Frequently Asked Questions
The environmental and economic benefits of energy efficiency cut across all sectors of the economy. U.S. manufacturing, however, has a special role to play in leading the way on energy management. The sector consumes about one-fourth of U.S. energy annually, and traditionally has been an early adopter of energy efficient technologies and processes. The Better Buildings, Better Plants Program provides an opportunity for manufacturing firms to partner with the U.S. Department of Energy to advance energy efficiency in their organizations and help improve the nation's environment and economy.
- What is the Better Buildings, Better Plants Program?
- Who is eligible to participate?
- What are the benefits of being a Better Plants Program Partner?
- How can a company become a Better Buildings, Better Plants Program Partner?
- What is the Better Buildings, Better Plants Challenge and how is that different from the Better Buildings, Better Plants Program?
- How can a company join the Better Buildings, Better Plants Challenge?
- What is required of Better Plants Program Partners?
- How will DOE handle proprietary information?
- What is the scope of the Pledge?
- Is the Pledge legally binding?
- What forms and tools are available to help with the reporting requirements?
- How is energy intensity defined?
- What if we already have a goal for energy intensity or carbon reduction?
Relationship to DOE Initiatives
- What is the difference between the Save Energy Now LEADER initiative and the Better Plants Program?
- What is the relationship between Superior Energy Performance (SEP) and the Better Buildings, Better Plants Program and Challenge?
What is the Better Buildings, Better Plants Program?
The Better Buildings, Better Plants Program is part of a national leadership initiative calling on business leaders and others to create American jobs through energy efficiency. The Better Plants Program is designed to encourage and recognize U.S. companies that are raising the bar for all manufacturing facilities by establishing and achieving ambitious energy efficiency goals. Companies joining the program sign a voluntary pledge to reduce energy intensity by 25% over ten years. These companies receive national recognition for their commitment and progress and will be referred to as Better Buildings, Better Plants Program Partners.
Who is eligible to participate?
Any company in the U.S. industrial or manufacturing sector can become a Better Plants Program Partner, regardless of company size or level of energy management expertise. Participating companies make a corporate-wide commitment to reduce energy intensity among their U.S. operating subsidiaries. An entire global enterprise can also participate; however, energy intensity reductions achieved in the United States must be reported on a separate form from non-U.S. reductions.
What are the benefits of being a Better Plants Program Partner?
Program Partners receive diverse benefits, including:
National recognition for Program participation and progress made toward achieving energy intensity targets: Program Partners will receive a welcome letter from DOE and be recognized on the Department's website. Companies that achieve an annual improvement rate equal to or better than 2.5% receive additional recognition, including a congratulatory letter from DOE and inclusion in an annual press release highlighting partner accomplishments. Upon achieving their 10-year target, Program Partners receive a letter and plaque from DOE. Companies have additional opportunities to promote their own participation in the program. Promotional materials and templates are available to help companies publicize their participation in the Pledge program, both internally and externally.
Technical support to help Program Partners capture the inherent benefits of energy efficiency: These benefits include reduced operating costs, enhanced competitiveness, better management of the risks associated with volatile energy costs, and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Specific technical resources offered to Program Partners through the program include:
Access to a technical account manager (TAM) for support on developing energy management plans and identifying energy saving opportunities: Program Partners are assigned a TAM to help establish and analyze key energy use data and metrics for the development of baselines and energy management plans, as well as to identify emerging technologies applicable to plant operations.
Access to in-plant trainings: Program Partners will have the opportunity to apply for in-plant trainings that provide guidance on how to identify and prioritize energy saving opportunities, effectively implement and replicate energy saving projects, and integrate assessments into an energy management strategy.
Attend training (23413) workshops on financing options, advanced technology, energy analysis software, energy management, and other topics: Program Partners can take advantage of DOE training opportunities. Workshops cover a diverse set of topics that help companies identify and implement energy and cost-saving projects.
Easy access to proven energy analysis software tools and other technical resources from DOE and partner organizations: DOE's proven portfolio of technical resources will help companies identify and implement the most cost-effective energy efficiency improvements. DOE is in the process of updating its online tool suite to provide an integrated set of energy management resources, including an E-Guide for ISO 50001 Implementation and other training resources that will walk participating companies through the steps of establishing an energy management system consistent with the international standard International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 50001. Additionally, DOE's Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) is updating a number of its systems area tools, calculators, and scorecards. These resources will be organized on a more user-friendly Energy Management Resources Suite.
How can a company become a Better Buildings, Better Plants Program Partner?
