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Energy Efficiency electric motors energy efficiency

Published on June 16th, 2011 | by Zachary Shahan


Electric Motors Use 45% of Global Electricity, Europe Responding {+ Electric Motor Efficiency Infographic}

June 16th, 2011 by  

Interesting fact: today marks the passage of 45% of the year (yeah, time flies). 2nd interesting fact: electric motors account for ~45% of total global electricity consumption (yeah, that means electric motors are a beast of an energy user).

Are We Setting the Right Priorities to Address our Energy Challenges?

Electric motors are the single biggest consumer of electricity. They account for about two thirds of industrial power consumption and, as stated above, about 45% of global power consumption, according to a new analysis by the International Energy Agency (linked above).

Lighting is a distant second, consuming about 19%.

This means that almost every second power plant is producing electricity for the sole purpose of running motors.

However, as you have probably noticed, electric motors rarely form part of the intensive debate on our energy future (including here on CleanTechnica). Thousands of words and column inches are devoted to topics such as nuclear power, renewable energy, and electric vehicles, but rarely (if at all) do we discuss the fact that the majority of electric motors are inefficient, oversized, or running when they don’t need to be running.

As I’ve pointed out a number of times here on CleanTechnica, and have been wanting to focus on more, energy efficiency measures are critical to addressing the environmental and economic problems we face. Addressing the efficiency of electric motors, while not attractive to most of us, is an important topic someone (or many someones) needs/need to tackle.

Making Electric Motors More Efficient

Notably, ABB points out that using only existing technology, we can accomplish HUGE energy efficiency savings in this arena (check out their awesome new infographic on this below, which they’ve been kind enough to give us and sustainablog the lead on — click to enlarge it).

Today, the European Union is introducing new legislation which marks an important step in realizing some of these benefits, and which further highlights the potential to drastically reshape the world’s energy consumption profile. The infographic below (click to enlarge) illuminates what that legislation could mean in a pretty clear and fun way. Enjoy!

(Note, of course, that energy savings also result in tremendous financial savings and that energy efficiency upgrades in this case, as in so many, result in super fast returns on investment.)

Electric Motors Efficiency Infographic 
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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) one letter at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor. Otherwise, he's probably enthusiastically fulfilling his duties as the director/editor of EV Obsession, Gas2, Solar Love, Planetsave, or Bikocity; or as president of Important Media. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, energy storage, and wind energy expert. If you would like him to speak at a related conference or event, connect with him via social media:, .

  • mdc

    You predict that $17bn will be saved over 9 years. What makes you think that replacing up to hundreds of millions (you don’t state how many) of industrial motors is going to cost less than $17bn, or even not quite a lot more?

    To argue that savings are greater than costs you have to first estimate what the costs are, rather than simply stating that the savings are really big. Maybe the costs are really /really/ big? In fact that seems likely, given that otherwise lots of greedy businesses are apparently shooting themselves in the foot by not replacing their motors voluntarily.

    Also, you state that 135 billion kWh is “equal to” 27,000x the installed wind capacity of the UK in 2010. What does that mean? The first is a measure of energy, the second is a measure of power.

  • Bob_Wallace

     Some really interesting data there.

    I would think that changes could be made in the commercial arena fairly rapidly.  Companies pay more attention to their bottom line than most people pay to their budgets.  (That’s a guess.)

    The task would seem to be how to get the cost savings info to the ‘decision makers’.

  • Old Geezer

    Amazing analysis. I had no idea about the power savings possible with electric motors. Thanks, you have made a convert.
    just a dirt common engineer

  • Anonymous

    I liked your post on the unrealized riches of electric motors efficiency improvements. Great job. How are you calculating your power plant estimates, i.e., your statement “This means that almost every second power plant is producing electricity for the sole purpose of running motors…”
    PS. I’m a Wooden fan too.

    • Zachary Shahan

      Thanks 😀

      The info is all from ABB.

  • Pingback: Infographic: Energy Efficiency and Electric Motors – Sustainablog()

  • Anonymous

    Nice graphics.

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