When is $80,000 really $800,000? When it takes $800,000 in sales to produce a profit of $80,000, according to Bin Wu, director of the University of Missouri Industrial Assessment Center (MoIAC), which helps businesses save money through energy conservation. The center — which saves its companies, on average, $80,000 a year in energy costs — was recently awarded a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy over the next five years.
MoIAC helps Missouri companies by conducting free energy assessments while training students; a team of faculty members and students reviews the company’s utility bills, visits the site, identifies opportunities to save energy and submits a recommendation report to the company. This report includes 10 to 20 recommendations focusing on areas that consume a great amount of energy, such as compressed air systems, motors and lighting, and notes the costs necessary to upgrade to more energy efficient practices and technologies, as well as savings the company can expect. Within a year, the center follows up with the company to see which recommendations have been taken, as well as the actual cost savings. (Energy cost savings typically cover the cost of making the change within less than a year.)
Wu noted, in a statement, that while freeing up $80,000 a year for its client is significant, what may be even more significant is the fact that “more than 400 students will show future employers how to be leaders in energy efficiency. This funding allows us to train and educate even more students.” He goes on to say that some of the center’s graduates are already heading energy efficiency efforts at companies around the world.
The MoIAC grant is part of a U.S. Department of Energy grant announcement of more than $30 million that will be distributed to 24 universities in 23 states across the country to train undergraduate- and graduate-level engineering students in manufacturing efficiency, with the aim of helping them to become the nation’s next generation of industrial energy efficiency experts.