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.



At 12:31 PM, Anonymous Brandt Smith said...

Training students to do energy audits is only part of the equation. The real challenge is to teach them how to create a compelling reason to actually implement the recommendations. Only 51% of the recommendations are ever implemented, and these are all the low hanging fruit that don't require any investment or commitment.

Part of the problem is that the IAC has historically done a poor job translating the energy savings into a business case.

Another problem with the IAC is that it's free. It's a sad truth that people don't value free services.

At 6:25 PM, Blogger Christopher Russell said...


You raise some good points, but I think others will challenge you:

1. "Only 51%" implementation actually puts the IAC program at the head of the class. I did a study of 15 North American energy audit programs in 2010. The IAC program had the best implementation record of the bunch. A hard question still remains: can't we do better than 51%?

2. Low-hanging fruit represents a lot, but not ALL of the implementation mix. I encourage you to review the IAC database, accessible from the U.S. Department of Energy's Industrial Technologies Program website.

3. By what yardstick do you want to measure IACs' impact? By the volume of savings implemented from their recommendations, or by the volume of skill and knowledge that they pump directly into the manufacturing sector?

You could perceive the glass as either half empty or half full... or, you could say (as I do) that the glass needs to be reconfigured. Our business and policy culture treats energy efficiency as a strictly mechanical pursuit. The agenda needs to be broadened to deal with organizational and financial hurdles. This, I think, is an opportunity for IAC program evolution.

At 7:21 PM, Blogger Ken Dulaney said...

Christopher, once again, you are right on the money. Our work here at Advanced Energy shows that highly accurate modeling of a proposed improvement has less impact that gathering key plant personnel together and facilitating the discussion. Energy managers need to be equal part psychologist and engineer.


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