Gas Technology: Better Plants Program

Making a commitment to reduce energy


Commercial and industrial buildings in the U.S. represent 50% of the country’s energy at a cost of more than $400 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. These buildings and plants can be made much more ple1404_WEB_Better Plants Logoefficient using a range of tools. To do so, it is necessary that owners be aware of possible inefficiencies and methods for eliminating them. In February 2011, President Obama announced the Better Buildings, Better Plants Initiative to make commercial and industrial buildings 20% more energy efficient in the next 10 years. This initiative is meant to accelerate private-sector investment and the commitment to energy efficiency. 

Paul Lemar, Jr. from Resource Dynamics Corporation recently provided details on the program at a Technology Marketing & Assessment Forum, sponsored by the Energy Solutions Center. He noted that research shows that companies that have publicly stated goals for energy reductions implement 50% more efficiency and renewable measures than organizations without goals. Thus for industrial energy users, the government program is intended to stimulate action by encouraging companies to make commitments. 

For industrial energy users, the Better Plants program asks owners to set long-term efficiency goals, to report progress once a year to the DOE, and to receive assistance and national recognition for their commitment and leadership. The program offers two levels of involvement- Program Level and Challenge Level.  The broad-based Program Level currently includes over 120 companies with 1,750 plants. Since 2011, participants have identified energy efficiency improvements saving 190 trillion Btus, and savings of more than $1 billion.

Program participants receive national recognition, access to a technical account manager, in-plant training for plant staff, and opportunities to network with peers in industry and learn about steps other companies have taken. Participating companies take a voluntary pledge to reduce energy intensity 25% corporate-wide over the next ten years, to develop an energy use baseline to track improvements in energy efficiency, to designate a corporate energy manager, and to report progress yearly.

The Challenge Level program asks participants to announce their energy efficiency goal, along with innovations and market solutions taken along the way. They agree to establish a Showcase Project within nine months, along with a corporate plan and timetable. They further agree to share information and implementation models and energy performance annually, and provide quarterly updates on showcase projects and other milestones. The Challenge Level program currently includes more than 100 private, public and non-profit organizations. This includes 13 Better Buildings, Better Plans participants, along with 28 commercial partners, and many education, community, financial and utility partners. On average, partners are improving by more that 2.5% per year, with identified savings of $58 billion. Partners have showcased 49 projects. Financial partners have extended financing totaling $1.1 billion for energy improvement projects.

The Better Buildings, Better Plants program is also a launching platform for Superior Energy Performance (SEP) Certification, and is an important tool in achieving ISO 50001, a program recently initiated in the U.S. for energy management systems. Information on all of these programs is available from the U.S. Department of Energy. 

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