To become a Better Plants Program Partner, email BetterPlants@ee.doe.gov. The Better Plants team will answer any questions you have and set up a kickoff call to explain how DOE can help you achieve your energy intensity reduction goal.
What is the Better Buildings, Better Plants Challenge and how is that different from the Better Buildings, Better Plants Program?
The Better Buildings, Better Plants Challenge is a part of the Better Buildings Challenge—a national, multi-sector energy efficiency leadership initiative. Participating in the Better Buildings Challenge provides higher-level recognition for companies that commit to enhanced levels of transparency and innovation in their approaches to energy efficiency, and make a significant, near-term investment in an energy saving project or set of projects. To join the Better Buildings Challenge, companies are required to complete the following:
Announce an energy efficiency goal that includes reducing energy intensity by at least 2.5% annually.
Announce an energy efficiency market innovation, which may include an energy savings capital set aside program, scalable approaches to Superior Energy Performance certification, supply chain engagement, emerging technology deployment, or other innovative solutions to persistent energy efficiency barriers.
Conduct a near-term showcase project, which is defined as a significant energy savings project or set of projects at a single facility.
Report and make public on an annual basis corporate-wide energy use, energy improvement, and energy efficiency investment data.
Report and make public on a quarterly basis data on showcase projects and market innovations.
Companies that join the Better Plants Challenge will be referred to as Challenge Partners.
How can a company join the Better Buildings, Better Plants Challenge?
The Challenge partnership agreement will be available online soon. In the meantime, you can request a form by contacting Andre de Fontaine at DOE (firstname.lastname@example.org; 202-586-6585). If you are interested in joining, please have your CEO sign the form, then email or fax it to Andre (fax: 202-586-5234). You can also contact Andre with additional questions about the Challenge.
What is required of Better Plants Program Partners?
The Better Plants Program requires four main activities of its Program Partners:
Pledge: Program Partners sign a corporate pledge to reduce energy intensity by 25% over 10 years.
Baseline: Program Partners develop an energy use baseline and track the change in energy intensity throughout their participation in the program. A change in energy intensity is the annual incremental change in organizational energy intensity from one year to the next, as compared to the base year. Companies without an existing baseline must establish both an energy baseline and an energy intensity baseline within one year of signing the Pledge. The baseline year should be set as close as possible to the year in which the Pledge was made.
To help companies calculate baseline metrics, consult the Better Plants Guide for Companies (guidance is also available through Plant Energy Profiler (PEP)). TAMs are also available to help companies through the process. DOE wants to ensure that baselines are set in a responsible and defensible manner without causing undue burden on companies and plants. For this reason, AMO is rolling out a new baselining module in Spring 2012 that will allow companies to more easily track energy intensity improvements. This baselining and tracking module includes tools for corporate-level baselining, as well as facility-level performance tracking. DOE encourages companies to utilize the upcoming baselining tool; however, companies may also use their own methodology or a commercially-available methodology.
Energy management plans: Program Partners are required to have an up-to-date energy management plan for internal use within one year of signing the Pledge. As part of this requirement, companies must designate a corporate energy manager. Companies are encouraged to use publicly available energy management resources to develop the plan, such as the following:
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Resources
A company may also use its own methodology or a commercially available energy management methodology.
Report energy data, number of plants, and progress: Program Partners are asked to report energy data, number of plants involved, and progress each year. Data for U.S. operations should be submitted separately from non-U.S. operations.
Report annual energy use by fuel type and change in energy intensity. Energy intensity must be based on primary energy use. Primary energy accounting considers the energy lost off-site during the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity (rule of thumb: multiply electricity use by three to account for generation losses). Primary energy use should exclude energy used as a feedstock. An adjustment to the baseline energy use due to mergers, acquisitions, divestments, and other significant changes is also requested, including a brief description (less than 250 words).
Report the number of plants included within the boundary of the Better Plants entity.
Report annual progress, including a general description of the technology, strategy, or practices employed to decrease intensity (less than 250 words).
How will DOE handle proprietary information?
All data and information reported to DOE through the Better Buildings, Better Plants Program is confidential and treated as proprietary information. Energy baselines and management plans are for internal use only. Data may be reported to the public at the discretion of the company. DOE will obtain company permission before using any data or information in case studies or other publications. On an annual basis, DOE will make public certain aggregate, program-wide metrics, including total energy savings, average energy intensity improvement across all companies, and the percentage share of manufacturing energy footprint represented by Better Plants Program Partners.
What is the scope of the Pledge?
The Pledge focuses on reducing the energy intensity of all of a company's U.S. manufacturing and industrial operations.
The boundaries for the Better Plants Program Partner should incorporate all U.S. manufacturing or industrial plants; the inclusion of energy use in buildings and non-manufacturing facilities is also encouraged.
