Bosch Sensortec, Akustica

Interview with Michael Blichmann,
general manager of Bosch Energy and Building Solutions:
“If energy isn’t used, there’s no need to supply it in the first place”

  • Savings of 20 percent possible for nearly every building
  • “Carbon footprint” as sales argument
  • Opportunities offered by connectivity
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  • November 27, 2014
  • Bosch Sensortec, Akustica
  • Press releases

press release

        Can the waste heat produced in manufacturing be used to generate
        electricity or to heat buildings? Is a proprietary cogeneration plant
        a good alternative supplier of power and heat? Bosch believes
        a 20 percent energy saving can be achieved in nearly every building.

Stuttgart – The energy specialists of the Bosch subsidiary Bosch Energy and Building Solutions GmbH (BEBS) estimate that they can reduce the energy consumption of any building by at least 20 percent. BEBS offers this service to the facility managers of large buildings such as hospitals, office complexes, and medium-sized enterprises. These activities focus on improving the way various supply systems are connected, with a view to optimizing energy use, cost savings, and resource conservation. With the IPCC report having been presented at the UN climate change conference, Michael Blichmann, who heads up the Bosch energy services subsidiary, explains why this has an increasingly important role to play.

Mr. Blichmann, what are your customers looking for?
Whatever their field of business, our customers are facing increasingly fierce competition. Their response is to comb through all their costs for potential savings. Those with large buildings in particular find energy is becoming a more important factor. Just think about cooling in data processing centers or electricity and process heat in a manufacturing plant. In hospitals, energy is second only to personnel costs as an expense. As a result, our customers expect to noticeably streamline energy use and hence reduce costs. At the same time, the topic of energy efficiency is gaining in importance for many people against the backdrop of climate change.

Can you put a number on the savings potential?
We generally work on the assumption that energy consumption for any existing building can be trimmed by at least 20 percent.

Why weren’t such steps taken long ago?
Not only have dramatic rises in energy costs escalated the urgency of the situation, but also technical solutions are available today that didn’t exist a few years ago. Thanks to these technological advances, we can unlock new potential for greater energy efficiency in our customers’ operations. At the same time, power supply systems are becoming more and more complex. That’s why companies, especially medium-sized companies, are looking to entrust this aspect of their business to a specialist service provider – leaving them free to devote their time and resources to what they do best.

What has changed in this sector to make things so complex?
Decentralized power generation, for one, has made things more complex on the supply side. Keeping tabs on the big picture and getting the best out of what’s on offer is no easy task. Take, for instance, intelligent networks – better known as smart grids. The ranks of devices and systems connected with one another via the internet are swelling. In our business, the internet of things and services is a growing phenomenon. In the coming years, these networks will give rise to many more solutions and services geared to increasing energy efficiency. Dynamic electricity rates are just one example of this.

What kind of rates are those?
They depend on total demand. Electricity is very expensive during peak hours, but it becomes more affordable at night. This is the energy industry’s way of attempting to flatten out the spikes in demand. We can take advantage of these rates today because we are able to precisely meter and control current the electricity, heating, and cooling requirements in a building at any given time. At times when electricity prices are high, certain equipment can be switched off and then put back into full operation when rates drop at night. This calls for legislators to act as well – such rates are legally permissible but they are still not being offered everywhere. A considerable amount of potential is squandered here.

Hospitals and plants with complicated manufacturing processes require a constant supply of electricity. Shutting equipment down is hardly an option. How can you help them?
Even in those facilities, there are systems and machinery that are not in constant use. With the appropriate control measures in place, these facilities can also reap the rewards of switching equipment off. In the case of facilities that require a constant supply of electricity, acquiring a dedicated power plant, for example, should be seriously considered – especially as the plant can be precisely tailored to the customer’s needs.

But these customers have to invest heavily before they can eventually see any savings…
Not necessarily. We also offer to operate a decentralized power plant for our customers and charge them only for the heat or electricity they actually use. A careful case-by-case assessment is made to determine what is required, what up-front costs this will incur, and what makes the most sense for the customer. This clearly shows just how important customized power supply services are going to be. In a few years’ time, an individually tailored service will probably even be the make-or-break factor in selecting an energy supplier.

But isn’t operating power-generating facilities really the big utilities’ core business? What can Bosch offer customers that they can’t?
Word is spreading that Bosch has a broad expertise base. We can turn to our colleagues at Bosch Thermotechnology to draw on their decades of experience in operating combined heat and power plants, for example, or reach out to the Bosch Security Systems team to help with optimizing networks and control systems at complex sites. At Bosch Rexroth, we have a ready source of knowledge on streamlining manufacturing plants and facilities. Consequently, our customers see Bosch in a completely different light from a company that specializes solely in selling energy.

