Guest column: Reducing energy waste at federal industrial sites

Robb Dussault, market segment manager, energy management solutions, at Schneider Electric, and retired Col. Douglas P. Wise are FedScoop contributors.

2014_05_Screen-Shot-2014-05-07-at-10.15.50-AM Douglas P. Wise

2014_05_Screen-Shot-2014-05-07-at-10.16.21-AM Robb Dussault

Since the energy crisis of the 1970s, the U.S. government has recognized the need to curtail the energy costs of federal agencies. What’s more, President Obama recently addressed the federal government as the largest energy consumer in the country, spending $7 billion yearly for energy to power facilities that span 3.35 billion square feet, and called on federal leadership to improve energy efficiency.

To help meet this call to action, federal agencies must focus on one of the biggest energy hogs in their facilities portfolio: industrial facilities for production or manufacturing.

The energy intensity of industrial facilities can be as much as 100 times that of the average commercial building, which also means these facilities represent significant potential for positive energy savings and accompanying greenhouse gas emissions reductions. However, the potential benefits do not just come from lighting or HVAC systems upgrades, but rather production equipment and processes that consume 80 percent of the energy used in these facilities.

Strategies to address energy waste and achieve energy efficiency at industrial sites involve three fundamentals:


1. Using tailored methods of measuring, monitoring and reporting energy use

2. Leveraging data as actionable intelligence to make decisions and predict outcomes

3. Applying innovative approaches to funding projects

Process energy in action: Defense Department 

The U.S. Navy manages shipyards, dry docks and intermediate maintenance, armament, ordnance and vehicle repair facilities. Through assessment and analysis, the Navy observed the following:


• 50 percent of overall energy consumption could be traced to its maintenance facilities.
• Metal fabrication, avionics and painting/stripping facilities were also identified as candidates for process energy reduction.

The U.S. Army oversees 23 industrial installations that include 14 plants and two arsenals, which require energy-intensive processes to operate. Examples include metal plating and nitrocellulose production and rubber product processing. The Army has determined the following:

• 60 percent of these facilities and infrastructure are WWII era.
• Though well-maintained, much of the equipment is past its useful life; upgrades would deliver significant energy and water savings.

The U.S. Air Force’s industrial platform includes three Air Logistics Complexes for maintenance repair and upgrades. The Air Force found the following:

• The ALCs generate a $90 million utility expense each year.
• 60 to 80 percent of that expense is process energy, 50 percent of which ties directly to ALC industrial energy use.


A single U.S. Air Force Air Logistics Complex is saving $2.7 million in energy costs per year and 330,000 gallons of water per day through an energy efficiency project.

Overcoming barriers

Solutions exist today for reducing industrial energy waste. The surprise is that the barriers to launching efficiency programs are cultural and financial, rather than technical. Banishing the barriers depends on a “top-down” approach backed by effective cultural change management and nontraditional financial and operational approaches.

Barrier strategy

  • Organizational structures often rob energy managers of authority to make efficiency improvements. High-level leaders can create visible inertia by turning energy objectives into actionable goals.
  • Process energy return on investment expectations don’t align with the usual 24-month capital equipment payback. Measurement and analysis can link energy efficiency to gains in production efficiency, highlighting short- and long-term ROI.
  • Staff may view energy projects as distractions detrimental to satisfying production priorities.
  • Energy managers can establish and leverage meaningful metrics tied to dollar cost per unit of output.
  • Stakeholders lack visibility into process energy use.
  • Installing meters and conducting industrial audits can drive behavioral change and generate savings.
  • Federal budget constraints can make launching energy initiatives difficult.
  • Controllers can institute a financial line item for energy waste; and leveraging private sector financing, such as an energy savings performance contract, can ease the pressure of capital investments.
  • Energy data is compiled, but not turned into action.
  • Energy managers can leverage automated tools to turn data into actionable intelligence by tying energy forecast models to production and establishing programs for monitoring and analysis to detect anomalies, predict demand and optimize operations.

Process efficiency is an untapped savings resource that can aid in meeting the production, financial and energy goals of federal departments and agencies. By increasing energy efficiency in industrial facilities, the federal government will not only do its part to combat energy waste, but it will create jobs and support the economy at a time this country needs it most.

Learn how to reduce industrial energy waste. Download the white paper “Strategies for Reducing Industrial Process Energy Waste in Federal Facilities” here.

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