Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Point, Counterpoint: Industrial Energy Consumption

A very succinct evaluation of today's energy policy comes from the Council of Industrial Boiler Owners. While some good points are made here, there's also a gap in the logic. My comments are below this quote:

"One of the goals/objectives of the Obama Administration has been to delink fossil energy from Gross Domestic Product (GDP). So far it looks like they have been pretty good at it. The only thing we hear in the news is usually about good renewable energy, energy efficiency, and how these will create new jobs requiring new and different education/knowledge. We never hear about the increasing cost of energy associated with the new technologies, but hear the negatives associated with and fossil energy product, dirty coal, high priced oil, the potential damages from drilling for Marcellus Shale Gas, and the food and timber for fuel with pre-fossil biofuels. All the current activity regarding energy legislation, funding and DOE tends to revolve around buildings and commercial activities, lighting technology, smart grid, and doubling the Auto Mileage Standards to name a few. When they talk about energy efficiency, they do their absolute best to stay way away from any consideration of Combined Heat and Power, probably the single best technology for maximizing efficiency, albeit, through the use of fossil fuel combustion. What we will probably see is legislation on efficiency for everything but industrial energy. However, nothing may happen. There is current controversy over a natural gas subsidy bill that will provide subsidies to Natural Gas companies for developing the infrastructure to use natural gas as a transport fuel to increase demand and increase the cost to industry who use it for both fuel and feedstock. One thing for sure, as the cost of energy increases, the prospect for energy efficiency applications improves. The old adage comes to mind, 'Follow the Money.' It is interesting to watch the dynamic of how the players and rent seekers are moving to raise the cost of fossil energy to levels where renewables are now justifiable and fossil energy is eventually delinked from the GDP."

This commentary suggests that we should resist alternative energy development because it's making traditional fossil fuels more expensive. If you believe that fossil fuel supplies are limitless, you can ignore this entire discussion. If not, we need to think about where energy will come from after the fossil fuel tap runs dry. A policy of continued reliance on fossil fuels is like the drunkard's cure for a hangover: just keep on drinking. Increased dependence on fossil fuels is a formula for energy starvation. People in some countries understand this; as fossil fuel supplies are depleted, successful economies will be those that prepare themselves by make increasing use of renewable alternatives. But it won't happen over night. To ease the transition, we will make increasingly-efficient use of traditional fuels. Efficient (less wasteful) capacity also reduces the magnitude of capital investment needed for energy systems. That frees up capital for investment in other areas of the economy.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

DOE Announces Over $30 Million to Help Universities Train the Next Generation of Industrial Energy Efficiency Experts

[Ed. note: The implementation of industrial energy efficiency depends as much on organizational dynamics as it does on technical acumen. The "next generation of industrial energy efficiency experts" must become adept at creating consensus across departmental lines. They must also demonstrate a compelling linkage between energy and business performance. These are skill sets that can and should be better addressed by Industrial Assessment Center curricula.]

June 16, 2011: Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced the availability of more than $30 million to train undergraduate- and graduate-level engineering students in manufacturing efficiency to help them become the nation's next generation of industrial energy efficiency experts. Through the Industrial Assessment Center program, university teams across the country will gain practical training and skills that will enable them to conduct energy assessments in a broad range of manufacturing facilities and help them compete in today's economy. These groups of student engineers will help local companies and factories to reduce energy waste, save money, and become more economically competitive.

"Through this industrial efficiency training program, students will gain hands-on experience and training for jobs in a growing global sector, while at the same time, reducing energy waste for American businesses and helping to make our manufacturing facilities more competitive," said Secretary Chu. "This program will make sure that the next-generation of American workers has the education and skills they need to further our transition to a clean energy economy."

Through these university-based Industrial Assessment Centers, engineering students will receive extensive training in industrial processes, energy assessment procedures, and energy management principles, which will be put to use working directly with small and medium-sized industrial and manufacturing facilities around their communities. Under this funding opportunity, each Industrial Assessment Center will be expected to train at least 10 to 15 students per year, conduct approximately 20 energy assessments annually, and perform extensive follow-on reporting, tracking, implementation, and management-improvement activities.

Under this competitive funding opportunity, 20 to 30 universities will be selected as Industrial Assessment Centers (IACs) and will be eligible to receive $200,000 to $300,000 per year for up to 5 years for the training and energy audits. Applicants are encouraged to propose innovative methods to better ground students in core engineering, energy, and business principles and increase their understanding of management systems, industrial technologies, supply chains, energy efficiency, and sustainability. In addition to conducting assessments at industrial plants, IACs will be expected to promote interaction with private sector partners that could provide valuable workforce development support, such as scholarships and internship opportunities. Applications are due by Tuesday, August 2, 2011. More information and application requirements can be found on the FedConnect website.

The Industrial Assessment Program has had a rich history of training students and performing energy assessments for small-to-medium manufacturing plants for more than 30 years. Nearly 3,000 students have graduated from the Industrial Assessment Center program and more than 60% have gone on to careers in the energy industry. From the program's inception in 1976 through 2009, the university teams have conducted nearly 16,000 energy assessments at U.S. manufacturing plants nationwide. These assessments have helped save over 500 trillion BTUs of energy – equivalent to the energy consumed by 6.8 million vehicles in a year – and have helped participating manufacturers save more than $3.8 billion in energy costs.

DOE's Industrial Technologies Program (ITP) works to contribute practical solutions for some of the nation's top energy challenges through a combination of transformative research and development and targeted education and assistance in the industrial and manufacturing sectors. For more information, please visit the ITP website.


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