03 13, 2023

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Energy demands from manufacturing – and the sector’s reliance on energy – have never been greater. The sector accounts for more than 30% of U.S. energy consumption, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). This energy usage helps to ensure the industry remains a backbone of the American economy – manufacturing contributed an estimated $2.81 trillion to the American economy in 2022 and employed 13 million Americans. 

Manufacturers must be ready for increasing power outages

Continuity of energy supply is important in every industry, but perhaps none more so than in manufacturing. With so much riding on their efforts, manufacturers need to make sure they have consistent access to energy. 

A power outage can have drastic consequences for a manufacturing facility. Production lines coming to an abrupt halt translates into valuable time lost, loss of material, and potential machinery damage. The true costs associated with a power outage may be hard to quantify as they extend beyond the obvious lost revenue. Manufacturers need, at the very least, time to wind down production in an orderly manner to prevent costly scrap and lost productivity.

Yet power outages are growing more frequent across the country as the grid ages and extreme weather grows more frequent. The headlines are full of high-profile outages, whether they’re during 2021’s Winter Storm Uri in Texas or last December’s outages across the United States. Billion-dollar weather disasters across the country have increased 600% over the past 40 years.

Manufacturers have additional concerns beyond the major outages, as even localized outages and brief interruptions can be very costly to their businesses. Data from the U.S. EIA shows that in recent years, power interruptions have increased significantly. There are also signs of increasing grid stress beyond these headlines – just look at the increase in demand response events that our team witnessed in 2022. We saw a record number of events to help the grid remain in balance and keep power flowing.

Why manufacturers need energy resilience

Manufacturers can avoid costly outages by embracing energy resilience, a business need that’s growing more crucial every year. Energy resilience is typically defined as the ability for facilities to continue their energy-reliant processes despite a grid outage, although the need for energy resilience now extends well beyond energy continuity. We tend to also evaluate economic and regulatory resilience to help manufacturers address volatile energy costs and stakeholder demands for sustainability.

Energy resilience in manufacturing can take a variety of forms, encompass a wide range of technologies, and provide a range of options to address operational, economic and sustainability requirements. Operational resilience in particular allows a manufacturing facility to cover their critical load – the power load needed to support systems that are absolutely required to continue operations during an outage – so that critical infrastructure is powered at all times. Working with an energy resilience partner will allow manufacturers to understand their grid outage history, their facility’s electrical characteristics, and their business needs – and then leverage that insight to prioritize loads for backup and find the best energy resilience solution to support that. For more on the process of planning and implementing energy resilience, read part 3 of our energy resilience eBook.

What energy resilience solutions do manufacturers need?

Before they start working with a partner, many manufacturers don’t understand the options available for energy resilience. It’s understandable, because there are a wide variety of resilience solutions that vary by cost and duration, and there are countless ways to size these solutions or pair them with other energy assets. Many manufacturers will initially drastically overestimate or underestimate what they will need or what the right energy resilience solution will cost.

Common resilience solutions for manufacturers include:

  • Backup generators are the classic example of energy resilience, but typically have negative sustainability value. 
  • Battery back-up systems of energy storage outfitted with back-up controls can serve the truly critical loads of a facility. 
  • Microgrids are the most complex resilience solution and depending on their size, they can operate for hours to days when the grid is down. Microgrids can also be the most sustainable option for resilience – for instance, Enel and Eaton have teamed up to design multiple microgrids in Puerto Rico to ensure energy continuity even during Category 5 hurricanes while significantly reducing facility emissions. But this level of resilience is expensive and needs to be evaluated against the benefits of having such a system. 

With so many different options to choose from, how can a manufacturer determine what solution best fits their priorities? In our eBook “How to Evaluate Your Energy Resilience Needs,” we create a simple flow chart for a manufacturer to understand which solutions may be best for them. 

We highlight the most important questions for a manufacturer to answer, among them: 

  • Energy blackout history
  • Total estimated annual losses from blackouts
  • Minimal duration of backup needed
  • And more

Identifying the best energy resilience solution and next steps

Once you have basic answers to these questions, in our eBook you can identify which energy resilience solution will be best for your manufacturing facility. Download our eBook now to see this visual guide and find the right solution for you. 

The energy resilience process is a complex one, and no one solution will fit every manufacturer – you will need to discuss with an energy resilience partner like Enel North America to find what works best for your particular circumstances and priorities. Contact Enel North America today to discuss your energy resilience needs.

Learn more about advancing your energy strategy by leveraging our integrated energy solutions.