Jan 20, 2017

From refrigeration to automation: Ingersoll Rand’s vision for a sustainable future

Jennifer Johnson
4 min
Diversification is the force that has propelled US manufacturer Ingersoll Rand from the early days of the industrial age to the 21st century. The com...

Diversification is the force that has propelled US manufacturer Ingersoll Rand from the early days of the industrial age to the 21st century. The company once held the patent for a rock drill credited with replacing the pick axe and revolutionising the mining industry — but in recent years it has been broadly concerned with creating sustainable environments. In practice, this means devising operational-level strategies for reducing energy use at home, in the workplace and in-transit.

Ingersoll Rand works to create efficiency behind-the-scenes, helping businesses and consumers to save money while controlling their surroundings.  The company’s family of brands includes Thermo King, a transport temperature control system manufacturer, and Trane, a supplier of air conditioning systems. As technologies like the ‘Internet of Things’ continue to move into our built environments, Ingersoll Rand has acknowledged that its existing expertise could give it an edge in innovation.

“We’ve been inside industries, improving the efficiency of processes inside those industries,” says Scott Tew ‎Executive Director of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Sustainability at Ingersoll Rand. “We have been in the commercial and the home-building space as long as any company. With that you gain a certain amount of unique knowledge on how buildings perform, and how they should perform.”

With the advent of ‘smart’ technologies, buildings can virtually monitor their own operations. Ingersoll Rand’s range of systems allow owners and occupants to manage their environments based upon information provided to them by the structures themselves.

“Our entrance into the Internet of Things were developments to connect mechanical systems and automate them,” Tew says. The company’s goal is to take “human behaviour, and sometimes misbehavior” out of the equation.

“The more a person knows about how something is working, the more options they have for managing it,” Tew explains.

Nexia, a home automation system, is one of the products Ingersoll Rand offers to help consumers understand how their homes use resources. It works by connecting devices — from HVAC systems to appliances to lighting — to a central hub. The ‘Nexia Bridge’ then transmits information about the home’s performance to its owner’s chosen device, be it a tablet, mobile phone or computer.

“I think optimisation, whether we’re talking about a commercial building or a home, happens when we connect all of these various systems together and gain some insights,” says Tew. “I’m a huge believer in continuing to search for the data that gives you the right insight.”

Making homes more efficient doesn’t just result in savings for consumers — reducing energy use also benefits the environment. Ingersoll Rand is currently the world’s largest manufacturer of electric vehicles, with production of its off-road recreational ‘Club Car’ outdoing all other EV producers by production volume. In this spirit, the company has also sought to make alterations to their larger-scale transport ventures.

Large freight trucks waste a lot of time and fuel idling while being loaded or unloaded. At the same time, fuel-dependent temperature control systems are also working to keep perishable commodities cool. Engineers at Ingersoll Rand sought to remedy these inefficiencies through the creation of an all-electric auxiliary power unit (APU) which charges as a freight truck moves.

“APU’s have the ability to reduce fuel use by up to 90 percent,” Tew reports. “This auxiliary power unit can provide comfort for the driver and can also power the refrigeration units for the perishables in the back without having the tractor on.

“When the tractor is idle the APU then kicks in and provides the power. There are tremendous energy savings, but there are also tremendous emissions savings.”

As many businesses increase their ‘green’ offerings, consumers may wonder if they’re sacrificing performance or productivity for the sake of energy efficiency. Tew believes this doesn’t have to be the case.  

“Can we actually do things in the future that use less energy and we still have no trade-offs?” he asks. “We can continue to be very productive and use energy differently. We don’t have to sacrifice our productivity levels.”  

Ingersoll Rand’s sustainability ethos stretches across its corporate structure, from its office headquarters to its manufacturing facilities. Five years ago, the company asked employees to form ‘green teams’ in order to develop pathways and strategies for reducing waste and energy use at local sites. According to Tew, the impact of employee-led sustainability initiatives has been ‘significant’.

“Everybody wants to work for a company that they believe is on the same page as them, and is working toward the same goals,” he explains. “We’re changing how we design products, we’re changing how we work with customers and we’re changing how we attack these issues as employees together.”

For Tew and Ingersoll Rand, the future is now:

“The thing that ties all of our brands together is energy and energy efficiency,” he says. “Our customers continue to look to us to solve one of their big issues, which continues to be energy use and energy productivity.”


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Jun 25, 2021

UK must stop blundering into high carbon choices warns CCC

Dominic Ellis
5 min
The UK must put an end to a year of climate contradictions and stop blundering on high carbon choices warns the Climate Change Committee

The UK Government must end a year of climate contradictions and stop blundering on high carbon choices, according to the Climate Change Committee as it released 200 policy recommendations in a progress to Parliament update.

