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A new industrial revolution is helping American companies save energy and reduce pollution using clean, efficient technologies, and even on-site production of energy. Nearly 100 case studies charted by the Center for Energy & Climate Solutions for the Cool Companies project demonstrate how one business after another is earning the equivalent of 40 to 50 percent returns on energy-saving investments. Savings bring not only lower costs, but also measurable, documented productivity gains through improved product quality and employee morale.

Virtually any business can achieve substantial energy and pollution savings that cost nothing, or pay for themselves in a short time. These results prove yet again that a healthy environment and a strong economy are completely compatible goals. 

But getting there takes focused management strategy. High-tech energy sources are just a small part of the story: most savings are stem from smart management and information technology, combined with common electro-mechanical devices. Only a few depend on wind or solar technologies long touted as the likeliest environmental solutions for energy users.  

Although deregulation of the electric power industry has created dramatic problems in some areas, it has also opened the door for more businesses to save energy on a competitive basis through capital-saving outsourcing deals that offset front-end costs through shared savings plans while letting each partner focus on the business they know best. 

Cool Companies Include: 

  • DuPont's 1,450-acre Chambers Works in New Jersey, which reduced energy use per pound of product by one-third, and cut global warming pollution per pound of product by nearly half. Even as production rose 9 percent, the total energy bill fell by more than $17 million a year.
  • An Arkansas steel tube manufacturer that replaced a key electric motor and drive with a new, high-efficiency system. The 34 percent energy savings would have paid for the new system in five years, but the new setup also reduced the steps in the production process. The resulting improvement in productivity and reduction in scrap paid for the system in five months.
  • A Massachusetts cutting blade manufacturer upgraded its lighting from old fluorescents to new high-pressure sodium-vapor and metal-halide fixtures. The new lighting cost $98,000, which was partly covered by the local utility. Annual energy savings came to $48,000 - a payback of about one year. But the surprise came in productivity gains: the new system made it possible for workers to spot small particles that cause costly production defects. The improved product quality from the efficient lighting yielded the equivalent of $250,000 in increased in sales.
  • Chicago's McCormick Place Convention Center, which installed a combined heat-and-power system that saves $1 million a year in energy costs and cuts carbon dioxide emissions in half.
  • Western Digital's computer disc drive factory in Malaysia that cut energy use 44 percent with a one-year payback. These cuts were achieved even though plant floor space increased by more that 10 percent and air filtration requirements increased 1,000-fold. 
  • A South Carolina aluminum refiner that analyzed its dust collection system and found that a few modest operational changes would save $104,000 a year, reduce energy consumption 12 percent a year, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by over 2,500 tons a year with no capital outlay whatsoever. 

Why Many Companies Miss Lucrative Opportunities 

So why isn’t every businesses cashing in? 

In fact, many of the best companies are embracing the latest designs and technologies in energy efficiency. Others lag behind under the illusion that they already maximized energy efficiency in the 1970s and 1980s, unaware of dramatic technological developments since then. Often, their energy managers were often laid off in down-sizings and re-engineerings of the 1990s. Meanwhile, architects and engineers often have no incentive to specify efficient motors, lighting, or climate controls in a building – equipment with higher initial cost, but long-term operational savings – since the electric bill is someone else's problem.

As a result, only a third of U.S. manufacturers are seriously scrutinizing energy usage, where, as Fortune magazine recently noted, "savings . . . can move billions to the bottom line."

Cool Lighting 
Lighting accounts for 40 percent of electricity used in commercial buildings; another 10 percent goes to cool the heat from the light.

Cool Comfort

Measures that improve comfort and air quality while cutting energy for indoor climate control by 40 percent or more are almost commonplace.

Cool Buildings
Any building that hasn't had a comprehensive energy upgrade in the last five years is throwing away money. 

Cool High-Tech

Cleaner clean rooms mean big savings for New Economy manufacturers.

Cool Power
Choices for clean, cost-effective power are booming due to advances in technology and electricity deregulation.

  • Fuel Cells    
  • Geothermal Energy    
  • Cogeneration    
  • Solar Power    
  • Wind Power    
  • Biomass Energy 
  • Purchasing Power