This column originally ran in the April 2013 issue of Food Manufacturing.

After years of advice, prodding, urging and incentivizing, manufacturers are greener than ever, and so are their pocket books.

When I was a child, my brother and I would play a little game, flipping on light switches and counting the minutes until my dad turned them off. He told us that someday we’d pay the electric bill and he’d have the last laugh, watching us pad around turning out lights just like he had.

Much like my dad, American manufacturers are acutely aware of the cost of energy and of the enormous savings that smart energy consumption can generate. According to statistics from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the average retail price of electricity for industrial customers has risen steadily from 5.05 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2001 to 6.82 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2011. While this increase closely mirrors the rate of inflation, manufacturers have been proactive in adopting energy efficient equipment and procedures in order to reduce energy-related expenses.

And they’ve had some help. The California Energy Commission identifies the following eight “best practices” in energy consumption in manufacturing:

  • Increase the Efficiency of Motors and Systems
  • Improve Building Lighting
  • Upgrade Heating, Ventilating and Cooling
  • Capture the Benefits of Utility Competition
  • Empower Your Employees To Do More
  • Use Water Reduction Practices
  • Use the Internet
  • Implement Comprehensive Facility Energy and Environmental Management

ENERGY STAR, a joint effort by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, echoes many of these directives in its own advice on “energy efficiency opportunities,” urging manufacturers to:

  • Measure and track energy performance.
  • Improve common plant systems such as motors, compressed air, steam, process heating, etc. 
  • Turn off what is not required.
  • Get employees involved.
  • Check the lights.

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