The Better Plants Use Less Power
ISE Magazine – Volume: 49, Number: 07
By Eli Levine

The industrial sector accounts for one-third of all energy consumption in the United States, more than any other, and across the country, industry spends more than $200 billion annually to power and operate plants and factories. Substantial energy-saving opportunities abound, which can lead to manufacturers saving money and becoming more competitive globally. Manufacturing is a key component of the U.S. economy. A voluntary program, Better Plants is an opportunity for companies that are looking to make broad and lasting improvements to their facility energy performance. Through the program, they can measure their progress as they achieve real savings, contribute to the steady economic growth of the sector and learn best practices from leaders in industry.

Better Plants partners altogether have saved more than $3 billion in cumulative energy costs and are making significant progress in meeting their ambitious goals with savings of 3 percent annually. This progress is spurring significant investments in energy efficiency technologies and processes, and partners are showcasing what works, with over 200 solutions publicly available in the Better Buildings Solution Center. Through Better Plants, the very technological and process oriented solutions that helped program participants save billions of dollars in energy reductions are recognized and shared throughout the market.

The impact of better plants
The Better Plants program has five key opportunities for partners:

  • Setting and meeting energy savings goals: The Department of Energy (DOE) helps partners meet energy savings goals. Typically, partners commit to reduce energy use intensity by at least 25 percent within 10 years across their U.S. operations, and they assist with collecting and reporting data in pursuit of that goal.
  • In-plant training, equipment loans and technical assistance: Provides partners with a variety of technical assistance and resources (in plants and treasure hunt exchanges) to help them identify savings opportunities and improve internal expertise.
  • Connecting with complementary DOE programs: Enables access to other valuable DOE technical assistance programs that can expand and enhance partners’ energy efficiency efforts.
  • A platform for innovation and sharing of proven practices: Facilitates networking and the sharing of energy efficiency best practices between its many partners and within U.S. industry as a whole.
  • Beyond energy – water, supply chain and more: Explores opportunities to save partners energy through new means, such as water use reduction and supply chain energy efficiency.

Setting and meeting energy savings goals
Helping partners set and meet energy savings goals is at the heart of Better Plants, and technical account managers are at the heart of that effort. Each partner is assigned a technical account manager, who helps partners establish energy baselines, develop energy management plans, identify energy-saving and energy-recovery opportunities and track energy performance metrics.

In-plant training, equipment loans and technical assistance
Better Plants provides partners with a variety of resources to help improve internal expertise and achieve energy savings goals. This includes a diagnostic equipment loan program, which enables partners to borrow a wide selection of instruments to measure their energy consumption accurately and reliably, and also continually develops new in-plant training to meet partners’ energy efficiency interests and needs.

Connecting with complementary programs
Better Plants partners get access to other valuable DOE technical assistance programs that can expand and enhance their energy efficiency efforts. This includes:

  • Superior Energy Performance, which provides guidance, tools and protocols to quantify and verify energy savings from the ISO 50001 standard
  • Better Buildings Accelerators, which are targeted, short term efforts designed to demonstrate specific innovative policies and approaches that will accelerate investment in energy efficiency
  • The Industrial Assessment Centers, which are university- based teams around the country that provide no-cost energy assessments for small and medium-sized manufacturers (Better Plants partners receive priority access).
  • The Combined Heat and Power Deployment Program, which provides combined heat and power deployment resources and direct project-specific technical assistance to transform the U.S. market for combined heat and power, waste heat to power, microgrids and district energy through the United States

A platform for innovation and sharing of proven practices
The successes Better Plants partners achieve are shared on the Better Buildings Solution Center website, which helps organizations easily find proven energy and water efficiency approaches by topic, building type, sector, technology and location. These solutions demonstrate how advanced technologies, organizational strategies and partnerships with financiers and utilities are moving energy efficiency forward across key market sectors.

Beyond energy – water, supply chain and more
Better Plants works hard to find new ways to help partners address emerging efficiency issues, sometimes even going beyond energy, for example the Water Savings Initiative. Better Plants partners also can engage with the program to improve energy efficiency throughout their supply chains, which can lead to cost savings and improved business resiliency, among many benefits. In addition, several suppliers are implementing recommended projects, including fixing compressed air leaks, optimizing motor systems and installing new light fixtures

Looking ahead
In the coming year, Better Plants will continue to recognize partners for their energy and water achievements. Partners will be featured for innovative energy efficiency achievements and promoting Better Plants participation in facilities. Better Plants partners are discovering that industrial energy efficiency measures pay off – often with high returns at relatively low risk. By following through on pledges to improve energy intensity, partners are cutting energy waste, creating jobs and improving the competitiveness of the entire U.S. manufacturing sector. Better Plants is a program for manufacturers and water utilities interested in saving energy.