New Energy Efficiency Standards Are Coming

Jan. 13, 2010
Government, industry and academia team up on program.

The Department of Energy (DOE), EPA Energy Star, Department of Commerce, and ANSI started teaming up in 2006 with major industrial companies and educational institutions to develop an energy certification program. The Superior Energy Performance program actually was begun by industry energy managers but embraced by the government. The idea is to create a voluntary industry certification that would be recognized and rewarded by the DOE. The concept is a new way to improve industry energy efficiency without regulatory or mandated goals set by the government.

ASME work groups for the past two years have worked on requirements for conducting assessment standards for process heating, steam, compressed air, and pumping systems. In addition, a task force was formed to examine overall energy management. The work groups created initial assessment standards which were then field-tested by the University of Texas at plant sites. The Texas Pilot Plant Program successfully completed the testing and provided feedback to the work groups to help revise the standards.

I was fortunate enough to be on the process heater work group and to perform one of the field standard audits at a chemical plant in Houston. It isn't easy to create one set of assessment standards that work the same for the chemical, oil, food, auto, and wood industries. It's also difficult to create a standard that can work for a small single product factory as well as a large multi-process complex. However, when some of the leading energy managers get together, a lot can be accomplished.

As a result, for the first time there will be ANSI standards for how to assess your system and compare it to different plants. Companies could apply these standards and even have a method for getting their plants audited by an industry consultant or an in-house expert. A plant can be certified only if it applies these standards and passes an audit. Plants that meet certain improvements or overall standards will be recognized for those achievements by being labeled a partner, registered partner or certified partner. There has even been talk about the government and corporations awarding vendor contracts based on criteria that includes whether a plant reaches a certain or minimum partnership level. These plants would be doing their part in improving overall energy performance of American industries.

In addition, a large corporation with many different plants now will have a standard to assess performance. A nationally recognized standard is a good way for upper management to fight through technical excuses plants use to explain poor energy numbers. A corporation can now add as a plant goal achieving energy efficiency certification.

Asian and European governments and standard groups have been keeping a watch on the program with plans to introduce their own criteria. ISO 5001, Energy Management Standard, is on a parallel path and using some of the same criteria and information as the ANSI standard.

A plant wanting partnership would get a copy of the standards and follow the minimum requirements to assess its system. Basic partnership is a self-assessment meant to get plants to use the standards without incurring certification costs. To become a registered or certified partner, the plant must have a qualified energy consultant, in-house or independent, check its information, and audit its claims. A registered plant has data remotely reviewed while a certified plant goes through an on-site full audit.

Once the plant has met partnership standards, it can apply for energy efficiency recognition. Silver, gold, and platinum levels are awarded based on how much improvement a plant has shown over the past three years or the past 10 years while maintaining a certain score on the Best Practice Scorecard. Minimum data quality must be met and examples of methods used by various industries also are provided To maintain certification, certain energy management standards, including written policies, minimum data requirements and improvement projects must be in place and the plant must continue to actively consider, evaluate, and implement new energy improvements. The key for the DOE was for plants to "continually improve." So recertification is based on a plant maintaining standards and introducing new energy saving projects.

The first set of proposed standards will probably go out for public review this year. Other states plan to run pilot tests with the standards. The information in these standards can help any energy efficiency program even if certification isn't a goal.

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Gary Faagau is Chemical Processing's Energy Columnist. You can e-mail him at [email protected].

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