The Better Plants Program focuses on reducing energy intensity, not absolute energy use. This program does not focus on reducing non-energy carbon or other greenhouse gas emissions.
DOE applauds efforts to purchase alternative sources of energy from the electric grid and produce on-site renewable energy, but these activities are not counted by the program as energy intensity reductions. Waste heat recovery efforts, such as Combined Heat and Power, are often a valuable means to reduce energy intensity.
The Better Plants Program should stimulate the market for efficient industrial technologies and services, but it does not focus on producing energy efficient products. Companies are encouraged to use the Better Plants Program to drive energy efficiency throughout their supply chains, and DOE is developing tools to help them do so. Energy intensity reductions outside of a company's corporate boundaries, however, should not be included in the Pledge boundaries.
Is the Pledge legally binding?
The Pledge is a voluntary agreement. It is a motivational tool and is not legally binding in any way. A company may choose to opt out of the Better Plants Program at any time, without public notice or comment of any kind. Companies should send a notification letter to BetterPlants@ee.doe.gov if they decide to opt out.
What forms and tools are available to help with the reporting requirements?
The following resources are available to help companies calculate their energy baseline and complete the reporting requirements of the Pledge:
Steps to Develop a Baseline: A Guide to Developing an Energy Use and Energy Intensity Baseline and the Reporting Requirements for the Better Buildings, Better Plants Partners: A document that provides six steps for developing a baseline, as well as detailed examples of the factors impacting how energy intensity and other data are calculated.
Upcoming Energy Performance Improvement Calculator (EPIC), or the New Baselining Tool: This baselining and tracking module includes tools for corporate-level baselining and savings tracking, as well as facility-level tracking of performance and savings that will help companies establish an energy baseline and track subsequent progress in energy use reductions. The official roll out is expected in late Spring 2012.
Pledge Annual Reporting Form: The spreadsheet companies submit to DOE each year during the Pledge period (Years 1–11).
Plant Energy Profiler (PEP): A software tool that helps plants baseline and profile their energy use and estimate potential cost savings. PEP has a Carbon Footprint Calculator that considers 24 energy sources and tracks absolute changes in annual energy use and carbon emissions.
Energy Intensity Baseline Spreadsheet: A spreadsheet to help companies track energy intensity by product group and calculate the change in energy intensity compared to the base year (this matrix is also included in PEP).
How is energy intensity defined?
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 defines energy intensity as the "primary energy consumed for each unit of physical output in an industrial process." Better Plants Program Partners are encouraged to measure energy intensity in a way that adheres to this definition. However, DOE understands that each company will need to adopt methods to measure and track energy intensity data that are appropriate for its operations. These energy intensity measurements will vary by industry and company.
The units of physical output (or units of production) can be the number, mass, volume, size, functionality, or economic value of a product. Many companies will need to track energy intensity across multiple product lines due to significant diversity in product groups. Segmenting energy use among specific product groups is challenging; however, efforts to do so will provide more accurate and valuable estimates of energy intensity for each product group.
What if we already have a goal for energy intensity or carbon reduction?
DOE will honor a company's existing goals if they are consistent with Better Plants Program requirements. Companies participating in other federal voluntary programs are welcome to become a Better Plants Program Partner; they can often work from their established goals, energy baselines, and energy management methodologies to satisfy some Better Plants Program requirements.
Relationship to DOE Initiatives
What is the difference between the Save Energy Now LEADER initiative and the Better Plants Program?
The Better Plants Program represents the evolution of Save Energy Now LEADER. It builds on the success of LEADER while offering new opportunities for companies at the leading edge of industrial energy efficiency. DOE automatically transitioned all previous LEADER Companies into the Better Plants Program, effective Dec. 1, 2011. Key program requirements of the Better Plants Program are the same as those set under LEADER, including:
The ambitious 10-year, 25% energy intensity improvement target
Baselining and annual reporting requirements
Access to DOE resources to help companies meet their pledge targets.
What is the relationship between Superior Energy Performance (SEP) and the Better Buildings, Better Plants Program and Challenge?
SEP is a plant-level certification program that requires conformance with ISO 50001 as well as achievement of specified energy performance improvement targets. The program provides industrial and commercial facilities with a roadmap for achieving continual improvement in energy efficiency while boosting competitiveness. SEP is an important tool for helping companies achieve the corporate-wide goals they set through the Better Plants Program and Better Plants Challenge, but it is not a required component of either initiative. For more information on SEP, contact Paul Scheihing at DOE (email@example.com; 202-586-7234).