A History of Advanced Energy’s Commercial and Industrial Work

By Jonathan Susser | February 24, 2020

Promoting energy efficiency in commercial and industrial settings has been a focus of ours since the 1980s. The overarching goal of our work in this arena is to help customers make more of their product per unit of energy, or in other words, to make their production process more energy efficient. This goal has been realized through a combination of education and assessment services while balancing the needs of the customer, staying up to date on the latest technology and collaborating with utilities for support.

In the early 1980s, our primary aim was to explore how different technologies could benefit customers. For example, team members examined the potential of cogeneration, which is the sequential production of two useful forms of energy (such as electricity and steam) from the same fuel source. We supported this technology by providing feasibility studies, spreading awareness and troubleshooting issues.

Our ability to educate customers about commercial and industrial equipment took off with the introduction of the Industrial Electrotechnology Laboratory (IEL) in 1991. The facility served as a problem-solving center focused on promoting electrotechnologies (such as infrared drying, infrared powder coat curing and radio frequency drying) and motors. Industry members could try out equipment and receive in-plant testing, attend workshops and access relevant publications. Although the function of the IEL has changed over the decades, we continue to prioritize beneficial electrification in our services, and we recognize the advantages it offers our clients and their end users.

In these early years, our Energy Roundtable Workshop series, Industry Energy Workshop and Industrial Energy Savers technical bulletins were other ways we helped industries learn about efficient and economical systems and methods to improve their processes.

“The Advanced Energy commercial and industrial program provides training, resources, contacts, coordination and engineering to facilitate collaboration between the end user, the local utility and process equipment vendors to find best-practice energy efficient methods to manufacture the products at the end user’s facility. That is a long way of saying: To make more with less.” – Michael Stowe, Senior Energy Engineer

Today, our education and outreach efforts typically take the form of trainings and webinars. We promote technical expertise for specific equipment, such as chilled water, compressed air, HVAC, and motors and drives, and spread awareness about process optimization, energy efficiency and energy management. Our trainings are held both in-house and on the road to reach utility workers, account managers and industrial end users, while our webinars allow us to connect with even broader audiences.

Commercial and industrial facility assessments have been another core aspect of our work for the last two decades. We visit dozens of facilities each year, across a variety of industries, and interact informally with many more for discussions and support. The energy conservation measures we recommend offer savings that total in the millions of kilowatt-hours and dollars in North Carolina. In 2019, for example, we recommended over 68 million in kilowatt-hour savings with an associated cost savings of $5 million.

We perform two main types of assessments: energy assessments and process analysis assessments. Energy assessments evaluate a facility’s energy use and identify areas for improvement. Process analysis assessments consider a facility’s entire production process, from dock to dock, to foster understanding and locate energy efficiency opportunities. Both types of assessments can also produce non-energy benefits, such as enhanced plant productivity, product quality and workflow, and reduced emissions.

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A consistent partner in our assessments has been our local electric utilities, including the North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation, Dominion Energy and Duke Energy (and in the past Progress Energy and Carolina Power & Light Company). Duke Energy in particular has been essential in collaborating with us, providing leads to companies that need assistance and fostering technical growth by sponsoring team members to go to conferences. The utility’s interest in working with industrial customers and its emphasis on customer satisfaction align with our own customer-focused approach.

Over the last few years, our commercial and industrial services have expanded to leverage support for strategic energy management (SEM), and we have become recognized experts in ISO 50001 and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) 50001 Ready™ and Superior Energy Performance 50001™ (SEP 50001) programs. We were even the first organization to partner with the DOE on co-branding our own version of the 5001 Ready Navigator™ tool.

We have delivered trainings and webinars to educate users on these topics and have had the opportunity to engage with both public and private local, regional and national organizations. As one example, we assisted Cummins, a global leader in designing and manufacturing natural gas and diesel engines and related technologies, with achieving both ISO 50001 and SEP certification. We provided energy coaching, technical support, insight and consulting.

We remain committed to promoting energy efficiency in commercial and industrial settings and are excited to maintain our credentials and continue to grow our business in SEM and 50001. We work to ensure that clients get the most out of their energy, and as new developments and technologies arise, we can be depended on to provide training, consulting and education to keep processes running efficiently and reliably.