FEATURE Drives, Controls & Motors

Energy effi ciency rules for variable speed drives

Marek Lukaszczyk, European and Middle East marketing manager at WEG, stresses the importance of the extension of ecodesign requirements to variable speed drives


here are approximately eight billion electric motors in use in the European Union today – almost half of the energy

produced in the EU is consumed by motors. Energy effi ciency regulation and eff ective ecodesign of these motors would go a long way toward meeting emission-reduction targets. While we all support the vital goal of sustainable energy, it can be hard to stay ahead of the changing regulatory landscape. If we can fi nd a way of making them more effi cient and environmentally- friendly, that can only be a positive thing for the planet and for future generations. That’s one reason why the European Commission has mandatory rules on ecodesign for all motors sold in the European Union. Another way of increasing energy

effi ciency and helping achieve emission reduction targets is by increasing the uptake of variable speed drives, or VSDs, also referred to as variable frequency drives (VFDs), adjustable frequency drives or inverter drives. VSDs control the speed and the torque of a motor by varying the motor input frequency and voltage. Manufacturers use VSDs to save money on energy and run their operations in a more environmentally- friendly way.

VSDs adjust the speed of an electric

motor, based on the application requirements. Without this control, the system simply brakes when less force is required, expelling the wasted energy as

26 June 2021 | Automation

heat. In a fan application for instance, VSDs reduce the airfl ow as per requirements, rather than simply cutting off the airfl ow while remaining at maximum capacity. In 2015, VSDs converted approximately 265TWh of electricity from the grid into electricity with a frequency suited to the driven application. This fi gure is expected to rise to 570TWh by 2030. The EU wants to extend regulations to VSDs to realise their full potential for cost-eff ective energy effi ciency. With this in mind, EU Commission Regulation 2091/1781 was introduced in October 2019, which extends ecodesign requirements to VSDs for the fi rst time, an important change to come into eff ect from July 2021.

Regulation of drives In 2009, the EU introduced Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS), which required motors to conform to international standards established by the International Electrotechnical Commission. The standards express the motor’s energy effi ciency, ranging from IE1 (standard effi ciency) to IE4 (super-premium effi ciency).

Under the previous rules, drives were not included in the scope of the regulations. Electric motors were required to conform to IE3 standards or IE2 standards if the motor was equipped with a VSD, but the drive itself was not subject to regulation. Regulation 2091/1781 will mean that

from July 2021, VSDs must conform with IE2 standards – specifi cally, the power losses for VSDs rated for operating with motors with a rated output power within the range of 0.12kW, and 1000kW should not exceed the maximum power losses permitted for IE2 levels of effi ciency, which are set out in Table 6 of Annex 1 of the regulation. The regulations will also introduce

new requirements. Product information, including the power losses and effi ciency levels referred to here, must be displayed on the technical datasheet or user manual that comes with the VSD, as well as the technical document or conformity assessment required under Article 5 of the regulation. The motor manufacturer or importer is also required to display this information on its website. Along with the technical data sheet or user manual, this will make it easier for users to quickly check that they are in compliance with the new rules. The EU has estimated that the new

regulations, which also extend to existing regulations on motors, will save 110TWh by 2030, equivalent to the energy consumption of the Netherlands. Effi cient motors and drives can provide signifi cant savings for businesses, too.



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