With oil prices topping $100 per barrel, energy conservation is again garnering significant attention. Though oil and its byproducts are not a direct source of electrical energy, they have an impact on costs. Companies try to save costs wherever possible, and some have done so through energy management programs. There are plenty of opportunities to save typically 10–20 percent.

Leading the charge is the Department of Energy (DOE), especially the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). Through the Building Technologies Program, EERE “works closely with the building industry and manufacturers to conduct research and development on technologies and practices for energy efficiency. The Department also promotes energy and money-saving opportunities to builders and consumers and works with state and local regulatory groups to improve building codes and appliance standards.”

In December 2007, Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act “to move the United States toward greater energy independence and security, to increase the production of clean renewable fuels, to protect consumers,” and more. Among the many goals in the act is to reduce total energy consumption by 30 percent by fiscal year 2015, using fiscal year 2003 as a baseline. This follows the work that was started with the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct). Among the many items in that law is the requirement for “the Architect of the Capitol [who] ... shall develop, update, and implement a cost-effective energy conservation and management plan for all facilities administered by Congress to meet the energy performance requirements for Federal buildings established under section 543(a)(1).”

Section 543(a)(1) of the National Energy Conservation Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 8253(a)(1)) states “each agency shall apply energy conservation measures to, and shall improve the design for the construction of the federal buildings of the agency (including each industrial or laboratory facility) so that the energy consumption per gross square foot of the federal buildings of the agency in fiscal years 2006 through 2015 is reduced, as compared with the energy consumption per gross square foot of the federal buildings of the agency in fiscal year 2003,” by the percentage specified in the table.

Other federal agencies also are actively focused on reducing energy costs, including the military and the Veterans Administration medical centers, which have 21 regional energy managers and nearly 80 energy managers at each of the major facilities that are in the pilot stage of a facility-wide power monitoring program. This follows the adage “what gets measured gets done.” If you don’t know where the electricity is being consumed, how can you go about implementing cost-effective programs to reduce it? The U.S. Capitol building soon will have a publicly accessible energy monitoring program to demonstrate its progress in reducing energy usage.

Another of the DOE’s energy conservation programs is Energy Star. People are probably aware of it with regards to appliances, heating and cooling systems and more, but the program has been extended to Energy Star Qualified Buildings.

According to the Energy Star Web site, “Nearly 4,100 buildings and manufacturing plants have earned the EPA’s Energy Star through the end of 2007. ... Many of these buildings excel due to good energy management practices such as routine energy efficiency benchmarking.”

There also are software tools available from EERE. The “Motor Master Tool” was put together through the collaboration of electric utilities, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, and Electrical Apparatus Service Association. “Plant Energy Profiler” is being developed to help people identify sources of improvement through a Q-and-A program. There also are tools in the works for data centers.

The federal government, often criticized for being mired in politics rather than for getting things done, is seemingly focused on reducing energy consumption. But what about the nearly 400,000 manufacturing, 2 million wholesale and retail sales, and 600,000 financial and insurance facilities? Barely 0.1 percent of those have achieved the Energy Star rating. If the nonprofit government agencies can do it, it certainly makes more than just dollars and cents for those concerned with the bottom line to reduce unnecessary costs, while at the same time helping the environment.

BINGHAM, a contributing editor for power quality, can be reached at 732.287.3680.