Competition can turbo-charge energy efficiency efforts in the industrial sector

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The industrial sector is a major energy consumer in developed economies. In the United States, for example, it accounts for one-third of the country's entire energy usage.
But this means that cutting down the amount of energy used in the industrial sector can have a big impact -- and one way of promoting energy efficiency is competition, according to building materials group Saint-Gobain.
In a blog for the National Association of Manufacturers, Ryan Spies, sustainability and energy manager at Saint-Gobain North America, says that a sense of competition among the company's manufacturing plants and colleagues has helped to drive energy-saving initiatives, increase the sustainability of its operations and reduce the overall carbon footprint of its manufacturing facilities.
The company's Water, Waste and Energy (WWE) programme, established in 2016, recently received a US Department of Energy Better Practice Award.
"This programme encourages more than 130 Saint-Gobain manufacturing sites to compete against each other to see which facility can best reduce its environmental impact by highlighting practical and effective solutions for increasing the sustainability of sites," Spies explained.
"At the end of the programme, five sites are recognised with 20-pound championship-style belts and given the titles of Waste Champion, Water Champion, Energy Champion, CO2 Champion and Overall Champion to recognise their commitment to on-the-ground, effective energy-reduction solutions."
As a result of this initiative and the element of competition it brings, Saint-Gobain manufacturing facilities across the United States have been able to achieve substantial reductions in energy consumption.
  • The 2017 Energy Champion, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics in Bristol, Rhode Island, took a systems approach to energy management resulting in a 45% energy intensity reduction over the past two years.
  • The 2016 and 2017 CO2 Champion, CertainTeed Roofing in Oxford, North Carolina, formed a special committee of 24 members focused on working directly to reduce the site's energy and carbon dioxide emissions. Through efforts to upgrade heating elements on three of its main production lines, the plant was able to achieve a substantial reduction in natural gas usage.
  • This year's Water Champion, Saint-Gobain Quartz in Riverport, Kentucky, used a cooling tower to achieve water savings and sealed a well that had been in use for years. The well water withdrawal was reduced from 131 million gallons in 2012 to zero gallons in 2015 and 2016.
"Based on these percentages and statistics, it is clear that a sense of competition helps to spur outside-the-box thinking and improvements that are able to result in an overall positive impact for the company and its facilities as well as the planet. Let's use this learning to encourage our employees and colleagues to compete for the greater good of the planet," Spies concluded.

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