Self-assess your energy-saving opportunities

Rolf Butters, U.S. Department of Energy
Tags: energy management

The U.S. Department of Energy's Industrial Technologies Program (ITP) offers a wealth of information to help you improve industrial energy efficiency and boost industrial performance.

Perhaps your company already has an energy management program and you have evaluated your options and implemented energy saving projects. Are you aware that companies such as yours can often save 10 percent to 15 percent using best practices to increase energy efficiency? Would you like to know what types of projects your peers have evaluated and achieved? What other types of projects can you cost-effectively consider and potentially achieve? How can you intensify your energy savings search efforts without investing large amounts of time and money?

Reducing your company's energy consumption and costs, improving productivity, and meeting corporate energy management goals can all be accomplished by making improvements to industrial process systems. To help you achieve this, the ITP offers a variety of industry-focused resources that are easily accessible through the ITP Web site.

The ITP State Activities Web site is a good place to find out about resources and incentives available in your area. This helpful site connects you to a database with almost 2,000 energy-saving incentives and resources available for industrial plant managers, including training opportunities and contact information for experts who can assist in your efficiency efforts.

One way plants are achieving energy savings is through Save Energy Now, a national initiative that helps industrial manufacturing companies identify ways to reduce energy use in the most energy-consuming industrial process systems. To date, 500 plants have completed Save Energy Now assessments to achieve total energy savings results of nearly $106 million, with total identified energy cost savings exceeding $700 million. In addition to energy assessments, ITP offers the following helpful resources.

Learn About How Other Plants are Identifying Savings Opportunities

Visit the Save Energy Now participating plants Web page to learn more about how other companies have identified savings in their facilities. Search by industry, energy system type, state, or year to discover energy savings recommendations that might be applicable to your plant. Also look for new icons to easily identify which companies have completed assessment reports, as well as those that have participated in case studies, and have been recognized by DOE for their energy savings accomplishments.

For example, if your company is in the steel industry and you are interested in the types of energy-saving opportunities other plants have identified, you may find reports from steel companies describing their assessment results in the participating plants database.

Access the Industrial Assessment Centers Database

ITP's Industrial Assessment Centers (IAC) database contains data collected from more than 13,000 assessments conducted at small- and medium-sized plants both before and as part of the Save Energy Now initiative. These assessments are performed by teams of university professors and engineering students who are well-trained in energy management.

The IAC database can be searched by industry/product, year, state, annual energy expenditures, or subsequent energy savings. Use the Recommendation Index to identify assessment recommendations related to your category(s) of interest, such as energy management, waste minimization/pollution prevention, or direct productivity enhancements. Explore subsequent opportunities within a category and identify typical simple returns on investment based on energy costs at the time of the assessment. For example, to determine the payback on installing occupancy sensors, try this exercise:

  1. From the main IAC database Web page, select Recommendation Index
  2. Under Assessment Recommendation Code, click on Open, located next to Energy Management
  3. Locate Buildings and Grounds under Description and click on Open
  4. Locate Lighting under Description and click on Open
  5. Locate Controls under Description and click on Open.

Here you will see that installing occupancy sensors has an average return on investment of 1.3 years (data average is based on prior years and does not reflect current energy prices). You can also use the IAC database to create a customized list of top 10 assessments and recommendations by entering your own criteria. For instance, sorting by large average savings highlights the large opportunities to recover waste heat and implement combined heat and power processes.

In addition, the IAC site offers several training resources, including guidebooks such as a Modern Industrial Assessments Training Manual and Self-Assessment Workbook for Small Manufacturers; and the following archived Webcasts:

  • Energy Efficient Building Management Strategies
  • Measuring and Improving Boiler Efficiency
  • Combined Heat and Power
  • Optimizing Combustion Systems
  • Steam System Management.


Software Tools, Training, and Publications Help Evaluate Opportunities

An integral part to the success of Save Energy Now is the variety of resources that are provided during energy assessments, which are conducted by DOE Energy Experts. These Energy Experts are all Qualified Specialists, highly skilled in the complex workings of energy-intensive industrial systems, including steam, process heating, compressed air, and motors, pumps, and fans. Energy Experts utilize DOE's system-specific software tools to analyze systems and provide recommendations for improvement. Learn how to use the software tools as part of your assessment or by attending a training event or Webcast. You will find that they are extremely valuable in quantifying any energy efficiency improvements you are considering.

"Training with the Steam System Assessment Tool program gave us a consistent method to evaluate new projects. It was time well spent," said Robert Hart, Engineering Manager at West Linn Paper Company. Read more about West Linn Paper Company (PDF 636 KB), which is saving $379,000 in energy costs annually after participating in a Save Energy Now assessment. Download Adobe Reader.

In addition to software tools, you can consult ITP's technical publications for guidance on purchasing, analyzing, and maintaining energy efficient industrial systems and components. These include tip sheets, technical fact sheets, and sourcebooks. To keep informed about new tools and resources like those mentioned here, as well as the latest industrial news highlights and announcements, training events, and project opportunities, subscribe to E-Bulletin, ITP's monthly electronic newsletter.

The Summer 2008 issue of Energy Matters will feature Part 2 of this article, with in-depth information about the IAC database and potential applications of wireless sensors for condition-based monitoring.

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