10 Tips For Better Energy Management

Aug 23, 2013 1:15 PM ET

General Motors’ team members possess a competitive spirit when it comes to efficiently operating its facilities. This year, we received an EPA ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year award and 54 of our plants recently met ENERGY STAR’s Challenge for Industry.

When it comes to reducing energy consumption and environmental impact, we don’t keep our methods a secret. It’s beneficial for all companies to share best practices to achieve these common goals. It’s why we laid out a blueprint for reducing waste, and why we’re sharing some of these tips we use to cut energy use.

1. Engage Objective Experts: The best judges are those with no immediate stake in the results. In 2012, we contracted an independent third party to validate our global energy, water, greenhouse gas, production usage, and environmental data for all of our manufacturing and major non-manufacturing facilities.

2. Set Goals: Goals are an integral part of running a successful business. We set environmental goals and then integrate them into our manufacturing business plans. Each of our facilities develops their own energy efficient plan to meet their energy efficient objectives.

3. Benchmark: Using external benchmarking resources from EPA ENERGY STAR®, we identify plants that are within the top 25th percentile of automobile companies so that best practices can be identified and shared globally.

4. Invest in Energy Efficiency: GM allocates monies for high-return efficiency projects.   We collect proposed projects from facilities and prioritize them based on return on investment and probability of successful implementation. This year, we spent $20 million on energy efficiency in the U.S., and as a result reduced manufacturing energy intensity by 11 percent from the previous year after accounting for production and climate. Milder weather, for instance, can lead to a reduction in the amount of energy intensity at a plant, while colder weather will increase intensity.

5. Monitor – Constantly: Across all of our U.S facilities, we monitor about 2.5 million points of energy data per minute. That’s a lot of data, and to adequately manage it we, in conjunction with Science Applications International Corporation, Inc. developed a dashboard system called Energy OnStar. Assisted by the third party, plants compare hourly performance of heating, ventilating and air conditioning equipment and their energy use. As a result of seeing this real-time feedback, we implemented nearly $3 million worth of energy savings at our U.S. facilities this year via Energy OnStar.

6. Measure Performance: We keep employees informed of our energy, water and CO2 intensity performance on scorecards, helping us determine how we’re tracking against monthly and annual goals.  Any performance with less than a “green” status requires a countermeasure to be developed to correct it, which is also tracked with additional emphasis to ensure achievement.

7. Involve and Reward Employees: We use a formal employee suggestion system. Not a slip of paper dropped in a suggestion box, but a process where U.S. employees’ active involvement pays off – literally.  Employees who suggest an improvement to an existing process can receive a portion of the implemented savings up to $20,000. We’ve implemented many employee ideas in the last year, yielding hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy, water, and carbon reduction savings.

8. Share Best Practices throughout Organization: Reducing energy consumption is a global team effort and requires collaboration from all levels. We use a global web-based system where plants and offices around the globe can input energy, water, and carbon-reduction best practices for all GM team members to learn from and improve upon.

9. Be Transparent: We calculate greenhouse gases through a web-based global system that shows energy effect on carbon emissions. This information is reported publicly to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP)and in our annual Sustainability Report.

10. Communicate: GM communicates progress, shares results, discusses the implementation of ideas, and tells stories of its global energy efficiency gains through a variety of channels like our internal enewsletters, employee intranet, and this environmental blog. A project isn’t complete unless it’s talked about, since that often inspires and sparks other ideas.

These are just 10 ways in which we increase our energy efficiency company-wide. If there’s anything we missed, or something your company is doing, feel free to tell us in the comments.

General Motors