Green Jobs, Blue Jobs

The industrial sector accounts for roughly one-third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The good news is that there are huge, untapped energy-efficiency opportunities that can save manufacturing companies money (see www.lesscarbonmoreinnovation.org). Unfortunately barriers—ranging from financial, organizational and cultural—hinder companies from implementing these solutions

That’s why EDF has teamed up with the labor union IUE-CWA on a project to overcome these barriers. IUE-CWA workers are being taught to conduct energy-efficiency “Treasure Hunts,” which leverages their first-hand expertise and knowledge to identify efficiency opportunities. We recently co-presented about the project at the Good Jobs, Green Jobs regional conference in Los Angeles —a gathering of labor unions and environment organizations.

In addition to myself (to see my presentation, click here), the speakers included:

  • Lauren Asplen, Assistant to the President, IUE-CWA.
  • Bruce Bremer, Bremer Energy Consulting Services.
  • Bill Draves, Treasure Hunt Team Leader, IUE-CWA Local 722
  • Ed Derr, Lean Coordinator, IUE-CWA Local 648

Lauren Asplen spoke about how training its members to conduct energy-efficiency Treasure Hunts complements its Lean High Performance Manufacturing program.  Lauren noted that the savings identified so far have been very impressive—regardless of type or age of the plant: “We’ve identified significant savings at every plant we’ve gone to so far—including new plants or plants that had already undertaken initiatives to cut their energy savings by 50 percent.” (To see Lauren’s presentation, click here).

Bruce Bremer, an energy management consultant with over 30 years of experience, is training IUE-CWA workers on conducting energy-efficiency Treasure Hunts. Bruce spoke about and clarified how Treasure Hunts fit into an overall energy management program. Bruce also clarified the difference between an energy audit and a Treasure Hunt. “A Treasure Hunt is a three day event that involves workers at the plant as well as external experts to identify energy-efficiency opportunities. The Treasure Hunt is also aimed at changing workplace culture so that the participants bring back the key concepts from the Treasure Hunt into their day-to-day work as part of a process of continual improvement. An energy audit is typically done by an outside expert and is not aimed at engaging workers or changing work place behaviors.” (To see Bruce’s presentation, click here).

Bill Draves, who hails from IUE-CWA Local 722 at a GE lighting plant in Warren, OH, talked about the types of energy-saving opportunities that IUE-CWA”s Treasure Hunt teams have been identifying. “The small opportunities can add up to big savings.” He mentioned an example of a small gap in the seal around an oven door. Pinching his fingers close together for added emphasis, he said: “The seal around the oven door had a very small gap, but this small gap was resulting in a lot of wasted energy. With a few hundred dollar fix of new insulation to seal the door, the company could start saving over $10,000/year!”

Ed Derr, who is a Lean Coordinator at IUE-CWA Local 648 at CCL Container, which makes aluminum containers, in Hermitage, PA,  spoke about the Treasure Hunt experience at his plant. Ed talked about the enthusiasm among the workers for the Treasure Hunt—some of the workers got so excited that they started implementing the savings opportunities before the Treasure Hunt was even over. Since CCL has basically been operating 24/7 for over 15 years, the “down-time” opportunities are few and far between. One of those opportunities occurred a few weeks after the Treasure Hunt during Thanksgiving.  CCL’s workers, who are basically going to work every day of the week, came in during Thanksgiving to implement one of the efficiency projects identified. That speaks volumes about the enthusiasm of the workers and their commitment to improving efficiency at their plants. Their motivation? “A lot of manufacturing jobs have been lost around where I live. I want to do everything I can to help make this plant as competitive as possible so that I still have a job.” Ed also added that the type of energy savings that he and his co-workers are identifying help the environment, which is “important for my kids.”

”Sustainability is also about sustaining jobs,” observed Bill. That’s a critical piece of the puzzle if we’re going to succeed in unlocking the full potential of industrial energy efficiency and moving towards a low-carbon economy.