lime energy "Sustainability" has been a buzzword for many years, but companies in the snack and baking industries recently have started to embrace the idea as a way to reduce waste, lower overhead and improve profitability. One approach to help baking and snack companies achieve these goals is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s Energy Star for Industry program, a voluntary government program that works with hundreds of businesses and organizations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through improved energy efficiency.

Walt Tunnessen is the national manager for the program, through which he leads initiatives with manufacturing sectors to identify energy management best practices and develop energy performance scoring systems. Baking & Snack caught up with him after his participation in a panel at the American Society of Baking's BakingTech 2011 in Chicago, IL, during which he described the program and why bakers and snack manufacturers might consider participating in it.

Baking & Snack: How can baking and snack companies best take advantage of the Energy Star program as they design and build new plants?

Walt Tunnessen: The EPA’s Energy Star for Industry program focuses on improving the energy performance of existing plants. However, Energy Star Energy Performance Indicators (EPIs) can be used to identify energy targets for new designs. EPIs are sector-specific energy performance benchmarking tools that enable existing plants to compare their performance with the rest of the industry. New plants should be designed to have an expected energy intensity that will be top-of-level in performance compared with existing plans. Companies and their architecture and engineering firms can use Energy Star EPIs to identify energy targets that can inform new designs and modeling exercises. An EPI has been created for cookie and cracker bakeries, and EPA plans to develop an EPI for commercial bakeries.

On the other hand, what are the primary steps for improving the energy efficiency of existing facilities?

There are many steps that can be taken, but the fundamental one is to establish an effective energy management program. Many companies lack formal energy programs or are only starting to form programs. Without people and teams in place, it is difficult to improve efficiency and sustain energy savings over time. Without effective energy teams, it’s harder to implement assessment findings and recommended projects. Energy Star provides guidance on how to establish an energy program and tools and resources to support effective energy management.

How does the Energy Star program differ from the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification?

Energy Star focuses on reducing environmental impacts associated with energy use, whereas LEED seeks to address a broader set of green issues such as waste, water, material use, energy and so on. LEED is administered by a nonprofit organization, whereas Energy Star is a federal government program, so the transaction costs for LEED are much higher than those for Energy Star. While there are a number of different forms of LEED certification, it is mostly pursued for new construction. Energy Star certification for an industrial plant is awarded to existing facilities based on its actual performance and must be earned annually.

What are the potential synergies between the two programs?

Energy efficiency is an important aspect of defining a green building. One type of LEED certification is “EB” for existing buildings. Part of the requirements for LEED EB certification is obtaining an Energy Star Energy Performance Score of 69 or higher, assuming an Energy Star benchmarking tool is available for the space type. But regardless, sites that earn LEED NC [new construction] should benchmark their facilities with Energy Star to determine if the site is actually more energy efficient than nongreen buildings.

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