Strategic Energy Management: Making Energy Efficiency Business as Usual

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 model which assures that 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. Vermont Energy Efficiency Corporation is 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(1). Energy equals money, and this sector spends approximately $20 billion a year on energy (2). 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 of this value flows right to the bottom lines of companies that take the SEM approach, and can deliver meaningful economic benefits to New York.

VEIC’s expertise in the SEM field comes from years of experience as the operator Efficiency Vermont, the statewide energy efficiency utility. Cascade began offering SEM-type services to industrial customers in 2004. Based on what we learned from those initial corporate engagements, in 2009 Cascade designed and rolled out a multi-pronged SEM offering for Bonneville Power Administration’s (BPA) new Energy Smart Industrial program.  Since then, Cascade has implemented SEM in nearly a dozen DSM programs. In part, based on our commitment to continuous improvement, in 2014 Energy Trust of Oregon selected Cascade to redesign their SEM offering and to create the curriculum, materials, and tools to support a new program. The initial scope of work included running Energy Trust’s first-year Core SEM offering, which was later expanded to include the ongoing offering for Continuous SEM.  As two of the largest and longest-running SEM programs in North America, BPA and Energy Trust have each provided SEM to more than 100 industrial sites.

Cohort Approach

In the first two years of the effort, VEIC and Cascade Energy will work with two different 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 room for improvement. Data gathering and analysis will include the application of custom analytics tools VEIC has developed.

VEIC and Cascade Energy will also conduct “energy treasure hunts” at customer sites looking for easy-to-achieve savings opportunities and engaging 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. By focusing on learning by doing and by creating a program that engages multiple employees at a facility, SEM can become business-as-usual and remain in place long after a pilot ends and as individuals change jobs.

From Pilot to Best Practice

An important purpose of the SEM pilot is to broaden and deepen experience with SEM by a diversity of industries and customers in New York. That experience can then 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 to build awareness, interest, and ultimately market demand for SEM among industrial customers in New York. VEIC will build on the success stories created within the two cohorts by sharing lessons learned and best practices throughout the state, helping to encourage and equip additional facilities to implement their own SEM programs. VEIC will also produce a guide, case studies, and multiple education tools to make key strategies and learnings available to the entire industrial sector.

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