Gas Technology: Finding help with energy projects

How do you pick the right resource to from hundreds of assistance programs?


Major energy-related facility improvements, such as here installing a boiler economizer, can often receive grant, engineering or loan assistance from government or utilities. Courtesy: Resource Recovery Company“Where can I go for help with this energy project?” This question is asked many times by business managers and project engineers. Because of the federated-type governments of the U.S. and Canada, answers can be complicated and will vary from state to state, province to province. Further, most natural gas distribution companies have customer assistance programs, specialized rates and sometimes even project grants, but these vary from state to state, or even within certain economic incentive zones. They key is finding the opportunities, and then asking for help.

Project payback often critical

Typically, owners of commercial, institutional and industrial facilities decide whether to proceed with energy improvement projects based on simple payback – how many months or years it will take for the improvement to pay for itself. A payback in six months is relatively easy to sell: One taking eight or ten years is tougher unless the owner is quite sure the facility will still be in use at that time, and investment dollars are available. Even if the dollars are there, the energy project has to compete with other potential uses like process efficiency improvements or facility expansion plans.

Shortening the payback

Here’s where government and utility consulting and incentive programs can help shorten the payback. One example is interruptible gas rates. Many gas suppliers – both regulated distribution companies and third party suppliers – offer attractive rates for gas users who will agree to tolerate periodic interruptions of service. An example might be replacing an electric or oil-fired piece of equipment with a natural gas device on an attractive interruptible rate. Ask your gas supplier about interruptible rates, and get details on exactly what your commitment would be. Some suppliers use the service interruption very infrequently but offer a significant discount. This could further shorten the energy improvement project payback.

Another possibility is actual incentive payments from federal or state energy or environmental agencies, or from your utilities themselves. These incentive programs are intended to encourage owners to take energy improvement steps now rather than waiting. Programs include direct grants, tax credits, financing assistance and project engineering assistance. 

Finding current incentives

Programs are numerous, but are constantly changing so it’s important to know you are acting on current program requirements. Often your project engineer or your utility customer representative can help you find these. Another great resource for U.S. owners searching for help is this website:

Canadian owners can similarly benefit from this website:

These resources summarize federal, state, provincial and utility incentive programs for improving facility energy efficiency. Payback should not be the only criterion for embarking on a facility energy efficiency project. Such projects may also improve your compliance with present or future environmental regulation, and may increase your energy supply security status. If you are considering embarking on such a program and are looking for a partner, your own gas utility, along with the website tools shown above, may be the right place to put in your shovel.

More information: 

Small Business Administration Energy and Environmental Grants and Loans

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Green Building Requirements

This article originally appeared on Gas Technology Spring 2015 issue

Top Plant
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America.
Product of the Year
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
November 2018
2018 Product of the Year finalists, mild steel welding: finding the right filler, and new technique joins aluminum to steel.
October 2018
Tools vs. sensors, functional safety, compressor rental, an operational network of maintenance and safety
September 2018
2018 Engineering Leaders under 40, Women in Engineering, Six ways to reduce waste in manufacturing, and Four robot implementation challenges.
October 2018
2018 Product of the Year; Subsurface data methodologies; Digital twins; Well lifecycle data
August 2018
SCADA standardization, capital expenditures, data-driven drilling and execution
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, programming cavity pumps
Summer 2018
Microgrids and universities, Steam traps and energy efficiency, Finding help with energy projects
October 2018
Complex upgrades for system integrators; Process control safety and compliance
November 2018
Analytics quantify processes, Fieldbus networking and IIoT, Choosing the right accelerometer

Annual Salary Survey

After two years of economic concerns, manufacturing leaders once again have homed in on the single biggest issue facing their operations:

It's the workers—or more specifically, the lack of workers.

The 2017 Plant Engineering Salary Survey looks at not just what plant managers make, but what they think. As they look across their plants today, plant managers say they don’t have the operational depth to take on the new technologies and new challenges of global manufacturing.

Read more: 2017 Salary Survey

The Maintenance and Reliability Coach's blog
Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
One Voice for Manufacturing
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Maintenance and Reliability Professionals Blog
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Machine Safety
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
Research Analyst Blog
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Marshall on Maintenance
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
Lachance on CMMS
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
Material Handling
This digital report explains how everything from conveyors and robots to automatic picking systems and digital orders have evolved to keep pace with the speed of change in the supply chain.
Electrical Safety Update
This digital report explains how plant engineers need to take greater care when it comes to electrical safety incidents on the plant floor.
IIoT: Machines, Equipment, & Asset Management
Articles in this digital report highlight technologies that enable Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies.
Randy Steele
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Matthew J. Woo, PE, RCDD, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Randy Oliver
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
Design of Safe and Reliable Hydraulic Systems for Subsea Applications
This eGuide explains how the operation of hydraulic systems for subsea applications requires the user to consider additional aspects because of the unique conditions that apply to the setting
click me