What exactly is your approach?
Our experts start by analyzing the status quo on site. From there, they can calculate the potential gains in efficiency and determine the appropriate methods for achieving them. A central aspect of this is working out how energy can be used as effectively as possible. After all, if energy isn’t used, there’s no need to supply it in the first place. For instance, we investigate whether heat released during a manufacturing process can be used to generate electricity or heat other areas of the building. As I’ve already mentioned, it often pays for large sites to run their own combined heat and power plant.

How big is the market you are active in?
It’s a rapidly expanding market. In Germany alone, the market volume for energy-related services will grow from 2.5 billion euros today to almost four times that in a decade. We expect that markets in other major industrial countries, such as those here in Europe, will follow a similar trajectory.

In the domestic construction sector, we have passive houses and even houses that produce more energy than they use. Are factories that are self-sufficient in their energy needs conceivable?
Absolutely. There are an increasing number of sites and companies that have made their production CO2-free or are powered entirely by renewable energy. Both large and small companies have already set this as as their goal, for example for power or heat, or because it allows a particular product to be marketed as having a small “carbon footprint.” By systematically using every available option for saving and regenerating energy, this already works quite well.

What is the energy efficiency situation in German companies?
Some manufacturers have already been able to achieve a remarkable level of efficiency, particularly in production. But there is still considerable potential to be harnessed in ancillary processes such as heating, cooling, compression, and ventilation. Many of these processes have seen very little invested in them over the past few years.

Is energy primarily being used or wasted in the industry?
Wasting would mean that manufacturers are deliberately using energy in an inefficient manner, which is definitely not the case. In order to make a business sustainable, however, it’s important to deliberately decide to address the topic of energy efficiency, to cement it as a corporate objective, and to put it into practice step by step.

What are the typical approaches in order to see results quickly?
There are often optimizations that can be made where air-conditioning and ventilation are concerned. The same is true for the regulation and control of air compression and heating as well as for heat transport. These are all areas in which investments in the improvement of energy efficiency would pay off quickly.

And which measures are designed to rather pay off over the long term?
This is where the really big potential lies, with efficiency gains in the two-digit percentage range. Examples including using waste heat or cogeneration systems, or switching from one fuel source to another, such as from oil to biomass. Following our analysis, the Rothaus brewery switched over from oil to wood chips, and it now saves an enormous amount of money. And it’s still good for the environment.

How is your export business? What markets are experiencing dynamic growth?
Bosch Energy and Building Solutions is a provider of services and systems solutions which can’t just be simply exported. Interesting markets are the large European economies, the BRIC states, North America, as well as Japan and Korea. In all those places, we’re seeing the trend toward increasing energy efficiency on the consumer side – sometimes fueled by environmental concerns, other times because of the desire to reduce costs and increase competitiveness.

Why does it pay off for companies or communities to generate their own electricity? And how eco-friendly is it?
It’s difficult to make a general statement here. In principle, there can be a number of objectives behind someone generating their own heat and electricity. Above all, having a cogeneration plant pays off where usage is high enough that a low fuel price leads to an overall savings on electricity costs. Other objectives can be to reduce CO2 emissions or achieve energy self-sufficiency.

What will be the big drivers of energy efficiency technology in the future?
The intelligent networking of buildings, property, and decentralized facilities in order to make energy flows and use transparent, comprehensible, and controllable – not just for electricity but also for heating, cooling, and ventilation. This transparency is the key to doing business in a truly sustainable way.

Bosch Energy and Building Solutions homepage:

The Bosch Group is a leading global supplier of technology and services. It employs roughly 375,000 associates worldwide (as of December 31, 2015). The company generated sales of 70.6 billion euros in 2015. Its operations are divided into four business sectors: Mobility Solutions, Industrial Technology, Consumer Goods, and Energy and Building Technology. The Bosch Group comprises Robert Bosch GmbH and its roughly 440 subsidiaries and regional companies in some 60 countries. Including sales and service partners, Bosch’s global manufacturing and sales network covers some 150 countries. The basis for the company’s future growth is its innovative strength. Bosch employs 55,800 associates in research and development at 118 locations across the globe. The Bosch Group’s strategic objective is to deliver innovations for a connected life. Bosch improves quality of life worldwide with products and services that are innovative and spark enthusiasm. In short, Bosch creates technology that is “Invented for life.”

The company was set up in Stuttgart in 1886 by Robert Bosch (1861-1942) as “Workshop for Precision Mechanics and Electrical Engineering.” The special ownership structure of Robert Bosch GmbH guarantees the entrepreneurial freedom of the Bosch Group, making it possible for the company to plan over the long term and to undertake significant up-front investments in the safeguarding of its future. Ninety-two percent of the share capital of Robert Bosch GmbH is held by Robert Bosch Stiftung GmbH, a charitable foundation. The majority of voting rights are held by Robert Bosch Industrietreuhand KG, an industrial trust. The entrepreneurial ownership functions are carried out by the trust. The remaining shares are held by the Bosch family and by Robert Bosch GmbH.

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PI8594 - November 27, 2014

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