Energy consumption and reduction of CO₂ emissions should be taken seriously not only by individuals and political actors, but also by businesses around the globe. We spoke to our energy experts Alexander Leis and Iraja B. Ribeiro about current market trends, successful approaches for higher energy efficiency and the role of the right lubrication for more sustainability.
CO2 reduction is a crucial topic that concerns individuals, governments and companies around the world. What are possible approaches that can contribute to a more sustainable development?
A. Leis.: It is highly important to understand that CO2 is directly connected to energy. The main source of carbon dioxide emissions is the consumption of energy.
There are three approaches making a sustainable development possible. The best is certainly by reducing energy consumption. The second is to use more energy from renewable sources. And the third approach is to have higher energy efficiency, which means keeping the existing level of energy consumption but getting more out of it. Or vice versa, keeping the same amount of production or wealth creation but using less energy.
I. Ribeiro: Energy efficiency is very important because the world’s population is growing and the demand for energy is increasing. When energy use increases, there are more emissions. One of today’s goals is to produce less emissions while using the same amount of energy. But since energy is expensive, less energy consumption is an important goal, too. In order to address these two issues, the best we can do is to become more energy-efficient. In fact, I can’t see any sustainability program that would not include energy efficiency action. When we talk about a more sustainable future, the first step should be: be more effective in using energy.
Especially in Europe, almost half of the energy is used in industry. Are there any regulations for implementing energy efficiency?
I. Ribeiro: In Europe, many companies have the ISO 50001 certification, which is a standard for energy management systems. It requires companies to improve their energy efficiency constantly. The topic is also important for countries outside Europe – all companies that I visit around the globe have a KPI that targets energy savings.
How can industries achieve better energy efficiency in their processes?
A. Leis: There are many actions that industries can take: retrofitting heating systems or using better systems for compressed air, for example. But there is one specific topic that has a direct impact on all industries: lubricants. Every industry uses lubricants; every industry has big machines that consume energy. As lubricants go into every industry worldwide, they have a big impact. This means enormous leverage.
How exactly do lubricants contribute to more energy efficiency?
I. Ribeiro: Klüber Lubrication is a global expert for speciality lubricants with exceptional qualities. Such high-performance products have a lower friction coefficient, which is important when it comes to optimising energy consumption. What distinguishes us further on the market is the fact that our technical specialists measure and prove the efficiency gains, hence the cost savings for the customer. It is very important to have tangible results in order to be credible and to achieve improvement. We are living in a business environment and for business, efforts for sustainability become attractive if they are measurable and lead to financial benefits. For example, our subsidiary in Brazil has developed a handprint tool that not only calculates how much energy and CO2 have been saved by using our products, but it also calculates savings caused by secondary effects such as less transportation or longer maintenance-free intervals due to optimised lubrication. We are currently working on internationalising this tool. I see it as our task as lubrication specialists to establish such knowledge and educate the markets.
Which industries are currently most interested in optimising their energy efficiency?
I. Ribeiro: Currently it's the heavy industries that are most interested because of the following issues: The biggest consumers of energy are in the heavy industries. They have the biggest equipment and consume the biggest volumes of lubricating oil. Oil has the biggest potential for energy efficiency, which in turn can lead to cost savings.
The second factor is the reputation of the industry. The heavy industries are unfortunately seen as one of the biggest polluters of the planet, which is why they are interested in sustainable solutions to help them improve their reputation.
Reputation is a very important aspect also for the food industry as it is directly connected to the end customer: topics like health or clean and environmentally friendly production can directly affect the reputation of companies in the food & beverage sectors.
But there are a lot of other applications that have a potential for optimisation. We are looking forward to exploring them.
Moving the focus away from the customer, how important are energy efficiency and sustainability at Klüber Lubrication itself?
A. Leis: You need to improve your own footprint to be taken serious by others when you claim “I can help you” in terms of sustainability. It is about seriousness and reputation. You cannot talk about handprint without addressing your footprint, in my opinion. So when it comes to our footprint, there are many initiatives that we are proud of. We installed photovoltaics in our sites in Mexico and India to generate our own electricity from renewable sources and changed to reliable green energy contracts at some of our other production sites. We are improving our product portfolio in order to reduce hazardous products and to increase the use of raw materials from renewable sources, moving to more sustainable products. And of course we constantly improve our processes in line with the sustainability policy of the Freudenberg Group. A good source for further information is our sustainability report.
What is the future of energy efficiency and how can we achieve more sustainability across industries?
A. Leis: The international Energy Agency provides an annual market outlook and the scenario is that in the next couple of years the demand for energy will continue to increase. That means energy efficiency will become more and more important in the next few years.
I. Ribeiro: In the future, energy efficiency will become more important for developing business further. The more companies participate in energy efficiency initiatives, the more influence will the topic have in the new business generation.
In the past, before we had our KlüberEnergy approach, it was hardly possible for us as a supplier of speciality lubricants to sell thousands of liters of oil for huge gearboxes, because high-performance lubricants are expensive compared to competitors. Now, with our energy efficiency concept we offer not only exceptional products, but also enable a more sustainable production and cost savings for the customers. For them, the benefits are now bigger than the costs. And so we are changing the game.
A. Leis: We should treat sustainability seriously. Each small and personal measure is important, but we as a business have a big social responsibility and a great potential for a wider impact. For us as a player who has access to all industries, it must be our mission to provide better solutions and also the knowledge about them to the different industries. The good news is, we offer already high-performance lubricants that are much better than e.g. mineral oils, which are still standard in many industries. So there is no need to wait – just go out and start selling better lubricants.
Alexander Leis (left) and Iraja B. Ribeiro
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