Treasure Hunt: Engage Employees & Save Energy


In an earlier blog post (The Behavioral Component of Energy Efficiency) I explained that reducing energy use comes from two main areas:

Efficiency           which is a function of technology
Conservation     which is a function of operation and maintenance (i.e. behavior)

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star program recently released a guide to help companies identify energy conservation opportunities.

Energy Treasure Hunt Guide - thumbnailEnergy Treasure Hunt Guide: Simple Steps to Finding Energy Savings is focused on engaging employees in the process of identifying low/no cost operation and maintenance (O&M) opportunities to reduce energy consumption.  According to the guide the advantage of a treasure hunt is that it identifies “improvements that can often be made immediately and without significant expenditures.”

The Guide outlines the major steps for running your own energy treasure hunt, including: preparation, pre-training, event, and follow-up.  The treasure hunt is an onsite event conducted by cross-functional teams of employees who are in the best position to understand facility operations, and identify and evaluate opportunities to reduce energy use.   Two examples from the Guide show that companies have successfully used Energy Treasure Hunts to achieve significant results.

Hanes Brands Inc: Energy Treasure Hunts have resulted in a behavioral shift in how the organization thinks about energy usage, and helped Hanesbrands to reduce energy costs by more than $4 million dollars in one year.

Merck & Company: In less than two years, the Merck Energy Treasure Hunts had identified more than $12 million from just five plants, equivalent to 20 percent of the company’s greenhouse gas reduction goal, while building employee awareness and enthusiasm for finding energy waste.

The Guide lists the following benefits that accrue to organizations implementing Energy Treasure Hunts:

  • Develops employees’ energy knowledge
  • Motivates employees to pursue energy innovation
  • Creates focus on low-cost operational improvements
  • Establishes culture of continuous improvement and cross-functional collaboration
  • Reduces overall energy use, energy cost, and greenhouse gas emissions
  • Requires lower initial coordination cost compared to an audit or assessment
  • Sparks employee ownership of energy-saving strategies

Energy Treasure Hunts are one example of Kaizen (continual improvement) philosophy tools, which are the core elements of most lean production methods, and that were popularized by the spread of the Toyota Production System.  The key to achieving continual improvement is the routine and sustained application of the tools over time.   To that end, the Guide encourages Energy Treasure Hunt users to schedule follow-up events and to integrate Treasure Hunts into ongoing energy management or quality management systems.  More information on using lean tools to improve energy and environmental performance is available at EPA’s Lean Manufacturing and the Environment website.

Moniz Sees Battery-Solar Technology Combination as Transformative

Accupack_10_cellen_side_by_side

By Accu4all (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Bringing together themes from two previous posts Energy Secretary Moniz stated that battery storage technology coupled with rooftop solar PV systems has “huge potential” to transform the U.S. energy system.  Bloomberg News interviewed Secretary Moniz last week at IHS CERAWeek where he suggested the battery-solar combination could be as transformative to the U.S. economy as the current oil and gas boom.  The full Bloomberg story is here:  Batteries May Vie With U.S. Oil Boom as Energy Changer.

The solar boom has been well documented and there is evidence to suggest that a boom in energy storage technology is on the way.  Two weeks ago the car marker Tesla announced plans to build a “Gigafactory” to produce lithium-ion batteries.  One of the goals is to drive down battery cost, by 30% in the first year.  More interesting is the planned size of the facility, which is expected to be able to match the global production of lithium-ion batteries by 2020.  Given the expected production levels applications beyond electric cars, such as solar energy storage systems, are already being discussed.  For more details see: Tesla’s ‘Gigafactory’ To Produce More Than Car Batteries.   For a broader discussion of activity in the energy storage market see the recent Forbes article:  Follow The Money: Who Is Funding Energy Storage And Why.