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Saving both money and the environment with DR

Centrica Business Solutions is helping a large cement manufacturing company in the Benelux market stay ahead of energy costs.
3%

reduction in yearly energy costs

13

megawatts potential energy saving

Overview

This large Belgian cement manufacturing company produces construction materials, mostly for the Benelux market and France, quarries gravel, limestone, sand, clay, and shale to manufacture cement and ready-mixed concrete. It has three production centers across Belgium with a combined production capacity of 3.8 million tons of cement.

In one of its Belgian locations, it has two factories producing 1.5 million tons of cement a year. The heavy industrial equipment it uses for crushing, grinding, and processing raw materials requires large amounts of energy, and combined with the high cost of electricity in Belgium, this can lead to a situation where it is working at a loss.

The way energy is sourced, generated, and supplied is evolving. Businesses are recognizing the need for a more modern way to buy and use energy. The cement manufacturing company thought there must be a smarter way to balance the use of electricity that would not only save on costs but would also advance its sustainability and environmental aims.

DR is exactly what we were looking for because it saves energy and thus reduces our costs. The Centrica Business Solutions offering was the most attractive for us financially. Its Virtual Power Plant Pool is the largest in the country and by switching machines off, we can contribute to a more stable electricity grid for Belgium.”
Head of Process and Energy Co-Ordination, Large Cement Manufacturing Company in the Benelux Market

Solution

It found the answer at the end of 2018 when it signed a new Demand Response (DR) contract with Centrica Business Solutions, moving away from a DR contract that was offered by a different provider. The DR solution connects its equipment to the electricity grid and also to Centrica Business Solutions’ 24x7 energy management platform. Centrica Business Solutions then acts as a kind of watchdog that balances consumption and cost and makes sure the manufacturing company does not overpay when electricity prices are high.

DR enables the company to take advantage of the smart grid by responding to changes in demand, supply, and cost, managing its use of energy, monitoring and controlling its demands to meet the challenges of the grid. By taking part in DR, it can also generate revenue.

Technical overview

The cement manufacturing company makes predictions on its expected energy usage, as its Head of Process and Energy Co-ordination explains: “We tell our energy supplier and Centrica Business Solutions how much energy we expect to use per day or quarter. Our consumption is linked to a fixed price of €60 per Megawatt, but actual energy prices can fluctuate between €20 and €150. When we make our prediction, we stay on that fixed €60 price, regardless of whether prices go up or down.”

Customer results

When the use of the national power grid is very high, Demand Response Service Provider (DRSP) activation messages are automatically sent out and companies, such as the cement manufacturer, respond by turning off machines to reduce their energy usage. By doing this, the manufacturer contributes to balancing the Belgian electrical grid. It can also avoid high ‘imbalance prices’ which are in place when the metered volumes used vary from their contracted volumes. They also receive compensation payments when equipment is turned off as it offers demand reductions back into the consumer market.

“Two or three times a year an automated activation signal is sent if the grid is in high density and there is too much demand for electricity and not enough electricity being generated,” says Thibaut Quetel, Sourcing and Sales Manager for Centrica Business Solutions. “When the company receives the signal, it curtails its consumption by turning off machinery, usually for around 45 minutes or an hour, then it goes back to production.

“The company saves money in two ways:

1. Centrica Business Solutions pays it for its flexibility services.

2. When we activated its participation, the imbalance prices are high, so we protected it from the high prices of electricity.”

The cement manufacturing company estimates that it is saving 3% per year on its energy costs and is also reducing its CO2 emissions by taking part in DR. Across its whole range of equipment, it has the potential to save 13 Megawatts if all machines are turned off, depending on the length of time they are switched off on average.

“Three percent yearly might not sound like much to people outside the industry, but in context, I think that’s quite a lot. We have been saving energy for twenty years and we know every percent you can save adds up,” says its Head of Process and Energy Co-Ordination.

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