The Energy Star program was created in the early 1990s by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in an attempt to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emission by power plants. The program soon grew to become an international standard for energy efficient consumer products and was adopted by Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan and the European Union. Devices carrying the Energy Star logo, such as computer products and peripherals, kitchen appliances, buildings and other products, generally use 20 to 30 percent less energy than required by federal standards.
Energy Star recently returned to its roots when it launched the Challenge for Industry, a call to manufacturing companies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by improving their energy efficiency by 10 percent within five years. Auto giant General Motors took up the challenge and signed up 30 North American manufacturing plants for an energy trim and an emissions makeover.
So how’d they do? The company reports that they cut energy intensity at 30 North American plants by an average of 25 percent – equivalent to the emissions from powering 97,000 U.S. homes. That’s impressive and sounds even better when you consider that collectively, the manufacturing facilities avoided more than 778,380 metric tons of greenhouse gases. It would require the planting of 20 million trees that grow for 10 years to mitigate the same amount. The GM effort isn’t just for looks, however; the company reports that the efforts saved them $50 million in energy costs.
Among GM’s 30 plants, the biggest success was the Silao Transmission Plant in Guanajuato, Mexico, which saw a 51.3 percent improvement in energy efficiency. The San Luis Potosi Transmission Plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, was right behind with a 50.92 percent improved efficiency. Third place was the Marion Stamping Plant (pictured above) in Marion, Ind., which saw a 38.5 percent improvement.
GM says they realized the improvements by employing tactics such as benchmarking energy use through energy management systems; automating shut-down of equipment; and upgrading to energy-efficient lighting and more-efficient heating and cooling systems.