If you manage a plant, find out best practices for energy, water and waste reduction from this DOE report

by Brianna Crandall — October 23, 2020 — The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) recently announced that its Better Buildings, Better Plants partners have cumulatively saved more than $8 billion in energy costs and 1.7 quadrillion British thermal units (BTUs). The partners share best practices for energy, water and waste reduction on the DOE website.

More than 235 organizations now partner with DOE through Better Plants. This year, DOE welcomed 20 new partners to the program and challenge, representing 3,200 facilities and roughly 12% of the U.S. manufacturing energy footprint. These partners come from all 50 states; Washington, DC; and Puerto Rico, and include Fortune 100 companies, family-owned small businesses, and water treatment organizations.

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency Alex Fitzsimmons stated:

Better Plants Partners exemplify the innovative spirit of American manufacturing. These partners are developing, implementing, and sharing innovative, energy-efficient practices that help their organizations save energy and money, which in turn helps the U.S. economy stay competitive.

Through the Better Buildings, Better Plants program, DOE works with partners who have set ambitious energy, water and/or waste reduction goals. As of 2020, partners have successfully met 67 energy and water goals. DOE supports these partners by providing technical expertise, managing peer-exchange opportunities, highlighting successful solutions, and expanding access to innovation.

In addition to setting energy-efficiency goals, Better Plants Challenge partners also share their solutions and best practices.  There are now 49 Better Plants Challenge partners sharing a combined 83 showcase projects, implementation models, and “solutions-at-a-glance” on the Better Buildings Solution Center.

Highlights from the 2020 Better Plants Annual Progress Update include:

  • Five partners (Alexandria Renew Enterprises, Lineage Logistics, Lockheed Martin, McWane, Inc., and Owens Corning) that set ambitious energy-intensity reduction goals, and committed to publicly share energy performance data and solutions;
  • One existing Better Plants Challenge partner, NEW Water, that achieved its energy intensity reduction goal for 2020;
  • Three Better Plants Program partners (AT&T, JBT Corporation, and Narragansett Bay Commission) that achieved their energy-intensity reduction goals for 2020;
  • Better Practice and Better Project presented to 13 partners to recognize their leadership in adopting energy-efficiency solutions;
  • Almost 2,000 participants that attended training webinars through an Online Learning Series and several industrial-focused sessions during the 2020 Better Buildings, Better Plants Virtual Summit;
  • 20 Better Plants partners that joined the DOE Waste Reduction Pilot to help reduce waste, improve energy performance, and reduce operating costs; and
  • 8 Better Plants partner employees who won DOE’s Individuals Taking Energy Action in Manufacturing (ITEAM) Prize, which recognizes individuals who have implemented creative, specific, and innovative ideas and practices that led to measurable energy savings at their manufacturing facilities.

Best practices

A few highlights of the plants’ specific best practices include:

  • Adopting RCI (Rapid continuous improvement) methods for facility optimization;
  • A corporate grant matching program for financing energy efficiency projects;
  • Undertaking HVAC, lighting and compressor upgrades and a solar expansion;
  • Implementing a Resource Recovery and Electrical Energy (R2E2) project, which replaced the existing solids handling facility and installed two anaerobic digesters, allowing the partner to capture methane gas and produce electricity; and
  • Repurposing off gases to produce electricity and steam, enabling the facility to generate 30% of its electricity needs on-site.

The report identifies five common practices of all the goal achievers:

  1. Engage management for support and funding
  2. Use data-driven approaches to identify energy savings
  3. Engage colleagues from other departments
  4. Communicate energy-saving successes
  5. Leverage available DOE guidance

The update also lists the 15 new partners that recently joined the Better Plants Program:

  • Archer Daniels Midland
  • Boardman Foods
  • City of Forty Wayne – City Utilities
  • East Penn Manufacturing Co.
  • Gibraltar Industries
  • Miami-Dade Water & Sewer Department
  • ND Paper, Inc.
  • Occidental Chemical Corporation
  • Sears Seating
  • Silgan Closures
  • Silgan Containers
  • Silgan Plastic Food Containers
  • Southwest Cheese
  • Valmont Industries
  • Vitro Architectural Glass

In addition, the report highlights safe practices manufacturing plants are taking to protect workers and others during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as initiatives plants have undertaken to support healthcare workers and their communities during this time.

Read the full 2020 Better Plants Annual Progress Update to learn more about partner successes and how the Better Plants Program boosts competitiveness through improvements in energy efficiency.

Through the Better Buildings Initiative, DOE partners with public and private sector organizations to make commercial, public, industrial, and residential buildings more efficient, thereby saving energy and money while creating thousands of jobs. To date, more than 950 Better Buildings Partners have shared their innovative approaches and strategies for adopting energy efficient technologies. Discover more than 2,800 of these solutions in the Better Buildings Solutions Center.