Robin Cowley of Baldor is concerned that a lack of education and awareness amongst EU OEMs regarding imminent legislation covering electric motor efficiency levels, will leave organisations vulnerable to financial penalties and will mean that US competition will be one step ahead.

This seminal piece of legislation mandating minimum electric motor efficiency levels is scheduled to come into force across the EU in June 2011. Manufacturer of industrial electric motors, Baldor, claim that it will have enormous implications for machinery OEMs, with potentially serious consequences to sales and market share if attention is not paid immediately – indeed, fines for non-compliance have already been issued, further highlighting the importance of immediate action for those unprepared organisations. The situation is made even more problematic by the US’s Energy Independence Security Act (EISA) minimum efficiency regulations, which came into force in December 2010.

Based on feedback from exhibitions, calls and visits, Baldor believe that as much as a third of the EU’s OEMs are still either wholly or partially unaware that new general purpose AC motors installed from June must meet a minimum efficiency of IE2. IE2 is equivalent to the previous CEMEP ‘EFF1’ standard.

The clock is ticking

Most OEMs currently use lower efficiency EFF3 or EFF2 grade AC motors. Transitioning equipment designs with higher efficiency motors can involve physical and mechanical interface changes, changes to rotational speeds, and changes to thermal issues and starting behaviour. These issues can have a big impact for equipment OEMs, and they might need weeks or even three months or more to make the upgrade. With this in mind, if an organisation hasn’t started preparations by now, they may be falling short of what is required of them come June.

“We’re sending an SOS message to European OEMs that if they do not start considering the impact of motor efficiency regulations immediately, then there could be negative implications for their sales and market share,” said Robin Cowley, industrial marketing manager for Baldor in the EU.

A challenge from across the pond

As already mentioned, this situation is complicated by the US’s recent EISA which mandates a minimum efficiency level of ‘NEMA Premium’ for motors imported into the US.

NEMA Premium is equivalent to IE3, which is not due to come into force in the EU until 2015. Cowley expects that some US OEMs could be adopting NEMA Premium as their standard offering for international sales as well. This means that much imported equipment could offer end users a significantly faster payback in terms of reduced energy consumption than equipment sourced from the EU.

Why is the EU so far behind?

The US motor industry moved towards higher efficiency motors back in the late 1980s early 1990s with many utilities offering rebates to go with higher efficiency motors. This was then followed by the Energy Policy Act (EPAct) of 1992 that mandated Nema Energy Efficient motors.

The EU first discussed mandating a minimum motor efficiency level around the mid/late 1990s. This resulted in CEMEP (the European Motor Industry Association) establishing a voluntary agreement based around the efficiency levels EFF1, 2 and 3. This agreement established that manufacturers who signed up to it would reduce the amount of EFF3 motors manufactured to zero by a certain date, increase efficiencies to EFF2 and then ultimately EFF1 sometime in the future. This was purely voluntary and needless to say the uptake of higher efficiency motors by users was very poor indeed.

If you consider that EFF1 level (CEMEP’s highest ‘future target’, post millennium) was only equivalent to Nema Energy Efficient, which had been mandated since 1992, it’s easy to see the disparity start to emerge between the EU and US (see table left).

By the mid-2000s the EU had decided it was time for action and pushed forward legislation on minimum efficiency. Legislation was eventually passed (despite some members of CEMEP lobbying against it and subsequently delaying it) and comes into force in June this year at IE2 level – 2015 at IE3 level.

By contrast the US had mandated IE2 (Nema Energy Efficient) in 1992 and IE3 (Nema Premium Efficient) in December 2010.

So, why would a manufacturer argue against legislation? The only reason would be to produce ‘commercially viable’ compliant motors. Almost all manufacturers will have an IE3 motor in their laboratory. However, transferring that into production is another matter. The technology for IE3 motors is based around better magnetic steel for the laminations and the dimensioning of that steel. It also needs tighter tolerances in manufacture, which may mean that some EU manufacturers would have a problem in reaching IE3 commercially.

Based on the above, US manufacturers will already have developed IE3-rated high efficiency versions of their machinery. In some cases, especially where the motor represents only a small portion of total equipment cost, it may be the case that they offer their standard IE3-rated version to the world market. Conversely, EU OEM’s starting in June, are only mandated to build IE2 motors into their equipment.

Most end users of automation are becoming seriously worried about their energy costs. Many are also currently putting robust environmental care plans into place. Given this market situation, it could be that those companies that start to offer the best efficiency levels available could see their market share grow at the expense of those who merely offer the minimum required.

Baldor is suggesting that European OEMs can usefully pose the question ‘Should we start offering IE3 efficiency now, even though it is not required by law until 2015?’ If they don’t consider this issue, their US-based competitors might steal a march.