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The power savers

While there is enough talk about how the climate is changing and carbon footprints of developing countries are getting out of control, a bevy of professionals have been driving a revolution without the rhetoric.

education Updated: Sep 22, 2011 11:58 IST
Pankaj Mullick

While there is enough talk about how the climate is changing and carbon footprints of developing countries are getting out of control, a bevy of professionals have been driving a revolution without the rhetoric. These professionals, called energy conservation specialists, help various companies cut down their energy consumption, saving them money and conserving one of the nation’s most prized resources.

Energy conservation has been developing as a science as well as a profession since the early ’70s and is widely believed to have started in the US. As most of you would be aware, energy is neither created nor destroyed. It is simply converted from one form to the other by the action of various processes.

However, during these processes, some of the energy is converted into forms that are not intended or can’t be utilised. Think of the simple example of an incandescent lightbulb. When electricity passes through the filament, it glows due to the material’s resistance and light is produced. However, due to the same resistance, heat is also produced and that is energy being wasted – both in terms of electricity used and unutilised heat (these also add to cooling costs, one of the biggest components of domestic power usage). One solution is switching to compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), which use less power and heat up less.

Energy conservation specialists do something similar for industrial units though of course it is far more complex. Such a professional would first conduct “a survey of energy consuming areas such as equipment, processes, facilities, utilities etc and arrive at accurate data and information on specific energy consumption”, says Ramesh Bhatia, consultant, Schneider Electric India.

This is the starting point for an energy audit, which determines wastages and excesses that occur in energy consumption in an industry, building or facility.

It also helps to determine the benchmarks for consumption in equipment, process or facility. A necessary component of this activity is to arrive at the ways and means of avoiding such wastages and operate at benchmarks, Bhatia adds.

The follow-through after an audit is energy management. “This requires measurement of energy consumption through instruments and communicating this data to server, which is loaded with appropriate software. Thus, the energy consumption data is available online, in real time without human intervention,” says Bhatia.

What follows is reporting and recommending fixes such as use of passive energy conservation measures such as low consumption devices like CFLs in place of bulbs, star-rated fans, refrigerators and airconditioners, power-factor correction in electrical distribution, improving insulation etc.

“Our government has made rules for compulsory energy audits for big companies and production houses and has also given subsidies to small-scale companies to be able to do it. It will soon become compulsory for small-scale industries in the future,” says Piyush Kakadia, proprietor, Total Energy Consultant, a government certified, Ahmedabad-based energy auditor.

In India, the Energy Conservation Act 2001 governs energy conservation in almost all industry sectors. All energy conservation policies emanate from this Act and are implemented through the Bureau of Energy Efficiency set up by the central government.

What's it about?
An energy conservation specialist typically drives activities such as consolidation of energy and production-related data, examination of energy conservation opportunities, comparison with the best energy-efficiency industry practices and formulating recommendations and action plans for energy saving. Various key industries are required by law to hold energy audits and be energy-efficient as per the Energy Conservation Act 2001. Energy auditors need to be certified by the Government of India’s Bureau of Energy Efficiency

Clock Work
This is what Ramesh Bhatia’s daily schedule looks like
8.30 am: Respond to mails
9.30 am: Make a presentation on energy efficiency to senior management at a paper industry giant
12 pm: Break for lunch and network with decision-makers at the company
1 pm: Head for chemical factory to supervise energy audit
4 pm: Attend government policy group session at industry association
7 pm: Pack up and head home

The Payoff
An energy conservation professional typically earns more than engineers. Salaries start at Rs25,000 per month and can go up to Rs75,000 per month. Energy efficiency entrepreneurs can earn much more

Skills
. Ability to quickly understand processes in various industries and different clients
. Negotiation and some level of selling skills
. Ability to work with people at different levels of hierarchy
. Be an effective agent of change

How do i get there?
Engineering in any discipline such as mechanical, electrical, production, instrumentation, chemical or even civil is the preferred qualification for a career in energy conservation. The Bureau of Energy Efficiency under the Ministry of Power conducts examinations through the National Productivity Council for energy auditors and energy managers. At higher levels, the Association of Energy Engineers (a US-based organisation) conducts internationally an examination for Certified Measurement and Verification Professionals

Institutes & urls
. Devi Ahilya Vishwavidyalaya, Indore
www.dauniv.ac.in
. Bharathidasan University, Chennai
www.bdu.ac.in
. IIT, Delhi
www.iitd.ac.in
. University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun
www.upes.ac.in
. Association of Energy Engineers, Atlanta, Georgia
www.aeecenter.org

Pros & Cons
.
It is a very rewarding career where one draws satisfaction from saving clients money
. Results are measurable
. One can start one’s own consultancy after 10 to 15 years in the field
. One has to be flexible enough to work with all classes of people – from senior management to foremen – to understand the energy-efficiency issues at a site
. Involves lots of travel to factory sites, which can at times be in remote locations