Sustainability: Picking the Ripe Fruit
How to make sure your company's sustainability efforts don't end up hurting the business in the long run.
BakingBusiness.com, June 7, 2011
by Dan Malovany

lime energy

At the Snack Food Association’s annual SNAXPO conference in March, Burke Ewers, senior vice-president, commercial and industrial, Lime Energy, Elk Grove Village, IL, quoted US Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who recently suggested that rather than looking at energy efficiency as the low-hanging fruit, the savings are really the fruit that is already on the ground and waiting to be picked up.

Mr. Ewers added that benchmarking is the foundation to determine how and where to invest to manage an operation most effectively. “Along with our energy project design and installation capability, one of our important services at Lime Energy is the data piece, where we can do all of the initial setup, gather and input your historical energy use and production, then track ongoing data and provide reports on energy use and cost,” he said.

Putting everything under one roof adds speed to implementation, according to Lime Energy. Often, companies may experience a delay if an energy consultant does the study, then passes the implementation back to the bakery to carry it out, noted Dave Laybourn, director of marketing and sales for Lime Energy. “We find that when they start to look for contractors to implement, they will hear about other ideas, or they will be given higher pricing than what was in the study, and all of this leads to delay,” he said. “Our analytics, design and implementation all work together so that our proposal comes with a firm price and installation schedule that a client can act on immediately and start saving within weeks after our initial conversations.”

In selecting new lighting or energy-efficient motors, bakers and snack manufacturers need to ensure that the low-hanging fruit they selected isn’t rotten, according to Allen Baiamonte, associate project manager at Burns & McDonnell, an engineering firm based in Kansas City, MO. “Be wary,” he said. “A lot of people are selling these services. You have to be careful your replacement lighting and the amount of lumens being put off. You might end up using less electricity, but you may not be getting the same effective lighting that you are requiring for your process.”

In larger operations, bakeries might want to assess equipment design and balancing of loads to ensure the facility is getting the best use of its electricity, said David Dixon, senior director, strategic accounts, Burns & McDonnell. Likewise, in warehouses and other operational areas without 24/7 high traffic, he suggested installing photocells that automatically turn off lights when an area is not in use. “If you haven’t started doing that, then you are behind the curve,” Mr. Dixon said.

Often, cheap energy and the lack of a quick payback have been reasons for not investing in such programs and why many US companies are behind their international counterparts. “South of our border, you’re seeing building designs with all-natural lighting,” Mr. Dixon said. “Europeans also have always allowed more natural light into their facilities than we have, and I hope that’s something we’re changing to. I haven’t seen a big move to it, but that’s something we need to do.”

Even with today’s relatively affordable energy, many companies may regret if they wait until it’s too late. “When I teach sustainability, I say, ‘Do your current calculations on energy costs — and do it assuming your energy will be three or four times as much as it is right now — and see if that’s going to change your thinking. Because that’s where it’s going,’” Mr. Dixon said.

Read More on the Subject:
Locating the Low-Hanging Fruit
Why lighting is important