News > SEM Programs are Guiding Behavioral Changes that Produce Sustained Energy Savings

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Energy Efficiency

SEM Programs are Guiding Behavioral Changes that Produce Sustained Energy Savings

March 24, 2023

Cascade Energy’s experienced and dedicated Strategic Energy Management (SEM) team has been helping companies implement no cost and low cost behavioral and operational changes to reduce energy waste, reduce carbon emissions, and improve profitability. 


A Holistic Approach

SEM is a holistic approach to managing energy use in commercial and industrial facilities. It aims to optimize energy use by identifying opportunities for behavioral and operational changes that reduce energy consumption, increase efficiency, and cut costs. Behavioral changes may include employee engagement and training programs to raise awareness of energy conservation practices, encouraging participation in energy-saving initiatives.  Operational changes include process or control set point modifications with various systems including lighting, HVAC, boilers, refrigeration and other process equipment.  

 SEM programs typically involve a comprehensive energy audit to identify areas of inefficiency and opportunities for improvement. The program then develops an action plan that prioritizes projects and initiatives based on their potential impact on energy consumption and cost savings. 


Changes that Make the Difference

One example of how SEM can be successful highlights a large commercial bakery in California. The bakery had already installed a solar array that generated 25% of its energy before joining the SEM program. In SEM, the bakery set a goal of reducing 3% of their annual electricity and 2% of their annual natural gas usage. Over four years, the bakery implemented 44 energy savings projects, resulting in a reduction of 10% in annual electric usage, a reduction of over $120,000 in annual energy cost, and a reduction of 290 tons/year in scope 1 & 2 CO2 emissions  

The changes implemented through SEM included turning off equipment when not in use (example of a behavioral measure), optimizing variable frequency drives, adjusting compressor discharge pressure settings, and implementing setpoint controls (example of an operational measure) on machinery. SEM also helped the bakery secure a grant from the California Food Production Investment Program to replace their existing gas boiler with a more efficient modern boiler. Overall, this real life example shows that SEM can be successful in achieving energy efficiency and cost savings through behavioral and operational changes. 


 Tangible Results

Studies have shown that SEM programs can be highly effective in achieving significant energy savings and cost reductions. A study conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that SEM programs in 100 industrial facilities across the United States resulted in an average energy savings of 10%, with some facilities achieving savings of up to 30%. Another study by the Institute for Industrial Productivity found that SEM programs in manufacturing facilities can result in energy savings of up to 15% and payback periods of less than two years. 

In addition to cost savings and environmental benefits, SEM programs can also improve overall operational performance. Furthermore, companies increase the competitiveness of facilities in their respective industries.  

In conclusion, when implemented by knowledgeable and trained professionals, SEM is an effective approach to managing energy use in commercial and industrial facilities. By identifying and implementing behavioral and operational changes, facilities can achieve significant energy savings and cost reductions, improve operational performance, and enhance their competitiveness.  



Shehabi, A., Smith, S., Sartor, D., Brown, R., Herrlin, M., Koomey, J., & Masanet, E. (2016). U.S. industrial and commercial energy management practices and trends. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. 

Institute for Industrial Productivity. (2014). Strategic Energy Management: A Guide to Developing a Successful Program. 

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