With energy-efficiency a hot topic over the last decade among private businesses and government agencies, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has taken the initiative to honor leadership and accomplishment in the energy efficiency field with its annual ACEEE Champions of Energy Efficiency awards.
Winners are selected on the basis of demonstrated excellence in program implementation, research and development, energy policy, or private sector initiatives. Here’s a brief look at this year’s four winners.
Rick Marsh is the founder of the Industrial Energy Efficiency Network, a “coalition of one,” he joked, that seeks to get local businesses interested and engaged in energy efficiency by collaborating and brainstorming ideas. Using funding from the U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) and the Energy Foundation, Marsh has organized one-day seminars on-site at manufacturing plants throughout the Southeast.
“I saw what was missing in the marketplace, and that’s more localized communication between companies who were near each other but had never coordinated energy policies,” he said. “Work had been done at a national level, but not really at a local level.”
Starting from the first event at Shaw Industries in Dalton, Ga., Marsh has been successful in assembling 25 to 30 energy thinkers from companies in the same area and convincing them to report on what each has been doing. ”I would’ve thought that, given that some of these companies are competitors, they would’ve been reluctant to share and it might be confrontational,” he said. “But it’s actually been the opposite of that.”
Marsh said at most of the meetings he’s held, “We give the participants the space to talk, but we also do a lot of leading, because most of these guys are engineers and not used to doing these kinds of presentations.”
Most companies that have participated are on the “energy journey already,” they just need a little further direction, he said.
Marsh pointed to Eastman Chemical, in Kingsport, Tenn., as a success story coming out of the Industrial Energy Efficiency Network, saying they’ve gone from having just a few energy projects to incorporating energy efficiency into their corporate identity.
“This is just one component to energy efficiency,” he said. “The answer isn’t a silver bullet, it’s a silver buckshot.”
When Jennifer Eskil of Bonneville Power Association (BPA), a federal nonprofit power agency based in the Pacific Northwest, was asked in 2006 to return to the industrial sector, it was with a specific goal in mind: To implement a program geared toward a target set by the regional planning council for saving kilowatt hours.
BPA wasn’t meeting those goals for the previous several years, and Eskil needed to turn things around.
“We were supposed to save 10 MW of industrial electrical energy (per year), and we were falling short,” she said.
By working with a third-party company, Oregon-based Cascade Energy, Eskil and her team designed the Energy Smart Industrial Program, a comprehensive effort with various options that allow industries to pick which energy-saving components will work for them.
The program includes funding for engineers and consulting firms to do audits and walk-throughs, as well as three components that Eskil described as “cutting-edge.”
First, there are energy project managers, provided by BPA, who work with companies in such industries as pulp and paper, food processing and aerospace and design and assist in implementing energy projects with those that are required to save 1 million kWh in a year.
Second is the High Performance Energy Management section of the program, in which companies perform behavioral or operational maintenance at their plant, looking at how they operate equipment and how to make the employees running it more energy efficient.
The third component is called “Track and Tune,” in which “you take a piece of equipment like an air compressor, track how it normally works, and then try to tune it work more efficiently,” Eskil said.
The program has saved Northwest industries enough energy over the past four years to power nearly 30,000 homes for a year, ACEEE said.
As the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Leader at Dow Chemical for the past 35 years, Joe Almaguer has seen a drastic change in how people at the company see energy efficiency.
“When we started talking about these things years ago, there wasn’t really a commitment to take it seriously from some people,” he said. “But you can see over the years that as the issue of energy efficiency became a bigger deal in the business world, people really began to see why it was so important.”
Almaguer has been honored by ACEEE for “a career of implementing industrial energy efficiency at Dow Chemical, and providing leadership on industrial energy efficiency policies globally.”
Almaguer was recognized specifically for his long-standing work with the ACEEE, contributing ideas and collaborating on policy. One of his roles was to serve on a technical advisory group that contributed to the development of the ISO15001 standards on efficiency.
While at Dow he has instituted a management system designed to monitor and radically decrease the amount of energy used.
“I think the highlight of my career at Dow is that we developed a management system that basically said, ‘Here is how we’re going to improve the way in which we utilize energy,’ what can we do as a company, and publicly report on our progress on how we were utilizing energy more efficiently,” he said.
Much like Almaguer, Paul Scheihing of the Advanced Manufacturing Office has spent a bulk of his career trying to get companies to focus on energy efficiency, and he too has been an innovator in the field. He has worked at the DOE for 25 years, and in the early 1990s was instrumental in creating a program called the “Motor Challenge,” a part of the Clinton administration’s climate change action plan that was focused on the efficiency of motor systems.
“One-third of the U.S.’s energy demand is in making products, so at that time with the manufacturing sector, we tried to make the energy that manufacturers use more efficient,” he said. “That led to other energy systems, like compressed air, getting more efficient, and we followed a similar pattern of developing tools and helping existing tools become more energy efficient.”
Scheihing was also instrumental in helping create the “Save Energy Now” program in response to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans; with energy prices going way up at the time, the DOE was concerned that the U.S. manufacturing sector would have to pay escalating national gas costs. The program offered free energy assessments to all U.S. manufacturers, to help encourage reduced consumption.
Scheihing was also a leader in the DOE’s “Better Plants” program, through which companies pledge to decrease their energy intensity by 25 percent over 10 years.