OIT Times: Demand for Energy Efficiency Spurring Growth of OIT-State Partnerships
September 21, 2001
For the past several years, the innovative Industries of the Future (IOF) strategy has guided OIT. Focusing on the country's nine most energy intensive industries —agriculture, aluminum, chemicals, forest products, glass, metal casting, mining, steel and petroleum refining—OIT brings together major players in each and asks them to envision their future, and then work together to help achieve that vision with support from OIT. One successful outgrowth of OIT's national IOF effort has been a counterpart initiative targeting individual states.
"We began working on the 'States Industries of the Future' concept a few years ago, and it's proven to be a very successful catalyst on a number of fronts," explained OIT's Deputy Assistant Secretary Denise Swink. "It's helped us reach a great many more firms and individuals with useful information about how they can improve industrial energy efficiency."
"We seem to have struck a nerve. Among folks that work in these traditional, energy-intensive basic industries, there's been building out there an awareness that to survive and prosper, not only must they compete, they must also cooperate and work together, too. We've stepped in and provided a mechanism to help them do this," said Swink.
Basic Industries Back on Radar Screen
"At dozens of sites all over the country we've facilitated the assembly of folks from these industries to discuss their common interests in cutting energy use and other areas, too. Almost always these sessions have been attended by local and state government representatives who've taken back to their state capitols a greater awareness about the economic and employment importance of these industries and the challenges they face," she said.
"The concept of States IOF is simple," said OIT's States IOF Team Leader Sandy Glatt. OIT works with State Energy Offices, universities with extension missions, or other entities within a State that have pre-existing relationships with the local industrial base, providing them with seed money (through a State Energy Program grant) to implement the IOF strategy in their state. From this starting point, however, there are as many implementation plans as there are states in the program.
"It was obvious from the beginning that one size wouldn't fit all, and that's fine," explained Swink. "Some states begin by focusing on one or two energy-intensive industries while others focus on several industries at once. Some focus on roadmapping and forming teams to develop R&D proposals for OIT or other potential funding sources. Others get the industries together to make them aware of the broad range of near-term Best Practices tools and opportunities that are available. We leave it up to the local experts to apply the IOF model in the way that best suits local needs."
Many New Players to 'Industries of the Future'
"One of the great things about the program is that we reach a lot of people and companies that would not otherwise become involved in Industry of the Future partnerships," said Glatt. "People from small- and medium-sized firms or plants far from corporate headquarters might not be aware of IOF programs or how they can participate or benefit. But, when it's brought to the State level, State industry leaders are more likely to take part. In addition, with prestigious entities like state universities doing the outreach, we can more effectively reach local industry," she said.
"New ideas are emerging that are causing OIT's industry teams to revisit their national roadmaps and rethink some priority areas. For example, some of the ideas that came out of Pennsylvania's specialty steel roadmap are now being reviewed to see how they might fit into the national steel agenda," explained Glatt. "It's a great way to ensure that the national roadmaps remain fresh and vital."
Like their national counterparts, state-level industries set their technology priorities, and form teams to address them. However, since state industry priorities sometimes differ from national industry priorities, a new program — Initiative on Cooperative Programs with States for R&D — has been created to fund state-level R&D programs directly. Glatt offered an example.
"Because of their widespread presence, pulp and paper interests tend to dominate the national forest products industry roadmap," she explained. "In some states, though, hardwood issues loom larger. So this is a great way to identify new technologies needed by sawmills and get R&D projects underway to help this critical segment of the forest products industry."
California offers another example. Its recent energy crisis led the state to reach out to OIT's States Team to access energy-saving 'Best Practice' solutions that local firms could implement quickly. OIT and its Allied Partners stepped forward with three Energy Fairs to help California's manufacturers become more aware of successful energy-saving case studies, software tools and other new products and assistance resources
The States IOF program is becoming a centerpiece for many states' energy efficiency programs. In fact, Governors of several states have signed a formal "Memorandum of Understanding" with DOE committing to the effort at the highest levels. "We hope that all states that have a concentration of energy-intensive industries within their borders will choose to participate," said Swink.
This special issue of The OIT Times describes IOF efforts underway in 11 states. It shows the diversity of approaches they are taking to meeting their common goals of reducing energy use and environmental impacts while improving productivity and competitiveness.