December 19, 2012, marked the five-year anniversary of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), the expansion of the Environmental Policy Act of 1992. Deep within EISA is Section 313, five sentences about electric motor efficiency standards that encourage industry advances in motor efficiencies. European laws similar to EISA are not scheduled to take effect until 2015-2017.
Electric motor driven systems, ranging from fractional horsepower units to 100,000-horsepower turbines, convert electricity into the mechanical energy needed to run just about everything that moves in industrial and commercial facilities, from conveyers to elevators, pumps, compressors, fans and other mechanized operations. In U.S. factory settings, motor-driven systems account for over 60% of the total energy consumed, and roughly 25% of total U.S. energy use overall.
Year over year, that's a staggering amount of power and a massive demand on the energy grid for a single product category. A well-designed motor can convert over 90% of its input energy into useful power for decades. When the efficiency of a motor is raised by even a few percentage points, the savings in kilowatt hours (and therefore in cost) are enormous. In addition, motors gain even more efficiency, operationally, through motor drives. Drives enable motors to operate in precise concert with motor loads, rather than the motor running at constant speed and being braked to control speeds. Motors and drives together create immediate and dramatic energy and cost savings in virtually all applications that utilize motors.
The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), working closely with other interested stakeholders, helped to draft the new efficiency standards incorporated EISA. Based on U.S. Department of Energy data, it is estimated that the NEMA premium-efficiency motor program would save 5.8 terawatt (5,800 gig) hours of electricity and prevent the release of nearly 80 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over the next ten years. This is equivalent to keeping 16 million cars off the road.