For More Energy Efficiency In The Food Industry – The Bakery Case In Upper Austria.

The food industry, although playing in a different league in terms of energy use compared to the steel industry, is still considered energy-intensive. In energy audits conducted at three food industry companies, Josef Buchinger from the consulting firm ConPlusUltra identified adjustment points for optimising energy use as a first step.

The Food Cluster of Upper Austria (Lebesmittel-Cluster) closely examines the energy-intensive bakery sector and derives recommendations for companies in Upper Austria. “EENOVA“, which stands for Energy Efficiency in Regional Food Processing Value Chains, aims to help companies in the food sector achieve greater sustainability. Specifically, it seeks to improve energy efficiency, increase the use of renewable energy sources, and reduce the carbon footprint. This not only enhances the competitiveness of the food industry but also actively combats climate change.

Energy Audit According to the Energy Efficiency Act

Since the beginning of the year, the new Energy Efficiency Act requires companies with more than 249 employees or those exceeding certain economic thresholds to conduct an energy audit every four years.

“This analysis of energy consumption, which identifies efficiency potentials and develops and evaluates measures, is also recommended for other companies,” says Cluster Manager Heidrun Hochreiter.

Quick Wins in Focus

As a first step, energy audits were conducted at three partner companies.

“We wanted to identify particularly effective measures that could be relatively easily transferred to many of our partner companies,” say Michael Wiesinger and Luise Dauwa from the Food Cluster, who accompanied the audits with energy expert Josef Buchinger at the companies.

“We specifically looked at areas such as cooling and heat recovery, efficient control technology for drives, renewable energies, energy management, and supply chain optimisations, such as flour transport,” explains Buchinger, a long-time energy auditor at the consulting firm ConPlusUltra, adding:

“Even if audited companies are already pioneers in production and energy technology, there are always potentials for maintenance or process optimisations that can be identified during an inspection and personal discussions, and concerns about large investments can be allayed.”

Electrifying Transport

Electrifying transport is a major challenge. In the case of flour, for example, the truck not only handles horizontal transport on the road but also requires significant energy for vertical transport into silos. Lifting systems or charging stations at customers’ sites facilitate the electrification of their truck fleet.

“We need to start with new project ideas here that require cooperation within the supply chain,” Wiesinger believes, “only then will electrification succeed.”

Utilizing Waste Heat

While waste heat at higher temperatures (e.g., from compressed air) is often already used, for example, for hot water preparation, waste heat at lower temperatures often remains unused. Such waste heat, for example, from large cooling or conveyor systems, is ideal for replacing fossil fuel heating in buildings when combined with buffer storage and/or heat pumps. In the food industry, a lot of hot water is needed for the intensive cleaning of production facilities. There is still a lot of potential here if this is used in a cascading manner.

Energy Monitoring

Good energy data management facilitates the evaluation of key figures for various reporting obligations suchcontrolling or management systems. Not only can organisational efficiency be improved, but optimizations in maintenance, control, and regulation, as well as human factors, can be identified, evaluated, and assessed. Thus, the data and facts obtained form the basis for further investment decisions for more production security, energy efficiency, and comfort.

Increasing the Use of Solar and Water Energy

Many companies already have photovoltaic systems installed on their roofs.

“But there are still plenty of free spaces,” says Buchinger.

Even silo facades and free areas directly next to the companies should be utilized. Hydropower traditionally plays a significant role in mills.

“Long-term thinking is still required here to economically increase efficiency and yield alongside nature conservation measures,” says the auditor.

Utilizing Energy Market Price Fluctuations

Production often takes place in three or four shifts or in autonomous operations. Depending on the line, product, day of the week, or season, the utilisation fluctuates. A challenge the industry must face is adapting production to the significant daily fluctuations in electricity prices. How can we optimise operating times? What degrees of freedom do we have to achieve efficient and highly economical operation? Companies will have to deal with these complex tasks, Buchinger believes.

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