EDF helps workers sleuth out energy savings

Labor unions get on board as efficiency allies

Ed Derr, of IUE-CWA Local 648

Ed Derr, of IUE-CWA Local 648, helped uncover energy savings at aluminum container plant CCL Container in Hermitage, Pa. “I want to do everything I can to help make this plant competitive as possible so I still have a job,” he said.

Industry accounts for one-third of greenhouse gas emissions.

So, factories are a major opportunity to reduce both pollution and costs by operating more efficiently. To sleuth out savings and emissions reductions, we've brought on board new allies in factories: workers in the IUE-CWA.

Our collaborative energy efficiency "treasure hunts" with union members are designed to eliminate sources of wasted energy at large manufacturing plants around the country.

Sleuthing out major savings

One recent treasure hunt at a Siemens factory in Norwood, Ohio, uncovered more than $170,000 in savings.

The plant, which builds large electric motors – up to 18,000 horsepower – has been operating since the 1890s. Much of the critical work of making these custom motors, like winding the insulated copper coils, is done by hand.

EDF and the IUE-CWA found numerous energy saving opportunities, such as:

  • Many lights were left burning when the factory floor was empty during non-production hours. Total savings by installing a programmable timer: $23,000 per year.
  • Leaks were found in compressed air lines, a common problem in this industry. Fixing them will save $16,000 per year.

Going forward, the union plans to take full ownership of the treasure hunts and conduct them at plants where their members work.

Getting results now

Treasure hunts to reduce energy costs at factories have netted impressive results:

  • 9% cut in annual carbon emissions and 10% in annual energy costs at CG Power in Washington, Mo.
  • 20% cut in both annual carbon emissions and annual energy costs at Cobasys in Springboro, Ohio.
  • 13% reduction in annual carbon emissions and 14% in annual energy costs at Sheboygan Paper Box Company in Sheboygan, Wis.
  • 5% reduction in annual carbon emissions and 5% in annual energy costs at CCL Container in Hermitage, Pa.

Improving job security

Union members, of course, hope that saving money by saving energy will make the jobs at those plants a little more secure.

"What's good for the environment is good for labor – and good for company profits," says EDF project manager Brendan FitzSimons.

White House champion of change

In April 2012, the White House named Jim Clark, President of IUE-CWA since 2005, a champion of change for his energy saving work. Clark championed the creation of a Green Production Module to teach industrial workers about environmental practices and regulations.

Within his own union, Clark has spearheaded a front-line worker project to conduct energy efficiency treasure hunts. The joint IUE-CWA and Environmental Defense Fund project aims to focus awareness on energy saving opportunities in day-to-day operations and harness the knowledge and experience of workers to achieve those energy savings.