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Effective Energy Management Saves DuPont Billions

No matter what the drivers, many companies believe that an effective energy efficiency
improvement program can only be implemented through a significant outlay of capital. Although these types of investments are an important part of an energy strategy, they are not the only, or even the first items that should be considered when designing an energy reduction and cost saving transformation. In fact, this erroneous belief hamstrings many efforts before they even get started, since, in the queue for scarce capital, energy improvement projects are often quickly superseded by those related to increasing capacity or otherwise fuelling corporate growth initiatives. In addition, the scrutiny for energy efficiency projects can often be severe.

DuPont Energy and Environmental Performance

There is no doubt that many energy efficiency goals can only be met through the investment of capital, but DuPont's experience as owner/operators of more than 150 production facilities worldwide suggests that a highly significant portion—in fact, upwards of 40% of the total energy efficiency improvement opportunity—is achievable through relatively minor, low cost/no cost continuous improvement energy projects rooted in culture change.

Since 1990, when DuPont's then CEO Edgar Woolard committed the organization to a set of environmental and energy management goals that went well beyond compliance, DuPont has increased its overall capacity by 21%. Yet, in the face of that growth, the company's total energy usage has decreased 19%, and its greenhouse gas emissions have decreased 60%[1]. According to one company analyst, the company's energy efficiency work has enabled it to avoid more than US$5 billion in energy purchases in that period.

DuPont is not alone in leveraging energy efficiency improvements to reduce operating cost and drive growth. With its “ecomagination” program, General Electric (GE) was able to improve energy efficiency by 33% across its global operations, while concurrently reducing greenhouse gas intensity by 34%[2]. This has not only led to significant savings, but also contributed to the sustainability of the business.

Maximizing value from existing assets

To achieve this type of savings, it is vital that companies look beyond simply implementing a few projects - a shift in culture is necessary. This culture change must be accomplished within the context of a comprehensive energy management system, one that incorporates strong leadership, an appropriate organizational structure and includes focused processes and actions. The effective actualization of such a system is no easy matter, and must incorporate multiple confluent elements: clear commitment from senior management; measurable goals and metrics; ownership by line management; a well-developed centre of competency; multi-disciplinary teams; and comprehensive training and skill-building programs. With this, companies have the potential to realize substantial energy savings at little to no cost.

Indeed, almost every industrial site has numerous opportunities to improve energy efficiency with minimal investment. For example, at a leading Russian petrochemicals company, a comprehensive review of one facility led to the identification of dozens of opportunities to improve efficiency. Grouped together, these opportunities have the potential to translate into direct savings of approximately 100 million rubles. Beyond this, the competencies and internal processes developed by performing this exercise will allow the company to easily identify future opportunities, implement appropriate solutions and develop new standard operating procedures to maximize efficiency across each of its sites.

At its sites, DuPont has a system in place to identify the highest savings/lowest cost opportunities, starting with the lowest hanging fruit, gathering input from the people who know these processes best. Basically, energy consumption is mapped to identify the areas of highest potential, workshops are conducted with a cross-functional team of stakeholders with intimate knowledge of the equipment, and ideas are generated, studied and prioritized. The top ones are selected and studies are done to test the changes and ensure that they can be incorporated safely and without consequence to product quality and production goals and do not cause any other unanticipated adverse event. Then processes are put in place to implement, execute, integrate and institutionalize what is changing the standard operating procedure for that piece of equipment.

Key to the success of this model is having the desire, the ability and the enthusiasm to form multi-disciplinary, cross-functional site teams to tackle these issues. This is not something that the energy expert or a lone engineer can tackle by themselves. Insight is needed from operators, from maintenance, from mechanics, from core process experts, from energy experts, from engineers and, of course, management supervision to help keep everyone focused, resources flowing and commitment high.

Ultimately, business leaders have much to gain by unleashing the potential to improve energy efficiency within their existing asset base. By implementing an integrated energy management system, and cultivating a robust energy savings culture, it is possible for companies to realize substantial savings, while paving the way to a more sustainable future.

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[1] Note this figure was even higher, 72%, prior to the divestiture of DuPont's fibers and textiles operation
(currently Invista).

[2] World Business Council for Sustainable Development “General Electric, Energy Efficiency as Strategy”
2008