As National Energy Efficiency Day approaches on Oct. 5, I am proud to say I work for a company that takes saving energy seriously.
Since 2006, leading steelmaker ArcelorMittal has saved more than $257 million each year through a wide array of energy-saving measures across our 27 U.S. facilities, including several of our facilities in the Midwest. These savings benefit our business, workforce and communities, and allow us to become a more competitive and sustainable company.
We are not alone.
According to a recent study by the Alliance for Industrial Efficiency, 43% of the nation’s largest 160 manufacturers have made public commitments to save energy and are taking bold steps to increase their energy efficiency.
Many of these companies, such as Cargill Inc. and Cummins Inc., also have operations in the Midwest. Clearly, other companies have learned the same lesson we did — setting and reporting against public energy-savings targets helps align and motivate employees, provide focus, drive innovation and boost bottom lines.
For an industry as competitive and energy-intensive as ours, reducing energy use and costs anywhere possible is critical for both our business and environmental performance. Even seemingly small amounts of wasted energy can make the difference between staying in the black or falling into the red.
We’ve learned that to create a more sustainable business and maintain our competitive advantage as an integrated steelmaker, energy efficiency improvements are essential.
The energy-saving measures we have taken run the gamut. They include both straightforward LED lighting retrofits and more complicated projects, like installing combined heat and power (CHP) systems, which allow us to produce both electricity to use on site, as well as heat and steam to use in the steel manufacturing process.
In 2009, we ramped up the installations of variable speed drives (VSD) throughout our facilities to control the speed of motors, fans and pumps. Projects like these have had unexpected non-energy related benefits, such as reducing equipment downtime and maintenance costs and improving worker safety.
For example, on our hot-dip cooling tower at our Burns Harbor, IN, plant, we used to replace about two motors and two fans out of the 42 in operation each year. With the installation of the VSDs, the system has become much more reliable and we’ve only had a couple of failures in eight years.
This reduction in fan and motor repairs alone is valued at more than $200,000 per year. Plus, when these repairs were required, they were done in difficult environments with employees working in hot conditions at elevated heights. With the installation of VSDs, not only did we reduce our energy and maintenance costs, we also improed worker safety and freed up time for our team to install other projects.
Our employees have driven many of our energy-saving efforts. Through ArcelorMittal’s “Power of One” program, our employees are encouraged to identify unnecessary energy use at our plants and propose energy saving measures.
At our Riverdale, IL, facility, employees noted inefficient lighting fixtures on the shop room floor. We flagged the issue for our local utility, secured a rebate, and upgraded to more efficient lighting. Thanks to this investment, our Riverdale facility is now saving $8,000 annually.
These are just a few examples of how our company is working to save energy by making our operations more efficient.
We also strive to set an example for others. In 2013, we became the first and only integrated steel company to join the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Plants Program, and set a public goal to reduce the energy intensity at 12 of our largest U.S. facilities by 10% by 2023.
The 190-plus program participants have collectively saved $4.2 billion in energy costs. Because of this participation and our other energy-saving efforts, we are the only steel company to be recognized as an EPA Energy Star Partner of the Year.
We are very proud of the work we’ve accomplished so far, but we know there is more to be done.
Over the past four years, we reduced our energy intensity by two percent, and we are currently working on several major projects that will help reduce our energy intensity by an additional 8% or more by 2023.
For a mature technology like steelmaking, we are down to the last few percentage point improvements in an already very efficient process. We take pride in our role as a national leader in industrial efficiency and encourage other companies to take measures to reduce energy usage.