Monday, January 08, 2007

What CAN You Save? What WILL You Save?

The question that industrial decision-makers will most frequently ask about energy cost control is “How much can I save?” I will share my answer below, in today’s post. The question that they really should be asking is “How much am I LIKELY to save?” An answer to this question will also be offered below.

“How much can I save?” The average industrial facility can expect to reduce its energy consumption somewhere within a range of 10 to 20 percent. Keep in mind that “10 to 20 percent” describes an average range of expectations. Some facilities can capture more savings, some less. If you want a more precise number, you will need to conduct an energy audit—a facility-wide study of energy inputs, uses, and losses. Keep in mind that energy audits are a very human process, reflecting the skills and experience of the team that conducts them. Ten different audit teams can examine the same facility—and develop ten different sets of recommendations. Their findings may generally overlap, but each report will present different cost-benefit evaluations, suggested priorities, or even unique findings. I say “10 to 20 percent” because of the following sources:

1. See the U.S Department of Energy fact sheet entitled Save Energy Now in Your Motor Systems. It includes comments about all potential sources of industrial energy savings, not just motors. According to this document, plants with an energy management program already in place can save an additional 10-15% by using best practices as recommended by the U.S. Department of Energy. Remember, that’s in addition to an existing energy management program.

2. See Energy Loss Reduction and Recovery in Industrial Energy Systems. This U.S. DOE document claims, on page 22, that industry’s overall energy consumption can be reduced by 24 percent through efficient technologies and practices. Appendices in this report share industry-specific claims for energy savings potential.

This cannot be overemphasized: no single industrial facility is “average.” Each facility features a unique design, purpose, product mix, operating schedule, maintenance history, and work habits. Savings potential varies accordingly.

“How much am I LIKELY to save?” I wish more people would ask this question. My answer involves this checklist. The more times you can answer with a “yes” to these questions, the more likely you are to achieve savings (or the higher you will be on that range of potential savings).

__ Will you conduct an energy audit?
__ Will your staff know the purpose of the audit and not be intimidated by it?
__ Will your facility support energy cost control as an ongoing process rather than as a one-time project?
__ Will your top management stand behind the goals and accountabilities set by an energy management plan, or ignore them after a year has passed?
__ Will staff be responsive to energy awareness training?
__ Will operations, maintenance, and procurement people be willing to change the way they do things by incorporating energy best practices into their work habits?

Take heart—no one answers “yes” to all these points. But as you achieve more “yes” answers, the more you are likely to save.



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