In 2012, industry (comprised of manufacturing, agriculture, mining and construction) accounted for about one-third (30.6 quads) of the US’s total primary energy consumption, according to a recently released DOE report entitled “Barriers to Industrial Energy Efficiency.” (A quad is equivalent to 1 quadrillion BTUs.)

In 2010, the food and beverage industry was the fifth-largest energy consumer (1.25 quads) in the manufacturing subsector. While the industrial sector has made steady progress in saving energy, the rate of adopting energy-efficient technologies and practices could be accelerated to reduce energy consumption  another 15 to 32 percent by 2025, according to the report. From 2002 through 2010, some heavy-duty industries significantly decreased their energy intensity (the measure of energy to produce a product). For example, the chemical industry and primary metals manufacturers saw the greatest decrease, while the food industry remained relatively flat during the same period (see graph). 

Energy efficiency can be achieved across a diverse range of technologies such as:

  • Motors—Retrofit existing motors with VFDs; replace aging motors with modern, efficient versions.
  • Steam systems—Retrofit existing boilers with economizers; improve steam trap maintenance.
  • Plant buildings—Upgrade lighting (lamps and controls); improve HVAC maintenance.
  • Process equipment—Enhance process monitoring through the use of sensors and controls; improve maintenance schedules and procedures for process equipment.
  • Plan energy management systems—Adopt management practices and systems that optimize energy use across plant locations; use enhanced data collection for more informed decisions that will drive down energy use; share results at all organizational levels to emphasize the importance of achieving energy-saving goals.

According to the report, the benefits of implementing these strategies include reduced energy and emissions control costs, plus enhanced competitiveness. Co-benefits include reduced material loss, improved product quality and reduced water consumption.

Manufacturers have shown progress in using energy more efficiently. However, barriers still impede greater implementation of energy-reduction techniques. The economic, financial and regulatory barriers include:

  • Internal competition for capital—Manufacturers have limited capital available for projects and expect payback in one to three years.
  • Corporate tax structures—Depreciation periods and the handling of energy bills can be a deterrent.
  • Program planning cycles—Companies often split costs and benefits for energy projects between business units, complicating decision-making.
  • Failing to recognize efficiency’s non-energy benefits results in under-procurement of energy-related resources.
  • Energy price trends—Volatile energy prices create uncertainty in investment returns.
  • Utility business model—Utilities lose interest in promoting energy-efficiency projects.
  • Industrial participation in ratepayer-funded energy-efficiency programs—Opt-out or loosely defined self-direct programs keep manufacturers from participating in traditional energy-efficiency programs.
  • Failing to recognize all the benefits of efficiency results in fewer implementations.
  • Energy resource planning—Energy efficiency should be considered as a part of the integrated resource planning process.
  • Environmental permitting—Uncertainty, complexity and costs associated with permitting processes such as New Source Review (NSR) keep manufacturers from moving ahead.

The report also lists several informational barriers that slow energy-saving implementations. For example, unawareness of federal, state and utility incentives; a lack of disaggregated energy consumption data (e.g., process unit, equipment level); many manufacturers lack in-house technical staff to develop energy-saving projects.

Download the study at