The Competitive Advantage of Hydraulics for Energy Efficiency?

Eric Lanke NFPA CEO


by Eric Lanke

Better buildings SummitEarlier this year, I attended the Better Buildings Summit in Washington, DC. This event, hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy, was a national meeting where leading organizations across key sectors showcased solutions to cut energy intensity in their buildings by 20% over the next ten years. My attendance there was part of our on-going effort the ensure that fluid power plays a role in our nation’s energy efficient future.

On one of the panel discussions I heard an engineer from ArcelorMittal talking about the competitive advantages that energy efficiency brings to their company. He said that of their four major cost areas—labor, materials, energy, and repair & maintenance—energy was the one they had the greatest ability to control. Every dollar that they are able to save there goes right to their bottom line and adds to their competitiveness.

He also said that this trend of equating energy efficiency with competitiveness will continue. As global demand for energy continues to rise, the cost of energy will only go up, so companies that are focused on their energy productivity (getting more work done with less energy) will naturally rise in this new competitive market. Couple that the public’s increasing demand for companies to display good environmental stewardship and this focus on energy efficiency will pay extra dividends, including the attraction and retention of a workforce that shares the same values.

It was an eye-opening discussion, reinforcing the idea that energy efficiency is increasingly a successful corporate strategy. I went up and spoke to the ArcelorMittal engineer after the panel and asked him how much hydraulics they use in their industrial plants. A lot, he said, and although they do look at possible energy savings that come from their use of hydraulics, right now those efforts are pretty much confined to turning the systems off when they’re not using them. Like many of the engineers in our end-use industries that I’ve spoken to, hydraulics seemed like a kind of black box to him. They like what it does, but they don’t really understand how it works or how to make it better or more efficient.

Seems like a big opportunity for our industry—showing these end-users how to increase their competitiveness with more efficient use of fluid power.

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