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Follow the leader? We could do better

energy efficiency best practicesSure, we all like to be unique, but following the leader makes sense with energy efficiency.  We’ve all read the case studies about the benefits the leaders are achieving.  Are you keeping up with best practices?

Canadian organizations have been working hard on energy efficiency for nearly three decades and, in 2011, the nation’s industrial sector saved $5.1 billion in energy costs through energy efficiency investments made since 1990.  Even so, the International Energy Agency estimated that some 70 per cent of the potential energy savings Canada’s industrial sector could achieve remained untapped.  That’s because energy savings – and resulting boost to competitiveness – accrued mainly to the nation’s top energy-efficiency performers.  Doesn’t it make sense to follow them?

Efficiency with a one-two punch

Such emulation might be easier than you think.  A study conducted by the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME) trade group benchmarked technical and management best practices to see how well industrial and manufacturing organizations were doing on their energy management initiatives.

The study is six years old, but for the past four of those six years, IESO data showed electricity consumption in Ontario stayed relatively flat. In 2015, it began to decrease slightly, so there’s still plenty of efficiency savings to achieve by deploying the best practices in the CME study

The CME study separated best practices into two categories.  One covers technical best practices, which CME defines as “measures that reduce energy use per unit of production.”  These include things like adding high-efficiency equipment.

The other type of best practice relates to energy-related management, which reflects the human factor in energy efficiency.  As the CME report states, a high level of commitment, awareness and support of energy efficiency illustrate management best practices.

What kind of technical best practices wound up on the CME list?  Well, it’s a long list. Here are just a few items:

  • Using an energy management system
  • Optimized distribution of cooling
  • Right-sized motors
  • Ventilation heat recovery
  • Water-heater right-sizing
  • Smart defrost controls
  • Variable frequency drives on compressor systems
  • Automated temperature and lighting controls
  • Instant steam generation
  • Impeller trimming on fans
  • Optimized process control
  • Proactive equipment maintenance

Note that using energy management systems like the Bruce Power Saver was also one of the best practices mentioned.  Such systems show you historical information allowing you to baseline where you are now with energy consumption, and help identify things to target for improvement and how much benefit you achieve.

Having the information and analysis provided by a tool like the Bruce Power Saver is essential to implementing management best practices.  Management best practices included things like:

  • Having formal policies and plans in place
  • Allocating energy management responsibilities to specific employees, departments or groups
  • Implementing formal project management for efficiency measures
  • Having formal reporting and communication programs in place to track, share and encourage efficiency
  • Training personnel
  • Financing projects and tracking return on investment
  • Monitoring energy-related data, which also can be done with the Bruce Power Saver

As might be expected, larger firms were more likely to implement both management and technical best practices.  Among the plants that implemented management best practices, three quarters of them were classified as larger enterprises, and they’re the ones with the greater degree of efficiency measures in place.  This means the low-hanging energy-efficiency fruit is still within reach for smaller organizations.

Management leads

The researchers found that implementation of technical best practices certainly could have been better.  Three-quarters of firms responding had implemented no more than 42 percent of the best practices identified.  Firms did a little better on the people part of this, and 75 percent had implemented as much as 48 percent of the recommended management steps.

Organizations with stronger management practices also implemented more of the technical energy savers.  Those plants that had implemented 75 per cent of the management best practices landed in the top quartile of technical best-practices implementers, too.  Meanwhile, 55 per cent of the firms had implemented only about half of the management best practices, and their implementation of technical improvements hovered around 25 per cent.

Just as the people in management lead a firm, the principles of management can compel more energy efficiency action.  Who knows?  Maybe that competitor of yours with the low production costs can attribute some of those loonies to efficiency initiatives.  If that’s not a great reason to follow the leader, what is?

Looking for ways to get started implementing management or technical best practices? Check out our quick guide to finding real business savings in your electricity data.