Better Plants: Working with Manufacturers to Save Energy


The U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Better Plants program provides technical assistance, training, software, and tools to help manufactures improve their energy performance.

Manufacturing accounts for almost 25% of all U.S. energy use. Industry spends almost $230 billion on energy each year, but these costs could be significantly reduced through energy-efficiency efforts. More than $40 billion could go back into company pockets each year by leveraging proven energy-efficiency technologies and practices.

The U.S. Dept. of Energy’s (DOE’s) Better Plants program has been partnering with U.S.-based manufacturers and industrial-scale energy users to improve energy performance since 2011. The voluntary program provides participants with a broad range of tools and resources to overcome barriers and identify opportunities to save energy and improve their competitiveness. More than 200 organizations are Better Plants partners, including 22 companies in the chemical process industries (CPI). These partners have saved more than 1 quadrillion Btu of energy in total, which translates to $5.3 billion in energy cost savings (Table 1).

Table 1. A snapshot of the Better Plants program to date.
  Better Plants Program CPI Better Plants
Number of Partners 202 22
Number of Plants 3,000 296
U.S. Manufacturing Energy Footprint 12% 3%
Cumulative Energy Savings 1,059 TBtu 128 TBtu
Cumulative Cost Savings $5.3 billion $660 million
Average Annual Energy Intensity Improvement Rate 2.8% 2.6%

Better Plants technical assistance

Each Better Plants partner is assigned a technical account manager (TAM). TAMs are engineers with experience in industrial energy efficiency who support partners in identifying energy productivity opportunities and establishing energy baselines. Manufacturing companies and organizations typically benefit most from the technical assistance resources and access to TAMs that help set a path to achieving energy goals.

Better Plants also offers technical assistance in water efficiency, industrial supply chains, and energy management. In addition, the program serves as a conduit to other technical assistance offered by DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO), such as the 50001 Ready and Superior Energy Performance (SEP) programs, the Industrial Assessment Centers, and the Combined Heat and Power Technical Assistance Partnerships.

Partners are invited to DOE national laboratories, such as Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL) in Tennessee, to learn about new technologies, materials, and processes that can enhance energy efficiency. Partners have the opportunity to access technology research and development and network with laboratory researchers and other manufacturers. These visits allow partners to communicate industry research and development (R&D) needs to DOE and lab...

Author Bios: 

Robert Lung

Robert Lung has supported energy efficiency and clean energy programs through research and analysis of best practices and technologies as well as outreach and policy analysis on behalf of federal, private sector and non-governmental organizations.

Currently, Mr. Lung is an ORISE Fellow with the U.S. DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office where he supports the Better Plants and Superior Energy Performance programs by helping with expansion of industry participation and ensuring that the programs offer value to manufacturers and industrial-scale energy users.Read more

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