Energy Efficiency Reduces Industrial Carbon Emissions

Most industrial greenhouse gas emissions are linked to energy use. Using energy more efficiently can reduce energy use, associated emissions, and energy costs. That’s why energy efficiency should be the first step manufacturers take to decarbonize!

As a decarbonization strategy, energy efficiency has many important benefits:

  • Cost-effective. Greater efficiency can deliver carbon reductions and dollar savings that can be reinvested into other projects and reduction approaches. 
  • Low risk. Most energy efficiency measures are proven and will payback, including those with longer returns on investment.
  • Prevents energy waste. Efficiency ensures that limited renewable resources (electric and thermal) are not wasted and can go further.
  • Timely. Most energy efficiency measures can be implemented now.

Don’t assume everything has been done!

Many companies believe all the energy savings have been tapped. But ENERGY STAR and other efficiency programs have seen that there are more opportunities to cut energy at most companies. Consider that:

  • Wide distributions in energy efficiency are observed within many of the sectors that ENERGY STAR has benchmarked. This means there are large saving opportunities for most plants.
  • Hundreds of plants have achieved the ENERGY STAR Challenge for Industry by reducing energy use while maintaining or increasing production. On average, Challenge achievers have reduced energy intensity by 20% or more within 2 years or less.
  • Billions of Btus of energy savings from low- and no-cost efficiency measures have been reported to the ENERGY STAR Find the Treasure campaign.
  • Many companies still do not have energy programs and have not realized basic energy efficiency improvements and savings.
  • Companies with world-class energy programs achieving the ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year award for Sustained Excellence have demonstrated that year over year energy reductions are possible. 
  • Most companies only invest in energy projects with payback periods of 2 years or less; consequently many projects with payback periods between 2 to 4 years are not implemented, leaving potential savings untapped.

Driving deeper energy efficiency & savings

Increased energy efficiency can reduce industrial carbon emissions by up to 34% in many sectors. Realizing these savings requires deeper efficiency and energy use reductions, particularly in the next 10 to 15 years. 

Driving deeper efficiency starts with an effective energy management program and implementing no- and low-cost operational & maintenance (O&M) saving opportunities followed by “off the shelf” upgrades such as LED lighting and VFDs. Moving to more complex energy engineering projects, such as waste heat recovery systems and optimizing and redesigning manufacturing processes, can deliver greater savings and carbon reductions. These projects require greater research, teamwork, and investment, but will be needed to achieve carbon reduction goals. When combined with other process and production improvements, these engineering project can also enhance business operations.

Figure showing steps for deeper energy efficiency reductions

Since most industrial CO2 emissions are linked to fossil fuels used for thermal processes (heat), improving the efficiency of industrial process heating applications is an important priority. While many thermal efficiency projects currently tend to have longer paybacks, making these investments now can reduce risks in the future.

New approaches, technologies, and production strategies that use less energy and produce less carbon emissions are required across most industries. This means that all companies and energy programs should:   

  • Establish and maintain strong energy programs
  • Learn about new technology applications and their requirements
  • Start internal discussions on process and product redesign 
  • Identify potential pilot and demonstration projects