When I was in Europe about a year ago, the gasoline price was about $7.00 a gallon.
That was a rather rude reminder that we in the U.S. are all used to much lower power costs than in most of the developed world. Because power has been inexpensive for as long as any of us can remember, Americans are much less conscious of power usage than are people elsewhere. That applies to manufacturing, as well as to automobiles. The power consumption per unit production in Europe or in Japan is considerably lower than in comparable American factories.
Just about everybody in any manufacturing facility will tell you, quite honestly, that they have always been careful and conscientious about energy utilization. Even so, high ROI energy intensity reductions of 20% or more over two or three years are rather commonplace. The math is easy, and the cost reduction is on-going, year after year, even increasing as the unit cost of power increases.
The best way to start is with an energy utilization audit, so that you can identify, quantify and prioritize opportunities for improvement, and associate those opportunities with reasonable assessments of the costs involved. There are several ways to do this:
>> Call your local Manufacturing Extension Partnership office (see www.nist.gov/mep for contact information). Your MEP office can either conduct the audit or locate a qualified local professional with expertise relevant to your particular industry.
>> Some electric power utilities will either conduct an audit for you, or help you have one done. Talk to your supplier.
>> The Department of Energy will conduct a free one-day audit for you, if you meet the Small Business Administration’s definition of a “small” business (usually less than $100 million annual revenues and less than 500 employees). You also need to be located within 150 miles of one of DOE’s Industrial Assessment Centers. There are 24 Industrial Assessment centers in the U.S. These audits are usually conducted by people associated with a University. Check in at: www1.eere.energy.gov/industry/bestpractices/iacs.html. Take time to look around this website. It contains a lot of useful information.
>> There are many private firms in the industrial energy auditing business. Check on the web.
>> You can conduct a preliminary audit in-house, if you would prefer. The Bonneville Power Administration offers a free 52 page Industrial Audit Guidebook with checklists at www.bpa.gov/Energy/N/Industrial/pdf/audit_guide.pdf. The Audit Guide is thorough enough to get you started. However, you may want to follow-up with a more specific audit, depending on what you learn from using the Bonneville materials.
An energy intensity reduction program is one of the best things you can do for your firm, especially since so much free or low cost assistance is available. Power bill reductions go directly to the bottom line. And the environment benefits through reduced greenhouse gas emissions!
Thoughtful comments and experience reports are always appreciated. Click on the title of this post to open the comments section.
Photo – J. Little, Arizona MEP