While the rigour of the Climate Change Act helped bring COP26 to the UK, it is not enough for Ministers to point to the Glasgow summit and hope that this will carry the day with the public, the Committee warns. Leadership is required, detail on the steps the UK will take in the coming years, clarity on tax changes and public spending commitments, as well as active engagement with people and businesses across the country.

"It it is hard to discern any comprehensive strategy in the climate plans we have seen in the last 12 months. There are gaps and ambiguities. Climate resilience remains a second-order issue, if it is considered at all. We continue to blunder into high-carbon choices. Our Planning system and other fundamental structures have not been recast to meet our legal and international climate commitments," the update states. "Our message to Government is simple: act quickly – be bold and decisive."

The UK’s record to date is strong in parts, but it has fallen behind on adapting to the changing climate and not yet provided a coherent plan to reduce emissions in the critical decade ahead, according to the Committee.

  • Statutory framework for climate The UK has a strong climate framework under the Climate Change Act (2008), with legally-binding emissions targets, a process to integrate climate risks into policy, and a central role for independent evidence-based advice and monitoring. This model has inspired similarclimate legislation across the world.
  • Emissions targets The UK has adopted ambitious territorial emissions targets aligned to the Paris Agreement: the Sixth Carbon Budget requires an emissions reduction of 63% from 2019 to 2035, on the way to Net Zero by 2050. These are comprehensive targets covering all greenhouse gases and all sectors, including international aviation and shipping.
  • Emissions reduction The UK has a leading record in reducing its own emissions: down by 40% from 1990 to 2019, the largest reduction in the G20, while growing the economy (GDP increased by 78% from 1990 to 2019). The rate of reductions since 2012 (of around 20 MtCO2e annually) is comparable to that needed in the future.
  • Climate Risk and Adaptation The UK has undertaken three comprehensive assessments of the climate risks it faces, and the Government has published plans for adapting to those risks. There have been some actions in response, notably in tackling flooding and water scarcity, but overall progress in planning and delivering adaptation is not keeping up with increasing risk. The UK is less prepared for the changing climate now than it was when the previous risk assessment was published five years ago.
  • Climate finance The UK has been a strong contributor to international climate finance, having recently doubled its commitment to £11.6 billion in aggregate over 2021/22 to 2025/26. This spend is split between support for cutting emissions and support for adaptation, which is important given significant underfunding of adaptation globally. However, recent cuts to the UK’s overseas aid are undermining these commitments.

In a separate comment, it said the Prime Minister’s Ten-Point Plan was an important statement of ambition, but it has yet to be backed with firm policies. 

Baroness Brown, Chair of the Adaptation Committee said: “The UK is leading in diagnosis but lagging in policy and action. This cannot be put off further. We cannot deliver Net Zero without serious action on adaptation. We need action now, followed by a National Adaptation Programme that must be more ambitious; more comprehensive; and better focussed on implementation than its predecessors, to improve national resilience to climate change.”

Priority recommendations for 2021 include setting out capacity and usage requirements for Energy from Waste consistent with plans to improve recycling and waste prevention, and issue guidance to align local authority waste contracts and planning policy to these targets; develop (with DIT) the option of applying either border carbon tariffs or minimum standards to imports of selected embedded-emission-intense industrial and agricultural products and fuels; and implement a public engagement programme about national adaptation objectives, acceptable levels of risk, desired resilience standards, how to address inequalities, and responsibilities across society. 

Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner said the report is another reminder that if the UK is to meet its ambitious climate targets there is an urgent need to scale up bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).

"As the world’s leading generator and supplier of sustainable bioenergy there is no better place to deliver BECCS at scale than at Drax in the UK. We are ready to invest in and deliver this world-leading green technology, which would support clean growth in the north of England, create tens of thousands of jobs and put the UK at the forefront of combatting climate change."

Drax Group is kickstarting the planning process to build a new underground pumped hydro storage power station – more than doubling the electricity generating capacity at its iconic Cruachan facility in Scotland. The 600MW power station will be located inside Ben Cruachan – Argyll’s highest mountain – and increase the site’s total capacity to 1.04GW (click here).

Lockdown measures led to a record decrease in UK emissions in 2020 of 13% from the previous year. The largest falls were in aviation (-60%), shipping (-24%) and surface transport (-18%). While some of this change could persist (e.g. business travellers accounted for 15-25% of UK air passengers before the pandemic), much is already rebounding with HGV and van travel back to pre-pandemic levels, while car use, which at one point was down by two-thirds, only 20% below pre-pandemic levels.

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