WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced up to $3 million to help American manufacturers leverage energy efficiency as a path to increased competitiveness. Provided by the Advanced Manufacturing Office and the Building Technologies Program, the funding will support a program administrator whose role will be to promote and operate the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)-accredited Superior Energy Performance (SEP) program.

Once launched, SEP will provide a roadmap to help industrial and commercial facilities achieve improvements in energy efficiency. The program also promises to tackle a potential barrier to cost-effective efficiency investments by providing a transparent, globally accepted system for companies to validate improvements in their energy performance.

DOE said the SEP program, expected to be launched toward the end of this year, is a key component of its efforts to foster a culture of energy efficiency throughout American manufacturing. The SEP program administrator (SEP-PA) will be responsible for launching and overseeing the program during its initial stages with primary responsibility for developing a business model that will allow SEP to become a fee-based, self-sufficient program within three years of the award so it can operate without the need for financial assistance from the federal government.

The SEP Program is intended to address several fundamental energy management challenges that today hinder greater adoption of energy efficiency opportunities within both the commercial and industrial sectors, said DOE. These challenges include lack of awareness of the energy efficiency opportunities that exist, lack of understanding on how to implement improvements, lack of consistent business models to evaluate the competitive strength of opportunities, and lack of management commitment to manage energy use as an integral part of their operations. There are currently 35 companies in 20 states addressing these challenges by participating in SEP industrial demonstration projects. Eight SEP commercial pilot facilities have also been established to test the SEP program elements.

In order to meet SEP criteria, companies must: 1) implement and conform to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 50001 energy management system standard, and 2) achieve defined levels of improvement in their energy intensity performance. DOE will be working with a peer review committee consisting of the U.S. Council for Energy Efficient Manufacturing and other industry and commercial stakeholders for input to assist with the operation of the program. The committee will review the performance of the SEP-PA to determine if adequate progress is being achieved toward program goals and will provide additional direction as needed to keep the program on a path to success. Among the goals against which it will be evaluated, in addition to establishing a self-sustaining business model through user certification fees, the SEP-PA will be expected to actively promote and market the program to help it become widely recognized and respected.

The SEP-PA funding is expected to be awarded to at least one entity over a period of up to three years subject to an annual performance review to determine if acceptable progress is being made toward meeting program goals and deliverables. Eligible applicants for this funding opportunity include U.S. domestic entities or consortia composed of: 1) academic institutions; and 2) non-profit [except 501(c)(4) non-profits] and for-profit private entities.