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Strategic Energy Management: Making Energy Efficiency Business as Usual

Greg Baker, Engineering Manager -

At most facilities, everyone consumes energy but only a few are accountable for the costs incurred. Strategic Energy Management (SEM), sometimes called Continuous Energy Improvement (CEI), is a new approach to saving energy that assures energy efficiency and conservation become an integral part of the business culture, and that controlling energy costs is important to everyone.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) recognizes the value of the SEM approach. VEIC is pleased to be partnering with Cascade Energy to help pilot a new SEM program for NYSERDA with participating industrial energy customers in New York State.

SEM is a continuous improvement approach to reducing energy intensity over time, and is characterized by demonstrated executive-level company commitment; the presence of an energy management plan and available resources to implement the plan; and continuous measurement, tracking, and reporting.

The potential energy savings that can result from engaging industrial plant staff in energy management is enormous. Consider that nearly three-quarters of the electric energy efficiency potential in New York State resides in the business and industry sector. Energy equals money, and this sector spends approximately $20 billion a year on energy. Clearly, the financial savings that can result from increased energy efficiency are substantial. Add to that the fact that while SEM focuses on optimizing energy use, it tends to drive overall operation efficiency as well. This also helps large industrial employers reduce non-energy costs. All this value flows right to the bottom lines of companies that take the SEM approach and can translate into meaningful economic benefits to New York.

VEIC’s expertise in the SEM field comes from years of experience as the operator of Efficiency Vermont, the statewide energy efficiency utility. Through this work we’ve engaged with many large commercial and industrial operations to help create energy management programs that engage employees and deliver continuous energy improvement, including:

  • Aircraft parts manufacturers
  • Battery manufacturers
  • Dairy manufacturers
  • Food manufacturers
  • Hospitals
  • Paper mills
  • Plastic injection molding facilities
  • Ski areas

While the products and services these businesses provide are diverse, the effectiveness of the SEM model proves to be universal.

Cohort Approach

In the first two years of the effort, VEIC and Cascade Energy will work with two cohorts of companies; providing the technical support, as well as gathering and analyzing participants’ energy and production data to identify where operations are working efficiently, and where there is opportunity for improvement. Data gathering and analysis will include the application of custom analytics tools developed by VEIC.

VEIC and Cascade Energy also will conduct “energy treasure hunts” at customer sites to look for easy-to-achieve savings opportunities and to engage larger groups of employees in the process. This approach to SEM recognizes that industrial facilities need to achieve quick wins and experience the value of SEM immediately. Early success helps create commitment within a company and builds momentum for engaging in energy and process improvements in a lasting way.

Participants in the cohort will be provided with multiple training workshops, monthly conference calls for technical support and coaching, as well as onsite training at each of the participating facilities. Focusing on learning by doing and creating a program that engages multiple employees at a facility allows SEM to become business-as-usual and remain in place long after a pilot ends and individuals change jobs.

From Pilot to Best Practice

An important purpose of the SEM pilot is to broaden and deepen experience with SEM among diverse industries and customers in New York. That experience can be leveraged to increase market demand for SEM throughout the state.  That’s why the final phase of the project focuses on market dissemination, geared toward building awareness, interest, and ultimately market demand for SEM among industrial customers in New York. With examples and stories of success from the two cohorts, VEIC will share lessons learned and best practices throughout the state, helping to encourage and equip additional facilities to implement their own programs.

Someday, we hope to see SEM be just part of the normal course of business in New York and beyond.

Through VEIC’s consulting services, we can share our expertise with companies who would like to take their operations to the next level. Saving energy invariably means saving money and optimizing operations. SEM is good for the planet, for employees, and for the bottom line. Email NYSERDASEM@veic.org for more information.


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