A plant-wide energy assessment helps your bottom line

Feb. 5, 2004
Contributing Editor Sheila Kennedy explains how a plant-wide assessment of energy usage can lead to significant bottom-line cost savings and increased competitiveness.
What's involved in a plant-wide energy assessment? Assessors identify energy-intensive components of the production process that have the most potential for savings. Motor, steam, compressed air and process heating systems are typical candidates for evaluation. Current energy usage of each system is evaluated, opportunities to improve are identified, and specific energy-saving projects are defined.

Who conducts these assessments? If expertise is not available in-house, assessment service providers can be located with quick search of the Internet. One of the most prominent is BestPractices, a program of the DOE's Office of Industrial Technologies (OIT). Small- to mid-size manufacturing facilities can receive a free assessment from one of 26 universities across the United States that are participating Industrial Assessment Centers (IAC).

Energy consulting firms often provide such services, for example Chevron Energy Solutions conducts energy usage assessments, and MSI Support conducts energy efficiency audits. Many motor and power distribution vendors also offer audits.

What types of savings can be expected? The following statistics were excerpted from OIT assessment case studies:

  • A metal casting plant identified 16 projects that represent potential cost savings of $3.3 million per year in areas including combustion, compressed air, water, steam, motor drive and lighting system efficiency.
  • A paper mill will save an estimated $1.6 million annually from energy reduction and other improvements.
  • A refinery produced an estimated annual benefit of more than $52 million with energy savings of more than 6,000,000 MMBtu/year.
  • A glass container manufacturer identified $1.6 million in potential annual savings, with simple payback periods ranging from one to two years.

What if you can't get authorization for a plant-wide energy assessment? If a full, plant-wide assessment is not in your current budget, at minimum you should consider engaging individual OEM energy audit services to address specific energy-saving opportunities. Even the smallest efforts can lead to generous bottom-line savings, and those savings can provide the business case for an expanded effort at a future date.

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Contributing Editor Sheila Kennedy is managing director of Additive Communications. E-mail her at [email protected].