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Industrial Energy Efficiency Basics

The industrial sector is vital to the U.S. economy, but at the same time consumes the most energy in the country to manufacture products we use every day. Among the most energy-intensive industries are aluminum, chemicals, forest product, glass, metal casting, mining, petroleum refining, and steel.

The energy supply chain begins with electricity, steam, natural gas, coal, and other fuels supplied to a manufacturing plant from off-site power plants, gas companies, and fuel distributors. Energy then flows to either a central energy generation utility system or is distributed immediately for direct use. Energy is then processed using a variety of highly energy-intensive systems, including steam, process heating, and motor-driven equipment such as compressed air, pumps, and fans.

Throughout the manufacturing process, energy is lost due to equipment inefficiency and mechanical and thermal limitations. Optimizing the efficiency of these systems can result in significant energy and cost savings and reduced carbon dioxide emissions. Understanding how energy is used and wasted—or energy use and loss footprints—can help plants pinpoint areas of energy intensity and ways to improve efficiency.

Crosscutting technologies such as combustion, distributed energy, fuel and feedstock flexibility, and nanomanufacturing are common to many industrial processes across multiple industries. Because of the widespread application of these crosscutting systems, even small improvements in efficiency can yield large energy savings and reduce industry's carbon footprint.

Opportunities also exist for companies to save energy and money in data centers, which consume large amounts of energy to run and maintain computer systems, servers, and associated high-performance components.

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