation, Dr. Moore emphatically stated, “Companies have a choice how they use their electricity.”

Maintenance has a similar choice when it comes to asset efficiency and energy-waste elimination. It has never been more important than today to exercise that choice.TRR


1.  Quoted facts and figures in this article come from Ken Bannister’s book, Energy Reduction Through Improved Maintenance Practices, Industrial Press, ISBN 0-8311-3082-2/ (Note: The information in that book was taken from actual power-company energy-program studies.)

Click The Following Links To Read The Two Referenced Articles

“Industrial Housekeeping: A Tier-One Maintenance And Energy Management Strategy” (June 11, 2021)

“Lube-System Tune-Ups: Time Well Spent” (Feb. 6, 2021)


Ken Bannister has 40+ years of experience in the RAM industry. For the past 30, he’s been a Managing Partner and Principal Asset Management Consultant with Engtech industries Inc., where he has specialized in helping clients implement best-practice asset-management programs worldwide. A founding member and past director of the Plant Engineering and Maintenance Association of Canada, he is the author of several books, including three on lubrication, one on predictive maintenance, and one on energy reduction strategies, and is currently writing one on planning and scheduling. Contact him directly at 519-469-9173 or

Tags: reliability, availability, maintenance, RAM, energy efficiency, environmental sustainability, climate change