Energy Audits Pinpoint Ways to Save

Talk about ROI! Make a no-cost energy audit your plant’s next investment.

By Mike Pehanich, Plant Operations Editor

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The U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Industrial Technologies Program (ITP) (www.eere.energy.gov) invests in “leapfrog technologies that will provide dramatic energy and environmental benefits,” according to promotional material. ITP provides cost-shared funding for research and development projects. Collaborative partnerships take aim at industry-specified targets that will help realize national goals for energy and the environment.

The Energy Dept.’s State Energy Program (SEP) also provides grants to states and directs funding to state energy offices from technology programs in DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. SEP allows states to use federal grants to pursue energy priorities. It also funds programs to deploy emerging renewable energy projects and those that advance other energy efficiencies.

The DOE’s Office of Industrial Technologies offers Toolbook – A Complete Financing Guide, with updated information on financing available for technologies that optimize energy efficiency and reduce pollution.

State offices are good places to seek energy audits and explore methods of funding energy-saving technologies and other measures. State projects may involve several funding sources including DOE and private industry.

California strikes gold

Energy shortages in the Golden State have been national news. But efforts to promote energy-saving measures merit equal attention.

The California Energy Commission (www.energy.ca.gov) claims roughly one-third the electricity used in California goes to industry, agriculture and water/wastewater treatment. The state actively promotes development of new sources of energy and wise energy usage. Its Energy in Agriculture program assists food processors, food and fiber producers and irrigation districts in adopting energy efficient technologies and practices that reduce energy consumption and adverse environmental impact.

AUDIT YOUR ENERGY BILLS

Ever get that restaurant-type feeling that you’re being overcharged when you read your energy bill? What -- you don’t read it at all?

You’re not alone. Utility bills are largely overlooked and almost always assumed to be accurate. Yet estimates of incorrectly calculated energy bills range as high as 75 percent, according to Jim Galbo, principal of Independent Utility Consultants in Amherst, N.Y. These errors cost many manufacturers tens of thousands of dollars or more each year.

A utility bill auditing company can identify and correct errors, can recover overpayment, and even collect interest on the overcharges.

“A utility bill auditing company will conduct a four to six year review of electric, natural gas, propane gas, water, waste water and sewage bills looking for errors,” says Galbo. “These errors may include rate classifications, meter multipliers, meter malfunctions, misread meters, general miscalculations, power factors, erroneous tariff interpretations and transport fee charges, among others.”

Analyzing four to six years of energy charges is a time-consuming process, Galbo emphasizes. For a complete history evaluation and analysis of all utility bills, the auditor may receive up to 50 percent of the recovered amounts in payment.

But food processors rank high among industries in energy usage, and the amounts recovered can be substantial. Furthermore, the processor retains all of the savings from accurate future billings resulting from the audit. Galbo warns against signing agreements with bill auditors who demand ongoing payment for the savings.

Contact Jim Galbo at Independent Utility Consultants: (877) 482-7283.

Food processors are encouraged to refine their processes with energy-efficient technologies and practices, including peak load reduction -- i.e., altering shifts to reduce energy consumption during periods of heaviest usage.

The California Energy Commission offers a series of handbooks on energy efficiency, including How to Hire an Energy Auditor to Identify Energy Efficiency Projects; Energy Accounting: A Key Tool in Managing Energy Costs; How to Finance Public Sector Energy Efficiency Projects; and How to Hire an Energy Services Company.

Pacific Gas & Electric (www.pge.com), California’s largest energy provider, actively assists its customers in energy management.

“We offer integrated audits, auditing operations and making recommendations,” says Phil Pennino, account representative to 30 of the largest accounts served by PG&E. “The recommendations might be introducing adjustable speed drives, microsensors or changing the flow process for high-efficiency chillers. We also encourage our processor customers to take advantage of rebates that help offset some of the capital costs of implementing energy-efficient technologies.” (See sidebar, “Grimmway Farms saves more than $300,000 annually,” below.)

PG&E assigns representatives to large processing firms like Kraft, Del Monte, and Nestle USA. The utility offers Standard Performance Contracts (SPC) as an incentive to implement energy-saving systems. It also counsels manufacturers in load management.

All of California’s investor-owned utilities participate in the SPC Program.

“We try to get companies to take the load off our energy systems during the peak hours of noon to 6 p.m.,” says Pennino. “We like them to understand the benefit of reducing usage as much as they can during these times. Some companies look at our cost/benefit analyses and adjust their production and energy usage where they can to capitalize on the incentives.”

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