Visible senior leadership is key in energy management

Take a look at one company's commitment to energy productivity and find out how visible senior leadership can affect the climate of energy management.

By Peter Garforth

This column has repeatedly emphasized the importance of visible senior leadership as a key to effective climate and energy management. In the real world, the exact meaning of this often can be nebulous, but sometimes you see events take place that leave no doubt about the commitment of a company’s leadership to energy productivity as a way of life. The recent Energy Summit held at the headquarters of Corning Inc., Corning, N.Y., was one such event.

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As a part of its ongoing commitment to excellence in all it does, a little more than two years age, Corning launched a Global Energy Management initiative, with the goal to achieve energy productivity increases at even higher levels. At its first energy summit, managers from just about all the company’s major facilities around the world gathered in a unique and stimulating way for an intensive two days of discussions about energy.

Invited speakers collectively represented some of the most important aspects of innovative energy management from industry, academia, and state and national government. From the industrial side, a senior manager from Toyota walked everyone through its rigorous approach to ensure that the entire manufacturing energy value chain constantly improves its energy performance, including a bold new vision for manufacturing plants that emit zero greenhouse gases.

The potential from heat recovery in all its aspects, including cogeneration, is all too frequently overlooked. More than 25 years ago, BASF recognized both the productivity and environmental potential and embarked on a systematic approach to integrate its production sites. The senior manager from the headquarters in Ludwigshafen, Germany explained to the team how they had perfected the integration tools and spread them to major sites across the world, yielding hundreds of millions of dollars of value, massive environmental enhancement and competitive advantage.

To help the creative juices and make sure that emerging developments in energy technology weren’t overlooked, Corning arranged for Cornell University to present the state of research of a multiplicity of new energy sources, with a powerful focus on emerging biomass capabilities.

Other technical developments were addressed, as the head of technology from MVV in Mannheim discussed advances in the integration of many highly distributed traditional and renewable energy sources and efficiency into smoothly functioning smart grids in Germany.

A wide range of technical topics from infrared thermography to on-site cogeneration was covered in a group of workshops the attendees could join on an a la carte basis, all presented by recognized experts in their fields.

The interests and opportunities in working with the public sector and gaining access to support in the forms of expertise and funding were eloquently discussed by the Head of Efficiency from New York’s pioneering Energy Research and Development Agency.
The commitment and challenges that senior management will face in the future was the key topic reviewed by the Head of Climate Protection from EPA’s Energy Star program. Literally days before, Energy Star announced a major new assessment by senior management on the challenges and opportunities of Next Generation Energy Management (www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=business.bus_energy_strategy), material I would urge you to see and put in front of senior decision-makers.

Building on the theme of senior management challenges, the president of Owens Corning’s global composites business underlined the critical importance of energy productivity and climate management, not only to the effectiveness of the business, but as major new opportunities a changing energy scene is creating in the marketplace.

Behind this outstanding program were clear messages from the highest level of the company management in opening addresses and keynote talks underlying the unequivocal commitment to long-term energy management to ensure reliable energy supplies, economic gains and environmental enhancement.

On its own, an event like this won’t deliver breakthroughs. In this case, it represented a visible milestone on a systematic journey that is rapidly making professional energy management a way of life and a continuous source of competitive advantage. By the way, the results are already being measured in millions of dollars of energy productivity gains with associated reductions in environmental impact.

When people ask me, “What does senior management commitment to strategic energy management look like?” one of my answers will be a description of Corning’s First Energy Summit less than two years into the roll out of their global energy management initiative.

Peter Garforth is principal of Garforth International LLC, Toledo, Ohio. He can be reached at garforthp@cs.com.

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