Anne Giesecke: Star Power

by Anne Giesecke
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Energy costs are rising because of global competition for limited fossil fuels. Since 2006, more than 3,000 companies and organizations have joined the Energy Star partnership to use energy more efficiently and, consequently, to control or cut energy costs. Energy Star is a program of the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Energy. It’s more than a program for a washer, furnace or kitchen appliance. It’s an effective way for industries to save money and help the environment.

The Energy Star program helps structure energy management for bakers and snack food manufacturers. In fact, many of the energy elements apply to the larger companies in the baking and snack industries. For proprietary reasons, the company profile is kept confidential, but the program allows for a lot of knowledge sharing among its participants.

Energy audits are useful. Audits identify possible energy-saving projects and help to establish a baseline from which to measure improvement. The audit team should represent varied expertise, including process engineers, maintenance experts, systems managers and specialists such as a compressed air systems expert. Some utilities, universities and government agencies conduct energy audits at little or no cost through the program.

The tools provided by Energy Star are not complicated and can help companies benchmark and track their energy performance. Additionally, these tools will allow many small and medium-size companies avoid expensive energy consultant costs. Forms have been developed, and guidance on how to use them is clear. The tools offer tested options, so “wheels” need not be reinvented. For instance, one of the tools is a Facility Energy Management Assessment Matrix. The matrix is a fill-in-the-blank spreadsheet with examples and can be tailored to the particular food company.

The Energy Star Cookie and Cracker Baking Plant Energy Performance Indicator (EPI) enables bakeries to compare their energy performance to similar bakeries operating in the US. The Cookie and Cracker Baking EPI is based on industry data reported to the US Census Bureau. The tools were tested and validated by companies operating cookie and cracker bakeries and in partnership with the Biscuit and Cracker Manufacturers Association.

Usually, the funding of company projects is based on initial cost rather than lifecycle cost. By focusing on internal rates of return (IRR), the energy manager can demonstrate that energy projects such as a white roof or building air flow may be better investment priorities than capital allocated only for process improvements. Building and process improvements are addressed by the Energy Star’s Financial Value Calculator, which can help with determining IRR.

In addition to better energy management, being part of the Energy Star program will build credibility for a company’s efforts with customers and consumers. Increasing pressure for outside audits is a cost that may be stalled. The Energy Star program also offers recognition to companies that show improvement.

The Energy Star Partnership Agreement is short, and a company may withdraw at anytime without consequence. The agreement states that the partner will:

  • Measure and track the energy performance of the organization’s facilities where possible by using tools such as those offered through Energy Star
  • Develop and implement a plan consistent with the Energy Star Energy Management Guidelines to achieve energy savings
  • Help spread the word about the importance of energy efficiency to company staff and community
  • Support the Energy Star Challenge to improve the energy efficiency of America’s commercial and industrial buildings by 10% or more.

In return, the Energy Star program will:

  • Provide resources and tools to support the partner’s commitment to measure, track and improve energy performance
  • Recognize the organization as a partner and Energy Star Challenge supporter on the Energy Star website.

Four Steps to develop an energy strategy

  • Evaluate the energy needs of the company and the reliability of the energy supply.
  • Determine the scale of program implementation, for example, all the facilities, a bakery or a division within a bakery. Identify the technical and financial resources needed and where these needs fit with other business priorities. Also, determine where energy management methods can be added to programs and efforts that are already in place.
  • Pinpoint energy-efficiency opportunities, energy supply manage­ment and work practices.
  • Create a plan that can be implemented with top management support. The plan should have clear goals, measurable objectives and the resources necessary for success. The subsequent review and feedback should include recognition of progress made.

Read about how to take the Energy Star Challenge 

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