The Value of Energy Classes

The European Green Deal requires an orchestrated efforts among industries to deliver results. Energy is the invisible connector of this orchestration with availability and efficient use of any form of energy becoming the driving factor. In this framework, it’s obvious that Saipem, a Global Solutions Provider for the Energy and Infrastructure sector, wants to play an active role, starting from the project early definition phase, through its XSIGHT Division, to the EPC (Engineering, Procurement, Construction) phase. Mauro Piasere, COO of the XSIGHT Division and Director of Innovation and Digital Transformation of Saipem, draws a bridge between different markets following the path of Energy Classes

Today we are all becoming increasingly familiar with energy classes. Whether it is for a building or for an appliance, we all know the meaning of those coloured bars that, from green to red, give us an indication of how much we will be spending in energy during a year of utilization. The attention of the consumers to electricity and water is increasing not only due to the price of the commodity, but due to a growing social awareness that the world can’t afford anymore wasting these resources without consequences. Countries and regulators are also looking at these classes. In their quest toward energy transitions they are not allowing new building without a high energy class level and they are considering different level of taxation and incentives based on energy class. Last but not least, investors will use them as a criteria to consider whether to invest or not into a development. Automotive is following fast, proposing Hybrid and EV vehicle that have higher efficiencies and lower or zero emissions and betting on the increasing support by regulator to reduce property taxes or remove traffic fees from city centre for these type of vehicles. Example of countries toll roads lifting their fees to heavy vehicle using low carbon engines are sprouting in Europe. Certain commodities are talking about classification since many years. I was intrigued by the efforts of the Aluminium producers to start a classification of the environmental friendliness of their product taking into account the origin of the energy used to produce and to transform it. This effort, spearheaded by major Aluminium producers such as Hydro, Rusal, Alcoa, Rio Tinto, EGA to quote the biggest, is finding economic grounds on the various initiatives aimed at differentiating prices based on carbon footprint for the raw materials on the LME.

Why an aluminium produced using energy sources that are not efficient, are heavily contributing to the CO2 emissions should be considered at the same level of the aluminium produced using energy from renewable sources?

It shouldn’t! Carbon can be priced and added to the cost of producing aluminium and prices are likely to go up, but companies already producing low carbon aluminium will be rewarded. By extension, if you use a greener product into your manufacturing chain you should be allowed to have a better overall energy class. This brings me to the industrial plant. Example of plants that put economic performance on top of efficient use of resources may have had a golden time in the past, but their destiny is now doomed. New plants, revamping and expansions of old ones will all have to consider energy, water, CO2 as fundamental parameters before receiving green light to proceed. The concept of plant performance shall be extended from product alone to how it impacts the environment. Of course energy efficiency has been already a capex and opex key variable, but with the freedom of discharging CO2and using the water as you need, these were not part of the equation. CO2 production and water consumption need to be calculated across different solutions and optimised. This requires the introduction of methodologies that combines technological knowledge, digitalization and AI to evaluate, among the different solutions, the one that can be built, operated and maintained with the lowest impact. Saipem is developing these methodologies, such as Design For Low Carbon, and it’s offering solutions that can achieve performance in the new wider sense. Eventually a petrochemical plant that has all the buildings done in Class A, use Class A commodities and it has a Class A process can deliver Class A products that will make the difference to the planet. Today we do not have energetic class for commodities and for industrial plants, but if we really want to positively impact on the planet, we should.