What is the potential for energy savings in Swiss industry?

The potential for energy savings in industry and services, including through energy efficiency measures, is very large: in the order of 25 to 30% for both electricity and fuels, representing a potential gain of 11 to 14 TWh of final energy.

Swiss industry consumes 18% (42 TWh) of our final energy, mainly in the form of electricity and fossil fuels for heat production. This proportion is lower than the European average (25%), which can be explained by the fact that Switzerland has been gradually deindustrialising, towards an increasingly service-based, energy-saving economy [→ Q8].

In industrial activities, the measures to be taken to save energy are, first and foremost, better insulation, followed by better regulation (better adjustment of installations), process optimisation and, in some cases, the replacement of obsolete or poorly dimensioned technical equipment by less energy-intensive equipment.

Industrial activities consume 70 to 80% of their energy in the form of heat in facilities such as furnaces, chemical reactors, boilers or dryers. The production and use of this heat is still too rarely optimised. This results in significant energy losses. Optimisation of industrial processes would reduce these losses substantially. On the one hand, it is a matter of producing heat efficiently and at the right temperature. In this sense, the combination of heat pumps with heat-and-power units in industrial processes offers very great potential for energy savings [→ Q27]. On the other hand, efforts should be made to recover waste heat; for example, heat losses from a boiler can be used to power dryers instead of having a dedicated energy source. Such improvements can be made internally, or through exchanges between companies that are in close proximity to each other. Sometimes it is even possible to use these waste heat emissions to produce electricity. The higher the temperature of a reject, the higher the recovery potential.

The industry also offers a major source of electricity savings, which is still largely untapped. These are mainly electrical drives (motors and driven systems), which account for about ¾ of the electricity consumed. A great deal of equipment such as pumps, fans and compressors (found in refrigerators, air-conditioners, heat pumps, etc.) are often oversized, poorly operated and inefficient because they are obsolete. The savings potential for large installations that operate a large number of hours per year is in the order of 15 to 30% or more. This could save around 7 TWh of electricity per year by using high-efficiency and carefully dimensioned electric drives. This theoretical potential does not take into account the possibility (difficult to achieve in practice) of cost-effectively replacing the millions of small drives in Switzerland. A realistic potential is probably between 4 and 5 TWh, or between 10 and 12% of our total electricity consumption. This is a not inconsiderable saving, which corresponds to the potential of wind power in Switzerland (4.7 TWh of electricity per year) and the current production of electricity from renewable energies.


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