Running out of energy

16th of December 2022
Running out of energy
Running out of energy

The climate emergency has made us all aware of the need to conserve energy. So, what products and systems do manufacturers offer that cut down on energy usage, asks Ann Laffeaty?

Energy costs are soaring across Europe. Gas prices have surged by around 340 per cent in the space of a year alone, and European governments are scrambling to push through multi-billion euro packages to prevent utility firms from collapsing.

But high costs and a lack of availability are only part of the problem. Businesses had already been working hard to reduce their energy use long before prices went through the roof. A growing awareness of the climate crisis is prompting many companies to come up with greener, cleaner strategies that require a lower reliance on fossil fuels and that offer energy-saving benefits.

Kärcher, for example, has introduced an eco!efficiency mode on many of its professional machines. “This ensures all machine functions are automatically controlled to provide the best possible levels of efficiency,” says sustainability and energy manager Katrin Schmuck. “The result is a lower consumption of energy, water and cleaning agents, and this has the knock-on effect of reducing the customer’s costs.”

The battle against global warming is one of the most important challenges of our time, according to Schmuck. “Companies and entire countries need to play their part – and the key way of reducing CO2 emissions is to cut down on energy consumption and the use of fossil fuels,” she said.
Electricity consumption accounts for the major part of Kärcher’s CO2 footprint, says Schmuck. “This means our goals on saving electricity during our production processes, generating it for ourselves and on switching to green electricity are all crucial for us.”

Kärcher’s aim is to develop products that work effectively while also making minimal use of natural resources. “Our portfolio extends from eco-friendly cleaning agents to water-saving, energy-efficient and low-emission machines increasingly being made from recycled materials,” says Schmuck.

All Kärcher machines have a low-emission design, she adds. “We are constantly improving the energy efficiency of our machines whether they are powered by cable, rechargeable battery or combustion engine.”

As well as reducing energy consumption, Kärcher has also been working to ensure its transport fleet is less reliant on fossil fuels. “We are increasing the number of electric vehicles in our fleet and reducing business travel along with the greenhouse gas emissions that result from travelling by train, car or aeroplane,” she said. “We are holding more digital conferences and we compensate for any emissions we can’t avoid. In fact all our business travel within Germany and to destinations abroad has been CO2-neutral since 2021.”

Regenerative sources

More energy used in Kärcher’s factories is now being obtained from regenerative sources, adds Schmuck. “The proportion used in our global production network is already currently at 33 per cent and we will continue to increase this share by purchasing more electricity from renewable energies or by generating our own,” she explained. “Many of our factories already have photovoltaic systems and our largest one in Quistello, Italy, produces 360,000 kWh of electricity annually from an area 11,500 square metres in size.”

Reducing energy usage in today’s climate is a duty, not a choice, according to Losdi’s marketing and communications manager Pau Ortiz: “Companies all over the world need to take important steps towards combatting climate change since its consequences will be irreversible within the space of just a few years,” he said.

All businesses need to consider their annual energy consumption and analyse where savings could be made, he says. “This involves taking a closer look at one’s production, warehouse and transport processes as well as at other, less obvious areas such as the office air-conditioning units.”

Losdi has redesigned the packaging of its products to tie in with eco-design guidelines. “Our Eco-Luxe line of soap and paper dispensers is also made from 100 per cent recycled plastic and is designed to maximise consumption within a smaller footprint,” said Ortiz.

Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the role they play in contributing to climate change, says Greenspeed sales director Johan Tops. “They are beginning to make more sustainable choices while also demanding action and transparency from brands,” he said. Greenspeed is committed to making its products fit within a circular Cradle to Cradle model and creating no waste, according to Tops.

Collective responsibility

“Within this model the exclusive use of renewable energy is standard,” he said. Greenspeed products are made from renewable ingredients from plant-based origins and the company uses recycled packaging and produces microfibre cloths from PET bottles. “Our products are also biodegradable,” he adds.

Greenspeed’s Probio Tabs are claimed to reduce energy consumption because they come in a compact tablet format. “This means there is no need to transport unnecessary liquid because the customer simply adds the water for themselves,” says Tops. “And Probio Tabs also save storage space by 99 per cent.”

We all have a collective responsibility to reduce energy use, according to LionsBot ceo and co-founder Dylan Ng. “The crisis is a good catalyst for us to examine more energy-efficient ways of carrying out our operations,” he said. “Less energy usage equals lower quantities of imported fuels – and this in turn leads to lower prices.”

He believes the global reliance on imported energy sources needs to be reduced. “Green alternatives are preferable and in the cleaning sector, electricity is one area in which we can help to reduce consumption,” he said.

According to Ng, all LionsBot robots are designed to be sustainable and energy-efficient. “For example, our Rex model is able to run for up to 10 hours while using the same set of batteries,” he said. “And our R3 robots can be charged in the space of just two hours, and our customers can choose to do this when costs are lower - at night for example.”

He says LionsBot’s next generation of trucks will all either be electric vehicles or energy-efficient hybrids. “We are also actively improving our delivery planning to reduce the number of wasted trips we make,” he said. “And we are constantly working to improve our software to make our robots even more energy-efficient than they are now. One way in which we’re cutting our energy usage is by making our robots last even longer which means each machine can clean for many more hours during its service life.”

Reducing one’s use of energy is clearly crucial in terms of climate change, agrees Cleanology  ceo Dominic Ponniah. “Fossil fuels such as gas and coal should be the main focus for reducing emissions,” he said. “It is also a key issue in the light of the cost of living crisis which is fast becoming an emergency.

“In fact it is probably fair to say that if your business is not already focused on its carbon footprint and its impact on the environment, it is an outlier.”

Cleanology has switched to a 100 per cent electric van fleet which is claimed to save 5,000 litres of diesel per year – equivalent to 13.5 tonnes of CO2 from diesel fuel. “We are now on our second generation of fully electric fleet,” said Ponniah. “As a business we are very focused on doing our bit to reduce our emissions and on helping our clients to do the same.”

According to Ponniah the company is constantly reviewing its machinery operations and efficiency levels. “We are also looking at our office space and considering how we can reduce our usage and expenditure,” he adds. “Perhaps one positive thing that will come out of the cost of living crisis will be that people will afford their energy usage far greater scrutiny than we could have ever imagined. And as a result they will reduce their dependence on fossil fuels and move to more sustainable alternatives.”

But in today’s highly mechanised world, is there a case for returning to more manual cleaning systems to reduce energy usage? Whether or not a cleaning method requires a power source is only part of the story, says Kärcher’s Katrin Schmuck. “Textile mops still need to be cleaned which means they have to be transported to and from the laundry facility – and this takes energy,” she points out.

LionsBot’s Daniel Ng agrees the picture is complex. “While manual cleaning systems such as mops require no electricity, they do need a human to operate them – and the building in which they work will therefore need to be heated or cooled,” he said. “An autonomous robot can perform the same job as a human but with minimal energy consumption.”

Cleanology’s Dominic Ponniah concedes there is a strong case for moving back to manual cleaning methods as a result of the energy crisis. “However, modern cleaning equipment is highly efficient and requires the lowest possible levels of power,” he points out. “So this should be taken into consideration along with the time savings that can be made with machine cleaning compared with manual methods.”


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