Effectively Preparing for Energy Savings Assessments

November 1, 2010

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Industrial Technologies Program’s (ITP’s) Save Energy Now program is a national initiative to drive a 25 percent reduction in industrial energy intensity over 10 years, which will enhance U.S. industrial manufacturing competitiveness. Since its inception in 2006, Save Energy Now has completed more than 2,400 plant energy assessments to identify energy efficiency measures and realize cost savings. Over 2,200 plants have participated in ITP-sponsored Energy Savings Assessments (ESAs), which have identified more than $1.3 billion in potential cost savings per year. In addition to assessments, Save Energy Now provides software tools, information, training, technical assistance, and other resources that are helping plants identify opportunities for energy savings and develop a “green” workforce with expertise in energy management.

Saint-Gobain, a global supplier of building materials, has paved its expansion and progress by developing solutions that prioritize energy performance and environmental protection. Keeping these criteria in focus, six of Saint-Gobain’s U.S. plants have participated in ESA offered by the ITP and are reaping significant benefits in energy savings, as well as emissions reductions.

Saint-Gobain has also joined with ITP’s Save Energy Now initiative to assist other companies with their ESAs so they are productive. The company has developed a generic approach to guide companies on preparing their plants for ESAs in a manner that can maximize their value and ensure implementation of recommendations.

Saint-Gobain and Save Energy Now

Established in 1665, Saint-Gobain is a world leader in the manufacture of construction materials and glass products. Headquartered in Paris with operations in 64 countries, the company is made up of about 190,000 employees and boasts 84 different nationalities. In 2009, the company reported international sales of $53 billion, with 46 percent of those sales generated from renovation, 31 percent from new construction, and the remaining 23 percent from other markets, including automotive and residential.1,2

Saint-Gobain has acquired world leadership in the habitation market by offering innovative solutions that meet the fundamental global challenges of growth, energy, and the environment. Saint-Gobain demonstrates this corporate philosophy of energy efficiency throughout the company—from the construction of energy-efficient buildings to making the plants that produce materials for those buildings consume energy more effectively, while reducing related carbon dioxide emissions. The company even implemented a program to train contractors on energy-efficient construction and how they can apply those techniques when building new facilities.

With energy efficiency as a priority in its operations, Saint-Gobain received ESAs at six of its U.S. plants from May 2006 to September 2009. Many of those facilities were formally recognized as Energy Saver and Energy Champion plants by ITP for making significant progress in implementing the identified energy-savings opportunities. Energy Champion award winners are plants that have achieved 15 percent total energy savings, and Energy Saver award winners are plants that have achieved 7.5 percent total energy savings.

Additionally, Saint-Gobain was named the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year in both 2009 and 2010. The company received the honor in 2010 because it reduced its North American energy consumption 2.2 percent and lowered its carbon dioxide emissions by more than 70,000 metric tons.3

Assisting Other Companies with ESAs

In keeping with the LEADER Pledge, Saint-Gobain has stepped forward to assist other U.S. facilities with their ESAs by developing an approach that can be broadly applied to other companies regardless of industry type. This approach assists companies in preparing for and participating in energy assessments and was designed to ensure that the recommendations identified during the assessments are implemented.

The approach was unveiled during the January 2010 Save Energy Now LEADER Webinar delivered by Saint-Gobain’s Energy Manager Brad Runda. During the webcast, Runda discussed key tips that will help other companies achieve the same success Saint-Gobain has seen with energy efficiency project implementation. The DOE strategy lays out five main steps that will help companies realize efficient assessments and implementation: Plan, Prepare, Corporate Buy-In, Capital Budgets, and Staff. Saint-Gobain’s suggestions cover the Prepare part of the overall strategy.

Preparing for ESAs

Saint-Gobain’s strategy emphasizes the Prepare phase as key to a successful ESA and a successful implementation process afterward. This phase categorizes the items that should take place prior to an assessment as:

  • Safety
  • Internal approval
  • Confidentiality agreement
  • Physical space and personnel assistance
  • Fuel consumption
  • Metering
  • Equipment and processes.

Safety. Safety should be a primary focus for any industrial plant. Therefore, it is no surprise that it should be a factor in preparing for an assessment. It is recommended that special thought be given to visitors who will be coming to the plant, because they may be required to travel through areas that not everyone in the plant is familiar with or specifically trained to be in. Additional safety equipment should be planned out, and special training sessions for unique sites must be considered. Safety should be the first topic of discussion when anyone new will be arriving at a facility.

