By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.
On July 26, 2021, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the availability of $60 million in funding for its cohort of university-based Industrial Assessment Centers (IACs). The IACs assist small- and medium-sized manufacturers in reducing their carbon footprint and lowering energy costs. IACs, with particular attention to disadvantaged and underrepresented communities, also train the next generation of energy-efficiency workers, as highlighted by Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm: “America’s best and brightest university students are successfully helping local manufacturers reduce pollution, save energy, and cut their electricity bills.” Composed of 32 universities, the new cohort of IACs will focus on improving productivity, enhancing cybersecurity, promoting resiliency planning, and providing training to entities in disadvantaged communities. IACs will also partner with community colleges and technical programs to participate in a new pilot project focused on the commercial building market, that will train diverse students and professions to conduct energy-efficiency assessments of small to medium-sized buildings.
Managed by DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO), the IAC’s program was founded in 1976, and it is one of DOE’s longest running programs. IACs have provided approximately 20,000 no-cost assessments for small- and medium-sized manufacturers and more than 147,000 recommendations for improvement measures. Such assessments usually identify more than $130,000 in potential annual savings opportunities for the manufacturers that are assessed. More than 19,500 IAC assessments have been conducted to date.
Manufacturers must meet the following criteria for eligibility to receive an IAC assessment:
- Fall within Standard Industry Codes (SIC) 20-39;
- Be located less than 150 miles from a participating university;
- Have gross annual sales below $100 million;
- Have fewer than 500 employees at the plant site;
- Have annual energy bills that are more than $100,000 but less than $3.5 million; and
- Lack professional in-house staff to perform the assessment.
After a remote survey of the plant, the IAC team conducts a one- to two-day site visit to take engineering measurements. The team then performs a detailed process analysis to generate specific recommendations for the manufacturer, followed by a call to the plant manager after six to nine months to verify what recommendations were implemented. Detailed information regarding how to apply is available here.