Implementing Energy Efficient Facility Management

An array of proven energy management best practices can improve energy optimization in facilities, but implementing them in an ad hoc fashion—without a big-picture plan—can lead to disappointing results. When you can be thorough, strategic and integrative in the efficiency challenge, you can start to realize dramatic benefits and payback.

About four years ago, the Department of Energy (DOE) launched its Better Plants Program—a national partnership initiative to drive significant improvement in energy efficiency across U.S. industry. The program builds on President Obama’s Better Buildings Initiative and the Administration’s general efforts to double energy productivity by 2030. The mission: work with manufacturers to set corporate-wide energy reduction goals, improve energy management and track and report their progress. According to the program, the industrial sector accounts for one-third of all energy consumption in the United States—more than any other sector—and spends more than $200 billion each year to power its plants. While great strides have been made regarding energy efficiency, more opportunities exist. The Better Plants’ website states that “the industrial sector has the potential to invest more than $100 billion in cost-effective energy-efficiency technologies by 2020, which would result in annual energy savings of almost $50 billion.”

For those interested in quicker gratification, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) data indicates that many facilities can potentially save 15 percent or more annually by implementing projects with payback periods of less than three years.

Even if major capital investment expenditures are not in the budget, there are many creative ways to make operating adjustments (changing how energy is used) that can have surprising impact. Even low- or no-cost adjustments to existing operating processes can contribute to substantial savings. The online information resource, “sustainable plant,” has published its top five no-cost or low-cost measures that will bring noticeable improvements in energy efficiency. These practical energy management suggestions include things like identifying idle equipment, adjusting the timing of energy usage, and minor equipment retrofits. Here are three of our favorite best practice suggestions.

1. Peak Energy Demand Tracking
Peak demand charges can often equal to 30 percent of an industrial organization’s monthly utility bill. The charges are based on the highest capacity you required during the given billing period, typically a 15-minute interval during that billing cycle. As energy usage gets tracked better and becomes more visible, demand peaks become more obvious. Improperly programmed building management systems and mechanical system failures are common causes of higher than necessary energy peaks.

Many industrial businesses have regularly scheduled production shifts with relatively predictable demand curves.They can coordinate production schedules with demand curves in such a way that peak activity doesn’t coincide with incidental loads. According to sustainable plant, Manufacturers can work with vendorsso that high-energy-demand activity necessary to meet production demands doesn’t have to mean peak pricing as well.

2. Start-Up Spikes
When voltage jumps because multiple mechanical systems are turned on all at once, it’s called up a start-up spike. The solution? Gradually ramping up mechanical equipment in stages to avoid excessive charges—with no compromise on production output.

3. Compressed Air Systems
Compressed air, ubiquitous in industrial processes, is something of an energy hog. Air compressor motors require a lot of energy—up to 20 percent of total electrical use in certain industries. These systems, often rife with leakage, are prime targets for energy efficiency measures.

Not sure where to get started? Here’s another resource you can use when creating a facility management plan – a checklist of easy initiatives to reduce the energy use of your facility.

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