State program helps firms boost energy efficiency

One of the most important issues facing companies throughout New Hampshire and the United States is energy efficiency, and since 1999 the New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning has been working with companies to improve their energyefficiency efforts through a program called New Hampshire Industries of the Future.

“Our goal is to eliminate energy as a crisis,” said Jim Taylor, grants and program development coordinator for the Office of Energy and Planning. “If a company is spending between 5 percent and 10 percent of their operating budget on energy, then it is worth serious consideration.”

New Hampshire Industries of the Future, or NHIOF, is the only partnership of its kind in the nation. It involves businesses, the WasteCap Resource Conservation Network, the Office of Energy and Planning, the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Industrial Technologies and the New Hampshire Office of Business and Industrial Development.

Last July, administration of NHIOF was transferred to the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development and is administered through the Office of Business and Industrial Development by Henry Goode. This transfer has solidified the connection between NHIOF and the Office of Business and Industrial Development.

“Industries of the Future is another tool for our retention and expansion experts,” said Roy Duddy, director of OBID.

“Energy is always an issue for companies, and we are now able to provide companies with direct access to solutions.”

NHIOF is a program with traditional roots, founded on the principle that the solutions to business problems lie within business.

For example, NHIOF is helping several of the state’s largest industry sectors — metals, pulp and paper and rubber and plastics — develop a vision of what businesspeople want their respective industries to look like five, 10 and 20 years in the future. Businesses are identifying the obstacles to achieving that vision – including energy efficiency, productivity, waste reduction and environmental issues — and putting together pragmatic strategies to resolve the problems.

“Our goal is to make each business more energy efficient, so each company gets more out of each energy dollar they spend,” said Roy Duddy, director of OBID. “We have a responsibility to make each of our clients more efficient and more productive, and this program is one of the many ways we accomplish that.”

Businesses begin working with NHIOF in two primary ways: through a referral from OBID or by attending one of the many workshops NHIOF conducts regarding energy-efficient business practices.

Once a recommendation has been made, NHIOF conducts a specific energy efficiency review, which often leads to an audit by the Industrial Assessment Center at the University of Massachusetts. The free visits tend to last one or two days, and result in a comprehensive report of energy use and opportunities for increased efficiency within the facility. The results of the audit often include a mix of immediate changes and long-term solutions. All recommendations are based on a return-on-investment model.

Since the beginning of 2004, NHIOF has directly assisted 28 New Hampshire companies, with 11 of them receiving IAC audits.

“Some of the recommendations may be very simple,” said Mark Toussaint, executive director of WasteCap. “For example, one company was able to save $5,000 in a year by staggering the start-up of their equipment.”

“This type of solution is a perfect example of how the program can work: by analyzing the company’s day-to-day practices, an immediate energy savings was found,” said Taylor. “The energy needed to start all the machines at once created huge demand. Staggering the start was a more energy-efficient way to do business. The company saw immediate savings without any capital investment.”

Long-term solutions

When capital investments are involved, companies may be eligible for subsidies from utilities to offset the cost of the initial investment of equipment purchases. In this sense, utilities have become important partners in the program, furthering the collaboration of the public and private sectors.

Many times, businesses do not actually undergo the formal IAC audit, but they do gain a great deal from workshops.

Workshops are designed to provide customized training on industry specific topics.

“Businesses are able to gain a great deal of knowledge from the workshops,” said Toussaint. “And the changes they implement lead to an IAC audit that will only need to focus on long-term solutions. The immediate needs have already been addressed.”

The workshops offered by NHIOF focus on industry-specific needs and solutions. The topic areas covered in the workshops are based on feedback from businesses and are designed to cover areas of specific concern to businesses. Often the topic areas are the same across industry groups, and the workshops can provide specific solutions for each resource. The workshops also proved an excellent networking opportunity for businesses.

“Our goal is to educate and empower businesses. When businesses are made aware of the resources available to them, they are able to save money,” said Taylor.

“Best of all, because of the collaboration between the public and private sectors, our services are provided without cost to the company.”

“Energy is beginning to make its way to the top of companies’ lists of concerns, along with health care, for example,” said Duddy. “And our goal is to help them make educated decisions and achieve long-term
results.” NHBR

For more information about NHIOF, visit the Industries of the Future link at http://www.nheconomy. com under “Relocate or Expand Your Business in New Hampshire.” This article was provided by the state Office of Business and Industrial Development.

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