Energy efficiency and saving money


Energy is the third largest cost for most food or beverage manufacturers, after materials and labour. Energy is easier to manage. 

You can optimise your energy use without harming your business through:

  • efficiency
  • monitoring
  • timing your loads to manage peak demand and coincide with lower energy tariffs.

As energy costs increase, investing time in reducing energy use will prove worthwhile.

Reasons for and costs of energy in your business


All businesses differ in how they use energy. Your business energy costs depend on: 

  • how much energy you use
  • whether you use electricity, natural gas, or another form of energy
  • when you use energy.

You should review your energy costs regularly, even if only to check that you’re on the best tariff.

A useful way of tracking your energy savings progress is by working out the cost of energy you use compared to what you produce. You can do this by dividing your energy costs by the volume of your product. 

For example, if your energy bill is $4,000 and you produce 200,000 litres of product, your energy costs you 2 cents per litre of product ($4,000 divided by 200,000 litres = $0.02 per litre).

Many services powered by gas or other fuels can now be electrified, which is a first step towards decarbonisation.

These graphs shows how soft drink, cordial or syrup manufacturers use energy and where there might be savings opportunities. 

This graph shows how the energy use of small to medium soft drink manufacturers typically breaks down between different energy types. It is a pie chart.  The sections of the chart are labelled electricity 35%, other 65%.
This graph shows how the energy use of small to medium cake and pastry manufacturers typically breaks down between different activities. It is a pie chart.  The sections of the chart are labelled packaging 43%, concentrate production 36%, blending 21%.

Measuring and valuing energy


The easiest way to understand your energy use and costs is through your bills. However, they probably don’t show when you used energy or what you used it on. 

There are metering and monitoring tools available to give you that data in real time. Sub-metering can be easily ‘clipped on’ to a particular process or piece of equipment to tell you how much energy it is using. These tools can generate reports and highlight irregularities which help to identify equipment which is operating inefficiently or needs maintenance.

You can apply for an Energy Efficient Communities Food and Beverage Manufacturing Business (EEC) grant to purchase, hire and install energy meters, or to digitally connect energy meters and process sensors. 

Energy audits


An energy audit can give you immediate savings through:

  • reviewing the energy tariffs you pay
  • identifying equipment maintenance needs
  • identifying potential low-cost interventions.

An independent expert audit, to the Australian Standard, is likely to cost $5,000 to $10,000 depending on the complexity of your business. The audit might compare your business against similar businesses. It should provide you with an action plan, prioritise tasks according to impact, and show you the costs and benefits. 

The plan might also include suggestions for:

  • on-site generation and storage
  • demand management
  • use of waste
  • decarbonisation. 

Audits are of most value when they are based on good quality data, so before you start, consider improving how you measure your energy. At the very least you’ll need to locate your energy bills from the last full year.

You can apply for an EEC grant to carry out an energy audit at your soft drink, cordial or syrup manufacturing business.

Opportunities for improvement


You can apply for an EEC grant to carry out these activities, except for the ones noted as not eligible:

  • review your tariffs, consumption and bills (not eligible for EEC grant)
  • carry out routine equipment maintenance including seals, filters, settings (not eligible for EEC grant)
  • install or upgrade metering
  • implement a monitoring program 
  • commission an energy audit  
  • check your electricity distribution board and modernise if required, so that you can upgrade to use electrically-powered equipment
  • install power factor correction or voltage optimisation equipment. 

Small businesses can use the Small Business Energy Check - external site  to compare their energy spend with similar businesses in the same sector and region. Small businesses in NSW, QLD, SA, TAS and ACT can also compare energy plans from different retailers at Energy Made Easy - external site .

If you’ve got a sense of your position and you’ve captured the easiest opportunities you might:

  • install or replace a component to help an existing system run more efficiently
  • replace existing equipment with more efficient equipment
  • reconfigure a process to optimise energy use.

Likely opportunities for soft drink, cordial or syrup manufacturers

Optimise process heating

  • Audit performance 
  • Optimise controls and timers 
  • Schedule and carry out routine maintenance, fix steam leaks (not eligible for EEC grant)
  • Use recovered heat to pre-heat water 
  • Replace boilers with higher efficiency units or heat pumps 

Keep cool rooms cool

  • Maintain seals (not eligible for EEC grant)
  • Insulate refrigerant piping 
  • Install fan-forced air curtains or high speed rollers for thermal barriers at doors, to reduce cooling loads by keeping the outside air out of the climate-controlled environment 

Optimise refrigeration

  • Audit performance 
  • Optimise controls and timers 
  • Schedule and carry out routine maintenance (not eligible for EEC grant)
  • Improve sequencing 
  • Replace chiller with a more efficient unit, e.g. fixed speed with variable speed 
  • Recover waste heat 
  • Replace low efficiency fridges with high efficiency equipment 

Find and fix compressed air leaks

Most manufacturers use compressed air to run tools, valves and other services. Air systems can use as much as 20% of site energy.

  • Audit your system to find leaks and assess the need for upgrade or alternatives
  • Fix leaks (not eligible for EEC grant)
  • Improve sequencing 
  • Replace compressor with a more efficient unit, eg fixed speed with variable speed 
  • Replace air-powered equipment with electrically powered equipment

Examples

  • Automate conveyor belts with pressure switches. Invest $2,000 and up to save more than $500 per annum.
  • Install boiler economiser. Invest $30,000 and save $15,000 per annum, potentially increase production.
  • Install modulating compressors on refrigeration plant. Invest $50,000 and save $15,000 per annum.

Remember that since the smallest EEC Food and Beverage Manufacturing Business grant is $10,000, you may need to choose several activities so that the total reaches the minimum spend.  The maximum EEC Food and Beverage Manufacturing Business grant amount is $25,000. If you would like to carry out a larger project you will need to contribute to the costs. 

Soft drink bottles on a production line

Soft drink bottles on a production line.