One year away

This month marks a significant milestone: we are 12 months away from the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) taking effect. EISA made headlines when it was enacted because it raised the CAFE mileage standards for motor vehicles. But more important for design engineers, EISA also mandates that motor manufacturers raise the minimum efficiency of the motors they produce to help save energy and reduce carbon emissions.

Interestingly, the U.S. is about 10 years ahead of Europe with motor efficiency programs. The EU just mandated that EISA levels of motor efficiency go into effect in 2015 and 2017, depending on motor size. Canada has adopted a similar law that will take effect January 1, 2011.

Motor manufacturers are well aware of EISA's Dec. 2010 deadline and have products available today that comply or exceed the requirements of the Act. However, some motor buyers haven't really gotten the word. Though electricity costs are rising as fast as those of gasoline, some people continue to rewind old inefficient motors and purchase motors that don't meet EISA efficiency levels.

EISA will raise the efficiency levels of general-purpose 1-to-200-hp motors built after December 19, 2010. Many 1-to-200-hp and 201-to-500-hp motors previously not governed by efficiency standards of any sort will need to comply with the new levels.

EISA covers both standard motors built for sale from stock as well as most custom designs built for OEM use in the U.S. It specifies that general-purpose-rated motors from 1 to 200 hp work at nominal full-load efficiency levels spelled out as NEMA Premium efficiency, listed in the MG 1 NEMA standard.

It is also noteworthy that 201 to 500-hp motors, which weren't previously covered by efficiency mandates, now must comply with energy efficiencies as defined by a NEMA table. Motors with lower efficiency built before Dec. 19, 2010 may continue to be sold and used. However, they cannot be built for sale in the U.S. after that date.

And EISA doesn't cover some motor designs. These include single-phase, dc, multi-speed, and submersible motors, along with several other types that only find use in relatively specialized circumstances.

NEMA Premium motors that comply with EISA are not completely new designs. In fact over the last few years, use of NEMA Premium-efficient motors has risen to account for around 25% of all three-phase motors sold. In process industries where motors operate continuously, the figure is closer to 100%.

Motors with NEMA-Premium efficiency use additional copper and aluminum, as well as more high-grade electrical steel, and should be expected to be more expensive. The challenge for motor manufacturers is that premium motors need more and thinner lamination segments than less efficient motors and about 20% more active material. This sort of construction incurs 40% more punch press strokes, along with more lamination production equipment and tooling.

On cast-iron motors, EISA designs have frames and other mechanical components identical to those on older models. Steel housings on steel-band motors may be longer to accommodate the stack, but end plates and other parts are the same.

Distributors stocking new motors will need to make some accommodations. That's because their advanced inventory systems cannot use same SKUs for old motors and new EISA versions. Inventory will be mixed for awhile and the result could be a mess. Catalog numbers/SKUs may need to be changed to differentiate old and new motors because customers may not welcome mixed shipments of motors.

There may be some reluctance among users to embrace EISA motors because they cost more. Users in that camp should know about pending legislation introduced by Representative Tammy Baldwin (WI) which we refer to as “Crush for Credit.” This provides incentives to replace rather than repair old motors manufactured before the first energy efficiency standards came into effect in 1992. We hope to see the bill pass late in 2009. It is included in the H.R. 2454 House Climate Change bill and S. 1462 Senate Energy Bill.

Baldwin recently introduced it as a stand-alone bill and kicked up funding from $350 to $700 million over five years. If the bill passes, the DoE must develop rules and definitions and set up a way to distribute rebate money at point of sale. We hope to see this implemented by the end of 2010 when EISA begins. If the bill is enacted as written, it will give $25/hp to users at point of purchase and $5/hp to retailers to cover core processing and disposal. It will provide $700 million worth of incentives over five years.

All in all, when evaluating the trade-offs between motor cost and energy efficiency, we would do well to remember the old TV commercial that said, “You can pay me now or pay me later.” Motor cost accounts for only about 3% of the total life cyle cost but electricity accounts for over 95%. And nobody expects electricity costs to go down over the next few years.

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