Turn Waste Energy Into Cash

Make the Energy Independence and Security Act pay off for you.

By Gary Faagau, Energy Columnist

The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA), signed by President George Bush in 2007, aims to move the United States toward greater energy independence. The concept was to create an act that would use America's creative power to reduce dependence on other countries for our energy. The bill focuses on car and truck fuel efficiency, building energy efficiency, and biofuels development. So, how does this act benefit your processing plant? The key provision dealing with industrial plants is Title IV Subtitle D: Industrial Energy Efficiency. Most industry programs are in Section 451, but there also are some benefits for industrial plants in sections 452 and 453.

Section 451 includes several provisions that will create more accounting for waste energy. Waste energy is defined as quantity of potentially recoverable energy produced at each source. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been mandated to determine which sites must report these numbers and to define recoverable energy. The information would be put in a registry and be publicly available. The EPA also must determine the savings in greenhouse gases (GHG) from recovering waste energy.

Section 451 has a nice twist. Once a site is included in the registry, the site owner can request the EPA, with the help of the DOE Clean Energy Application Centers, to determine optimum means for recovering waste energy streams as electricity, thermal energy or other energy-related products. The DOE must provide technical support and partial funding for any feasibility study to determine if payback for a potential project is less than five years. Basically, it reduces costs of evaluating energy projects.

Once a project is deemed feasible, Section 451 provides incentives for utilities to buy energy from any waste energy recovery project and for states to produce recovery projects for 80% of registered sites. The program also offers incentive grants to owners or operators of waste recovery projects. During 2009, the DOE awarded $155 million for 41 Industrial projects. Funding for 2010 is expected to be closer to $200 million for projects.

There are benefits for industrial plants in sections 451, 452 and 453.

Then there's Section 452, which provides grants for development and demonstration of new technology. These grants are available to universities, small companies, and individuals. They can pay for innovative techniques in steam, power, control systems and process heat technology. For a small industrial plant, section 452 can provide money for projects that can demonstrate a new technology or a new way of applying existing technology.

Section 452 also has provisions for cost-sharing partnerships between the DOE and industrial plants. These funds are available to plants, regardless of size, to demonstrate technology. How the DOE will implement this part of EISA is yet to be determined.

Section 453 sets up a national information database, which will allow industries to share information on energy efficiency technology. Although this doesn't provide any funding for a plant, it allows a site to use this database to learn how other plants save energy.

Other EISA provisions deal with use of biofuels and renewable energy. Some companies have looked into integrating renewable and biofuels directly into their plant to reduce fossil fuel use. Biomass steam generation has been a very hot topic lately as a way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on fossil fuels.

There also are some benefits that will be in place for any new project. By the end of the year, one provision of EISA raises average electric motor efficiency for almost all motors sold to industry. The "standard" motor, less than 200 hp, will have to be manufactured to National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) premium standards. For motors above 200 hp, the standard is raised to the EPAct 92 minimum, which is still better than the old standard but less stringent than NEMA premium.

EISA is an incomplete program. It's only set up to nudge industry toward more efficiency. If correctly applied, it should jump start energy projects, especially those involving innovative technology. Those who are ready to take advantage of that will benefit greatly. Those who aren't may later be stuck with regulations forcing them to comply, without incentives or grants.

The DOE makes funding available at certain times during the year. You won't likely hear about a program unless you're on their solicitation mailing list. To look for possible funding opportunities, go to www1.eere.energy.gov/industry/financial/index.html and register to receive news of upcoming grant programs.

Gary Faagau is Chemical Processing's Energy Columnist. You can e-mail him at GFaagau@putman.net.

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