Reducing energy costs has direct benefits to the bottom line for any company, and additional benefits accrue as well, including enhanced reputation and employee satisfaction. But where to begin?
IFPA (formerly PMA) hosted a Feb. 18, 2021 webinar on how to decrease energy costs, with insights from three member companies that have made significant strides in this area:
- Nicole Flewell, director of sustainability at Taylor Farms
- Jim Leimkuhler, CEO of Progressive Produce
- Nelson Longenecker, VP of business innovation for Four Seasons Produce
The following are four key takeaways from the webinar:
Choose your energy priorities
- Many companies start with lighting – office, warehouse, etc., for a quick fix that produces ROI right away.
- Determine where your greatest energy costs and poorest efficiencies are and begin there; speakers suggested starting with a review of energy use in warehouses and distribution centers.
- Solar can also be a good place to start – simpler, lower risk, easy to say yes to. Solar can be your gateway to other energy-reduction endeavors.
- Look at the benefits – specific cost savings and efficiency of course, but there will be others. Look at it holistically to discover tangible and intangible benefits.
Work with partners/experts
- Discuss past issues, envisioned outcomes (flexibility, user-operated, redundancies, priorities, costs, savings, and ROI), and be open to partners’ ideas and advice because they will have information you may not.
- Check with energy reduction organizations for ideas, goals, tips, and examples of what others have done. Determine whether going for a certification will benefit you.
- Examine the financial implications: capital purchase (assess length of payback), power purchase agreements (lower cost of power than through the utility), funding opportunities (tax credits, grants, special loan programs).
- Look for financial support: tax credits, grants, and local/state incentives.
- Ask vendors about options, everything may not be offered in initial conversations, and you’ll want to build energy-saving, efficiency-enhancing options in from the beginning.
- Get creative with design to keep costs low.
- Understand your load profile – ask your utility reps for a year’s worth of utility bills and 15-minute interval data.
- Energy savings, efficiencies: For one company, gains from capacity reduction, solar array, and refrigeration improvements save $80K-$100K a year each. In December the company had smallest electric bill in 16 years, despite doubling its throughput. The kWh per case dropped from 0.8 kWh in 2008 to 0.35 kWh in 2020.
- Better information and control.
- Early warning systems.
- Remote system supervision allows quicker responses and corrective actions.
- Making a difference – environmental, business (systems and workers), improved outcomes for future generations.
- For one company, efficiencies in refrigeration resulted in reduced water use and unexpected energy savings.
- All speakers addressed soft benefits -- positive reactions from customers and consumers. You may do it for your company, and you may find fans as you tell your story. Your sustainability story may also make your company attractive as an employer to potential workers who value a purpose-driving organization.
- You start it “all about the dollars” but it’s not just that. It’s an easy sell when you look at benefits beyond reducing energy costs and improving efficiency.
- Real-time information delivered to staff smart phones allows them to operate systems remotely, speeds needed changes, and means staff may not have to come into the plant every time an alarm sounds.
For more details, including specific examples, check out the full webinar recording. This was the first in PMA’s 2021 series of sustainability webinars. Stay tuned for details on future webinar topics: waste, packaging, labor, soil health, and water.
To further help members on their sustainability journey, we released two resources on how to share your sustainability story. Many companies haven’t shared their stories or could improve those communications, and the first resource helps members do just that. The other resource is an online assessment tool so members can recognize what sustainability activities they have undertaken. Many companies have great sustainable practices, but they don’t recognize them as such and don’t talk about them in that way. These two resources will help members identify their sustainability efforts and empower robust communications.