Vermont businesses lead the way to energy savings

by Greg Baker, Senior Account Manager

Almost two years ago, Efficiency Vermont invited the state’s largest businesses to join the Energy Leadership Challenge, and pledge to reduce their overall energy usage by 7.5%. At first glance, that may not seem like a lot, until you realize that the commercial and industrial sectors account for more than 60% of Vermont’s electric usage. Of those, the top 315 commercial and industrial accounts comprise more than one quarter of the state’s overall electricity consumption. In those cases, a reduction of 7.5% will make a big difference on the bottom line, and the results will mean a big difference for our state as a whole.

Today, 69 businesses from across Vermont are participating in the challenge, and together they have already saved more than 24,000 megawatt-hours. That’s an impressive achievement, but perhaps even more valuable is the new level of energy-awareness the challenge has helped support within the business community.

Energy Leadership Challenge sets stage for deeper savings

Barry Callebaut of Saint Albans, for example, began looking at all aspects of their operation for potential savings—and worked hand in hand with me to determine which ideas were the best fit for their business goals. We used site-specific data to project savings, and determine which projects were cost-effective. In some cases, that meant not going ahead with projects that had a long payback, and did not offer enough energy savings. As a result, Barry Callebaut is currently saving $119,000 every year.

Other businesses have taken similar strides. One discovered that a minor, and cost-free change in process will save thousands of dollars annually. Several industrial clients have found that simply shutting off equipment rather than letting it idle can result in huge savings—in one case up to $50,000 per year.

The dedication these businesses are bringing to reducing their energy use is inspiring—and the results are impressive. Having uncovered big opportunities through metering, site audits, and employee engagement, they are realizing significant savings by giving energy efficiency a permanent “seat at the table” and building it into their business plans.

"Through the Energy Leadership Challenge we increased our metering and, with help from Efficiency Vermont, saw little changes make big impacts."

- DeWayne Howell, Engineering Maintenance Team Leader, Husky

"Efficiency Vermont helped me create a roadmap for our future improvements, including 33 projects and additional incentives."

- Tim Shea, 2nd VP of Facilities, National Life Group

"The operational assistance and guidance on ROI we received were a big help to our small staff. We’ve gained a new perspective on efficiency and our energy costs are staying down."

- Ted Manazir, Director of Physical Plant, Vermont Technical College

"We used to approach reducing the costs of energy in a piecemeal fashion. Efficiency Vermont helped us learn to look at buildings comprehensively so we could save more."

- Debra Baslow, Buildings Engineer, State of Vermont

From step-by-step to long-term strategy

These businesses are, in fact, exemplifying the ideas behind Continuous Energy Improvement, a new approach to strategic energy management. Continuous Energy Improvement goes beyond the traditional capital upgrades that many businesses equate with energy efficiency to include process improvements, maintenance systemization, and increased employee engagement. Continuous Energy Improvement means moving from a project-by-project approach to a more holistic business-focused approach, and as we work with our customers to put it into practice, we are finding that the savings it yields are significant.

As the Energy Leadership Challenge draws to a close, it’s apparent that Vermont businesses are only just getting started in their efforts on energy efficiency. The Continuous Energy Improvement approach promises to make a lasting difference, because when our state uses less electricity, we all benefit. That’s why we are so excited to help even more business customers in their efforts to generate energy efficiency results.

What is your business doing to manage energy costs? Would Continuous Energy Improvement yield results for you? We’d love to hear your thoughts —share them in the comments below.

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