The Unique Challenges of Industrial Energy Efficiency

September 12, 2017 Ron Gillooly

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), industrial sector energy use accounts for more than 30 percent of the country’s total energy consumption. Further, the EIA projects this percentage will continue to increase over the next 30 years. This growing energy use opens doors for substantial energy savings.

Unlike many commercial and residential buildings, industrial facilities have unique energy requirements. While commercial buildings might be able to save on lighting or HVAC, industrial facilities’ major energy consumption – and thus opportunities for savings – are production-related. Each manufacturing plant has specialized equipment and processes, which are necessary for production but also create two unique energy efficiency challenges.

Quantifying energy savings - ENERGY STAR® and DesignLights® Consortium estimate the energy savings from lighting and other equipment commonly used in commercial facilities. However, the specialized machinery used in industrial settings doesn’t have a rating organization that publishes the most efficient production equipment. For example, a bottling facility may need to purchase a new packing machine to accommodate a new line of product. The proposed equipment can vary widely in price and energy consumption. In most cases, calculating the return on investment on the more efficient equipment can be complicated, often requiring pre- and post-metering verification for energy savings and potential productivity increases.   This means oftentimes industrial facilities have to rely on custom metering to verify the potential savings of energy efficiency measures.

Capturing utility incentives - Nearly all of the more than 3,000 electric utilities in North America offer rebates for energy efficiency upgrades. However, most utilities define incentives for common equipment upgrades, like lighting, refrigeration, and HVAC. As a result of the specialized equipment and processes, identifying and capturing energy efficiency rebates for industrial utility customers poses a difficult challenge. Often, an industrial facility will need to partner with the equipment vendor to effectively measure energy savings and secure custom incentives from the utility. For companies with industrial facilities spanning multiple utility territories, managing the rebate process becomes cumbersome and complex.

Luckily, the benefits outweigh these challenges for many industrial facilities. Energy efficiency upgrades and process improvements can result in more than just energy savings. Industrial facilities also benefit from increased production with more efficient processes, savings on water and other raw materials, and increased profitability from the decreased production costs and time.

The key to unlocking these benefits is an upfront analysis to accurately predict the effect of energy efficiency upgrades on energy consumption and overall production. Leidos works with industrial customers across North America to perform energy analyses, quantify investments in energy efficiency, and manage energy efficiency initiatives. We provide custom metering and monitoring to verify potential energy savings, and we work with trade allies and utilities to secure incentives for these initiatives. With more than 30 years of experience managing energy efficiency programs for both industrial facilities and utilities, we have a comprehensive understanding of industrial energy efficiency programs.

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