What’s Your Excuse?

The Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern Virginia are famous for their scenic beauty.

The Blue Ridge are also the home of Volvo’s largest heavy truck plant. Volvo’s 2,200 employee plant joined the Department of Energy’s Save Energy Now LEADER initiative in December 2009. Save Energy Now LEADER participants commit to reducing their facilities manufacturing energy intensity by 25% over a 10 year period.

        Mabry Mill on the Blue Ridge Parkway

By combining employee engagement and ideas from the Department of Energy’s Industrial Technology program with Volvo’s own global expertise, the plant reduced manufacturing intensity by almost 30% in the first year!

The plant invested about $850,000 in energy saving projects and enjoyed cost reductions totaling almost $2 million dollars. The improvements paid for themselves in less than six months. Better yet, the same improvements will save even more in future years (assuming that electric power costs go up – a pretty good bet). Still better, the folks at the plant expect an additional 10% – 20% reduction in energy intensity this year. The global environment wins too, due to the green house gas emissions reductions the reduced manufacturing energy intensity entails.

To be clear:

>> This is a relatively new plant that was designed, built, expanded and operated by capable people. At no time was energy efficiency ever ignored or neglected. The energy efficiency levels were likely at or above industry norms before this program started.

>> The plant’s employees are represented by the United Auto Workers. The employees became actively involved. Projects generated through employee suggestions produced about $333,000 per month in energy costs savings – in 2010 alone.

So, the plant was already reasonably energy efficient before the program started. The unionized employees became actively engaged and contributed significantly to the success of the program. The capital required returned in less than six months. And there are reductions more to come.

What’s your excuse for not doing likewise?

You can learn more about Volvo’s success at
http://energy.gov/articles/virginia-manufacturer-keeps-jobs-local-embracing-energy-efficiency. While you are on the Department of Energy’s website, look around. There is a lot of useful information there.

Your thoughtful comments are always appreciated.

…  Chuck

  Last week’s post talked about the new motor vehicle emissions standards. John Viera, Ford Motors’ Sustainability Director, recently wrote on Ford’s take on the new standards. See for yourself at www.greenbiz.com/blog/2011/08/16/rethinking-green-products-re-imagining-your-inputs?utm_s

Photo credit: U.S. National Parks Service