The Behavioral Component of Energy Efficiency


By Schekinov Alexey Victorovich (Own work) CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wikimedia Commons


File this under: little things add up.  A recent study by the Energy Savings Trust of the United Kingdom found that people of Britain waste over $100 million (£68 million) a year by overfilling their kettles when making tea.  The report: At Home with Water points out the residential water energy nexus — that savings from water conservation accrue not just from reduced supply costs, but from reduced energy costs as well.  The other major point that is worth focusing on is that energy efficiency is not just a technology problem; it includes a behavioral component as well.

Stated another way, reduced energy consumption comes from two main areas:

Efficiency which is a function of technology New, more efficient kettle
Conservation which is a function of Operation & Maintenance practices (i.e., behavior) Only heating as much water as needed

Savings from conservation are not trivial.  The Energy Star for Buildings website states that implementation of O&M best practices can lead to energy savings of 5-20% per year.  Savings can accrue from things such as set point adjustments for cooling or heating systems (an operational savings).   For example, if you only need to heat something to 100 degrees, your set point should not be 140 degrees.  Savings also accrue from proper maintenance activities such as ensuring that scaling does not reduce the efficiency of cooling towers.  An energy assessment is an excellent way to identify energy reduction activities that fall into both the efficiency and conservation categories.  Improved O&M practices typically get identified as low or no cost options as part of an energy assessment.

The challenge with these types of savings is that though they are typically inexpensive to implement, they require an ongoing commitment to maintain.  Ensuring O&M practices are part of existing management systems such as Six Sigma or Lean can help to ensure that the savings will last.  An alternative would be to adopt a formal energy management system, such as ISO 50001.

Laundry Industry Sustainability

By Paul Hermans (Own work) CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wikimedia Commons


cg_logo_newThe second in our series of industry specific sustainability standards is the Clean Green Certification developed by the Textile Rental Service Association (TRSA).  The certification, released in February of 2012, was developed to address the specific sustainability issues in the commercial laundry sector.  The Certification covers: water and energy conservation, minimization of environmental impacts through actions such as controlling discharges to sewer systems, and recycling and reuse opportunities.

The Clean Green Certification requires companies to meet minimum water and energy efficiency standards and adopt best management practices (BMPs) that lead to more sustainable operations.  The water and energy efficiency standards are based on the amount of laundry processed annually.

Water Standard Energy Standard Annual Production
2.6 gals/lb 3,000 BTUs/lb > 5 million pounds annually
3.2 gals/lb 3,700 BTUs/lb ≤ 5 million pounds annually

BMPs are divided into two tiers, with more points assigned to Tier 1 BMPs than Tier 2.

Best Management Practice Points
Tier 1
Boiler Heat Recovery or Direct-Fired Hot Water Heater 20
Wastewater Heat Recovery 20
Wastewater Pre-Treatment, Mechanical Solids Removal 20
Wastewater Pre-Treatment, Advanced Treatment Technologies 20
Water Reuse Technology 20
Tier 2
Alternative Energy, Solar or Geothermal 10
Energy Audit (every 3 years) 10
Energy Efficient Lighting and/or Skylights 10
Fleet Vehicle Route Optimization 10
Fleet Vehicles – Alternative Fuels (minimum 15%) 10
Low Temperature Detergents 10
Nonylphenol Ethoxylate (NPE) Free Detergent 10
Preventative Maintenance (boiler or direct-fired hot water heater) 10
Recycling Program 10
Spill Prevention Plan or Slug Discharge Control Plan 10

In order to achieve certification, commercial laundries must meet both the water and energy standards, and implement 100 points of BMPs (60 Tier 1 + 40 Tier 2).  If the laundry can only meet either the water or energy standard, but not both, certification can still be achieved with the adoption of three additional Tier 2 BMPs for a total of 130 BMP points (60 Tier 1 + 70 Tier 2).  The full certification standards can be found here.   The Clean Green Certification also requires a third party review by TRSA to verify compliance with efficiency standards and BMP implementation.  The certification must be renewed every three years.

