Toyota: Saving money by implementing an energy management system

Submitted by: Margaret McKenzie, Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Toyota has achieved over R7 Million in energy savings over the last three years and is aiming to achieve a further R4 Million in savings in 2013 says Arden Wessels, senior manager environmental engineering and compliance at Toyota South Africa. Speaking at a South African National Energy Association (SANEA) event in Durban last week Wessels explained that Toyota has achieved these savings by establishing a dedicated energy management unit and implementing an energy management system.

The dedicated energy management department was established in April 2010 and consists of Wessels and three engineers.  “There has been a steep increase in the price of electricity …. from 2007 to 2009/2010 the electricity price has doubled.  We knew we had to act,” said Wessels.

“Firstly we had to understand what was our energy usage at Toyota. We implemented a lot of metering around our plant …. so we could then understand what was our actual usage in real time,” explained Wessels. Using this information the team was able to identify the significant energy users in the plant and begin to identify energy savings projects for implementation. 

Last year Toyota South Africa spent over R140 Million on energy said Wessels. Toyota has a production plant located in Durban that is almost 700,000 m2 in size. The production facility employs approximately 7,500 people and another 1,500 people are employed in Toyota’s Johannesburg head office. 

Wessel’s team follows the Plan, Do, Check, Act process proposed by the ISO50001 Energy Management Standard. At the ‘Plan’ stage the team identifies energy reduction opportunities and conducts feasibility studies to consider if a project is worthwhile. Following the ‘Plan’ stage the team moves to the ‘Do’ stage which involves implementing a project with the buy-in and support of the facility where the project is being implemented. “After implementation we then ‘Check’ to see that we have made the savings.  Then the ‘Act’ is the management review. What have we learnt from the project? How can we apply it in other areas?,” said Wessels.

To achieve the savings Wessels and his team implemented eighty energy reduction projects over a three year period. Forty-two of the projects implemented were zero cost projects.  “You don’t have to spend money to save energy,” declared Wessels.  For example one of the zero cost projects implemented by the energy management team involved optimising compressors to run only when required. This alone resulted in a saving of over R400,000 per year.  The team also instituted some billing changes that resulted in savings. Investigations by the team revealed that the plant in Durban was paying for a higher notified maximum demand then required. On the other hand the notified maximum demand of the Johannesburg head office had been set too low resulting in punitive payments when the notified maximum demand was exceeded. 

The team also implemented 38 projects with a total cost of nearly R6 million. Toyota works on a two year payback period, so each of the projects was selected to ensure that the upfront cost would be recouped in at most 24 months. A wide range of projects were implemented including pump optimisation, daylight harvesting, lighting reduction, lighting optimisation, automation of lighting and ventilation systems and replacement of geysers with heat pumps.

With regards to the potential use of renewable energy at the plant Wessels indicated that Toyota does have five solar water heating systems in place at the plant. However, in the short time that Toyota has been using heat pumps they had achieved better results than the solar water heating systems. Some of the disadvantages of solar water heating systems Wessels cited include the need for regular cleaning of the panels, the reduction in hot water supply in overcast weather and the fact that hot water supply was limited to daylight hours. Wessels also indicated that Toyota’s current calculations reveal a six year payback period for solar PV installations and as a result Toyota is not considering the implementation of any projects to generate electricity from solar PV. 

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Margaret McKenzie