What does the U.S. Department of Energy's Industrial Technologies Program (ITP) have in common with U.S. utility companies? Both recognize energy efficiency as an energy resource in helping to offset rising fuel costs, increase productivity, boost the bottom line, and reduce environmental impacts. A partnership between the two sectors to provide energy efficiency resources to U.S. industrial customers could be a win-win situation for everyone involved.
Through its Save Energy Now initiative, ITP is joining forces with U.S. utility companies and associations to deliver energy efficiency assistance to industrial customers. This includes free energy assessments, system-specific training workshops, technical publications, software tools and other resources. The new partnership will complement existing demand side management programs already offered by utilities to their customers.
This partnership results from a series of meetings between ITP and various utility companies and associations, such as the American Public Power Association, California Energy Commission, Edison Electric Institute, Energy Solutions Center, Tennessee Valley Authority, and other utility stakeholders. Results of these meetings are forthcoming in a new Utility Action Plan currently in development. This plan will identify key activities to help improve energy efficiency of U.S. industry, and addresses how ITP can directly help utility companies lower their energy consumption and reduce their carbon footprint.
Utilities use demand side management programs to encourage customers to reduce their energy bill, including load control options, implementation of energy-efficient technologies, and conservation information. These programs work to reduce energy use; the Energy Information Administration reports that since 2003, actual peak electricity load has decreased by an annual average of 5.9 percent, while energy savings have risen an average of 8.3 percent.
Because of their unique relationship, utility companies are in a prime position to provide information to help their industrial customers reduce their energy use and become more efficient. The energy-saving opportunities gained from the "low-hanging fruit" can help companies control their own energy costs and stay economically viable.
And, when customers cut energy costs, utility companies also benefit. Utility companies recognize that energy efficiency practices are the easiest, cheapest, and fastest way to meet power demand. Through conservation measures, utilities can offset new power generation facilities, prevent load instability during peak times, and make more energy available for other customers at no extra cost.
Save Energy Now energy assessments focus primarily on fine-tuning energy-intensive industrial systems such as process heating, steam, compressed air, motors, pumps and fans. The energy assessments are conducted by DOE Energy Experts, skilled at using BestPractices software tools to identify ways to optimize industrial systems and save energy. During the assessments, Energy Experts work closely with plant personnel to train them in the use of the software tools, so they can perform their own assessments.
Since 2005, Save Energy Now energy assessments have been conducted at 500 industrial plants throughout the country, and have identified more than $700 million in annual savings. Plants can reduce their energy bill by an average of 10 percent annually by implementing low- or no-cost recommendations identified by energy assessments.
One of the utility associations partnering in this initiative is the American Public Power Association (APPA). Ensuring reliable electricity at a low price is a key objective of APPA, which serves more than 2,000 community-owned electric utilities.
"The partnership between DOE's Industrial Technologies Program, APPA and our members is important because it helps utilities help their customers. Public power utilities are not-for-profit utilities so energy efficiency just makes good business sense," says Ursula Schryver, director of customer programs at APPA. "It helps keep customer bills down by reducing energy use, helps utilities control costs by reducing the need for new generation, and is environmentally responsible."
Utilities want to ensure that their key customer base is economically healthy, and remains in their service area. Utilities can contribute to this by providing free energy assessments to help companies find ways to reduce energy intensity. Not only does this establish good will with customers, but it helps the utility balance electric loads and provide reliable service for everyone, while offsetting the cost of new power generation facilities. Read the "Energy Audits for Large Industries" article in the May 2008 issue of Public Power magazine for details on energy assessments ITP offers to industrial customers through the Save Energy Now initiative.
DOE's Industrial Technologies Program and U.S. utilities know that energy efficiency makes good business and environmental sense. This new partnership promises to have broad energy-savings impact for industrial customers across the nation.