With rising oil, natural gas, and electricity prices swelling everyone's monthly utility bills, interest in energy efficiency has never been stronger. While it is easy to focus on hardware, such as highefficiency lighting, motors and HVAC equipment, without leadership, planning and organization the benefits of one-time equipment upgrades are not sustainable. Management support is critical to make sure energy performance is considered on a consistent and continuous basis. This means incorporating energy into your organization's goals, procedures, key performance indicators and into routine business decisions—such as if electric motors should be repaired or replaced.
Many companies are taking a top-down approach to energy management through corporate commitment programs. For instance, approximately 500 industrial companies have made commitments through EPA ENERGY STAR®. Under this partnership program, corporate executives have committed staff and funding to measure, track and benchmark energy performance in their plants and buildings, to develop and implement a plan to improve facility energy performance on a continuous basis and to educate staff and the public on the results. After obtaining a commitment, key next steps are appointing an energy director to lead a dedicated energy team, draft an energy policy and establish an energy management program. (See www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=guidelines. guidelines_index for details.)
Whether your organization opts for a topdown or bottom-up path, energy management is best approached at the facility level as a team. Although the exact composition and size of the team is up to you, it is important to include representatives from key areas, such as management, engineering, purchasing and operations and maintenance. These diverse perspectives will help ensure that the team's recommendations are appropriate, achievable and—most importantly—are improvements your organization can sustain and continue to improve upon.
There's no shortage of credible resources to help your energy team to get started. In addition to the EPA ENERGY STAR program, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) offers a variety of helpful resources, including case studies, tip sheets, and diagnostic tools. For instance DOE supports a variety of software tools to help identify and assess energy savings related to pumps, fans, compressed air, process heating and steam systems. (www1.eere.energy.gov) Motor Decisions Mattersm (MDM) has tools and resources to help manage your motor fleet, estimate costs for upgrades, and plan ahead for eventual motor failure (www.motorsmatter.org). In addition, many utilities, states and other public entities throughout the U.S. and Canada offer efficiency programs to support energy management goals, particularly at the plant level. Many of these programs are members of the Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE) and can be identified through CEE's Website.
When it comes to blunting the impact of high energy costs, securing management support is critical. Establishing an energy management team, educating your workforce about energy efficiency and taking advantage of the credible resources are great ways to get started. MT