Internal approval. It is important to obtain the necessary support before conducting an assessment. This will be essential when it comes to allocating the necessary resources to accommodate the visiting team performing the assessment. Additionally, senior-level staff will play a key role when setting priorities after the assessment is complete and when corporate buy-in is needed. It is valuable to note that individual expectation levels can greatly influence the ultimate outcome of the assessment: project implementation. Therefore, recommendations from the assessments should comply with internal guidelines for project returns.

Confidentiality agreement. While Save Energy Now has a confidentiality agreement, it is important to highlight confidentiality with anyone accessing the plant as a reminder. Energy auditors may come into contact with sensitive equipment, processes, or trade secrets. Remember to provide up-front notice regarding pictures or video requirements that may be used during the assessment.

Physical space and personnel assistance. Assessments can last anywhere from 1 to 3 days or longer, depending on the plant size and availability. It is important to have a secure location for people to perform their work, discuss topics, and retreat to when not on the plant floor. This location (or locations) should include a computer, phone, network access, and table space. Also, because auditors are foreign to the facility, it is suggested that plant personnel be assigned to assist them. These people should be knowledgeable about the plant, specifically the area where the assessment is taking place. They should also be accessible throughout the site visit. Personnel who are knowledgeable about the process can speed things up significantly.

Fuel consumption. Understanding how the company pays for energy is important to the overall outcome of an assessment. Without this knowledge, it is impossible to focus an assessment on the biggest energy opportunities in the facility. If site personnel are not knowledgeable about how the plant’s energy is purchased, contact a utility representative. These representatives will often come out to the facility, go over previous energy bills, and explain to management how the plant uses energy. It is highly recommended that facilities communicate with their utility representative prior to an assessment, as it can help provide ideas for the assessment to focus on. According to Runda, “There’s a big difference between high demand charge and high energy charge.”4 Knowing which type of charge a plant incurs more often will greatly impact future savings potential.

Metering. Past energy bills will provide information on how much and what type of energy is consumed by the plant, but a plant load profile will provide details on how that energy is used throughout the plant. Assessments break down how a plant works into smaller segments, which makes energy savings easier to isolate. Each of these segments contains a sub-meter location. The sub-meter location is simply where measurements or readings are taken. Many newer facilities already have sub-metering locations in place, but older plants often do not.

It is important to prepare new or existing locations for the assessment team. It is suggested that plant personnel perform a walk-through of existing sub-meter locations to make sure they are functional, clear of debris, and still accessible. Communicate with the assessor prior to adding new sub-metering sites within the plant to make sure the addition is relevant to the assessment. Collecting reliable data during the assessment will be a huge factor in its success.

Equipment and processes. Assessments often focus on equipment. When purchased, this equipment frequently comes with original equipment manufacturer (OEM) documentation, such as performance tests, technical information, and operation guidelines. This information is critical because it provides the baseline performance characteristics for that piece of equipment. Comparing how a pump currently operates to how a pump should perform is the best way to calculate possible energy savings.

It is not always feasible to analyze each piece of equipment. In these cases, it is better to review the process the plant uses. In this occurrence, it is necessary to have process diagrams that the assessment team can refer to when performing the assessment. It is recommended that personnel have both sets of information available during the assessment.

Benefits of Being Prepared

Saint-Gobain’s suggestions, based on its successful experiences with ESAs, can help plants of any type prepare effectively for ESAs. Focusing on the Prepare phase will help relieve some of the anxiety that plant managers and energy managers deal with when it is time for an assessment, and paying close attention to all items under this phase can help plants ensure a successful and productive ESA. A successful assessment will not only be a huge advantage to the facility, but will also allow the company to replicate the success across its other facilities and bring in more energy savings.

While Saint-Gobain is assisting other companies to achieve success in their energy reduction goals, the company is set for major energy savings of its own. Through the Save Energy Now initiative, Saint-Gobain is now equipped with the skills and management experience to administer its energy-intensity-reduction goals at its other facilities throughout the world.

Save Energy Now is a national initiative that aims to drive a reduction of 25% or more in industrial energy intensity in 10 years. To achieve this ambitious goal, ITP is partnering with Save Energy Now LEADER Companies and Save Energy Now ALLY Organizations. For more information, please visit http://www1.eere.energy.gov/industry/saveenergynow.


1. Saint-Gobain. “Saint-Gobain at a Glance.” www.saint-gobain.com/en/press/saint-gobain-glance. Accessed April 29, 2010.

2. Saint-Gobain. “Saint-Gobain Our Employees.” www.saint-gobain.com/en/group/our-employees. Accessed May 17, 2010.

3. ENERGYSTAR. “Saint-Gobain: ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year.” www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=pt_awards. showAwardDetails&esa_id=3656. Accessed April 29, 2010.

4. Phone conversation with Brad Runda on April 23, 2010.