The TRSA developed the Clean Green Certification to: 1) drive sustainability in the commercial laundry sector, 2) provide laundries a way to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability in a consistent and externally verified manner, and 3) to facilitate customers’ desire to improve the sustainability of their supply chains.  A list of certified laundries can be found here.

DOE Report: Energy Sector Vulnerable to Climate Change

US Dep Ag - wea00173Image Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

The U.S. energy sector is increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change according to a report released today by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).  U.S. Energy Sector Vulnerabilities to Climate Change and Extreme Weather outlines how three main factors: 1) increasing temperatures, 2) decreasing water availability, and 3) increasing storms, flooding, and sea level rise will impact the ability to generate and transmit electricity.  This report also outlines impacts across the fossil fuel supply chain from extraction through transportation.

Rising temperatures and drought have already impacted electric generation by shutting down power plants for lack of cooling water.  Last August the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant in Connecticut shut down for two weeks because the temperature of the intake cooling water was too high.  Wildfires have directly impacted the transmission and distribution system, but higher temperatures also decrease transmission efficiency and cause lines to sag, which increases the possibility of failure.   Rising temperatures also strain the electric transmission and distribution system by driving up demand for electric services such as air conditioning.

2012 was the hottest year on record in the U.S., and it was accompanied by widespread drought in the U.S.  Oil and gas production was impacted when drought led to the curtailment of water to oil and gas operations in Kansas, Texas, North Dakota and Pennsylvania.  Drought in 2012 also disrupted barge shipments of coal and petroleum on the Mississippi.

The report concludes with steps that can be taken and additional research that needs to be done to make the U.S. energy sector more resilient to the impacts of climate change.  Examples include development of more water efficient oil and gas exploration technology, and thermoelectric power generation.  The report supports the President’s Climate Change Action Plan, which calls for taking steps now to prepare for climate change.

Climate change induced impacts on power quality and availability may lead to more commercial and industrial facilities seeking out their own generation and fuel sources.  This could make onsite generation options such as solar or micro-turbines more attractive, particularly in mission critical operations.

Dairy Industry Sustainability

Holstein 2

When one thinks of sustainability frameworks and standardized reporting there are a few big names that dominate the landscape.  The Carbon Disclosure Project is backed by 722 institutional investors that manage $87 trillion in assets who are interested in uncovering and mitigating risk in their portfolios.  The Carbon Disclosure Project recently rebranded to CDP since it now has disclosure mechanisms for both carbon and water.  The other large player is the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) whose sustainability reporting framework is used by over 5,400 organizations worldwide.   Though these two reporting standards get most of the press there are other standards being developed to address the needs of a specific industry.   The first we’ll highlight here is the Stewardship and Sustainability Guide for U.S. Dairy developed by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.

Development of the Stewardship and Sustainability Guide for U.S. Dairy began in 2011 with the goal of enhancing the sustainability performance of the farmers, processors and other companies in the supply chain that bring dairy products to the consumer.  The Guide is intended to help farmers, processors and manufacturers:

  • Communicate about sustainability
  • Demonstrate progress where it matters most
  • Create long-term economic growth
  • Build consumer trust

The Guide includes indicators for both farmers, processors and manufacturers.  Development of indicators and their relevancy was informed by the GRI reporting standards and covers all aspects of the triple bottom line: environmental, social and economic.  Indicator development was also informed by Life Cycle Analyses conducted by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, which helps to target indicators on those aspects of the farm and dairy industry that have the greatest impact.  For example, over half of the greenhouse gas emissions in the dairy supply chain occur on the farm.  The second largest contributor at over 20% is feed production.  The balance of emissions comes from transport, processing, packaging, retail, and consumers.

The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy also developed three tools to use in conjunction with the Guide.  The Farm Smart tool helps farmers calculate and manage their environmental footprint.  The Plant Smart tool helps dairy processors and manufacturers improve the efficiency and lessen the impact of their facilities.  The Fleet Smart tool helps improve transportation efficiencies and reduce fuel use in order to reduce environmental impact and create competitive advantage.

Version 1.2 of the Guide is currently out for comment until July 14, 2013.  It is expected that subsequent versions of the Guide will add additional indicators of interest to stakeholder audiences.