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INSIDE CI: Reducing Energy Consumption

June 1, 2008
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The monthly roundup from Editor-in-Chief Susan Sutton.

Summertime means many things in our household: fun in the sun, work in the garden (which, as I’ve tried to convince my daughter, is actually fun disguised as work), and relaxing in the outdoors. But summer also brings increasing utility bills as the A/C kicks in to help us beat the heat. Our house is nearly 100 years old, and it leaks air (whether hot or cold) like a sieve. I’m sure this is costing me a ridiculous amount of money each year in excessive heating and cooling costs, and I’m also worried about the negative impact my little energy-black-hole is having on the environment. I’m constantly on the lookout for inexpensive solutions.

Reducing energy consumption has become increasingly important in the ceramic industry as well, ever since natural gas prices began to skyrocket years ago and have not looked back. Many solutions exist, however, and a recent agreement between the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could offer additional assistance. The two organizations have signed a memorandum of understanding to help improve the energy efficiency of U.S. manufacturers.

Many manufacturers, and perhaps those in our industry more than others, tend to be somewhat cynical regarding the role of the EPA and the impact its regulations can have on the bottom line. “I’m from the EPA, and I’m here to help you” is not a sentence most of us would meet with a high degree of trust or optimism. However, this first-ever agreement between the EPA and the NAM could be an important step toward saving energy in the industrial sector. According to the EPA, industry uses a third of the energy and is responsible for nearly a third of all carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S.

According to the announcement, the NAM will challenge its 14,000 member companies to reduce energy use by 10% or more in cooperation with the EPA’s ENERGY STAR Challenge. The EPA estimates that a 10% reduction in energy use would enable manufacturers to save close to $10.4 billion a year, as well as enough energy to power almost 10 million U.S. homes.

According to the EPA, it will support NAM members in developing and refining company-wide energy management programs, share best energy management practices, provide training, and recognize the energy-efficiency achievements of NAM members. Corporate-wide energy management programs are widely considered to be the basis for securing and sustaining long-term energy savings.

One of the truly exciting aspects of the technical segment of the ceramic and glass industries is that, in addition to reducing energy consumption through improved manufacturing processes, many of our manufacturers produce a wealth of products for alternative energy applications. And still others develop equipment and machinery that assist other manufacturers in reducing their energy consumption. It’s a win-win situation for the individual manufacturers, the industry and the environment as a whole.

Additional information regarding ENERGY STAR for manufacturers is available at www.energystar.gov/industry. The NAM’s website is located at www.nam.org.

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