There are several voluntary approaches in the U.S. that organizations including, manufacturers, commercial buildings and institutions, can use to improve their energy management. At the federal level, the EPA’s ENERGY STAR™ for Industry and the DOE’s Better Buildings, Better Plants and SEP™ are the principal energy efficiency programs. SEP is the only one that requires certification to ISO 50001, while ENERGY STAR uses a set of Energy Management guidelines that includes most of the ISO 50001 requirements. The primary difference is that the ENERGY STAR Energy Management guidelines are not accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), while SEP is ANSI accredited. Therefore, an organization could implement the Energy Management guidelines and get most of the benefits of ISO 50001, but they will not be certified. Companies and organizations in the U.S. that wish full implementation and certification to ISO 50001 need to participate in SEP.
The Better Buildings, Better Plants (“Better Plants”) is the DOE primary voluntary program that is designed to engage industrial companies at the enterprise level in energy efficiency. Better Plants encourages the use and eventual certification to ISO 50001, but does not require ISO 50001 certification. The other main difference between SEP and Better plants is the scope of commitment. Companies participating in Better Plants must make a corporate commitment across multiple manufacturing facilities while SEP applies to individual facilities (an enterprise-wide version of SEP is currently under development). Better Plants participants must demonstrate their commitment to saving energy by signing a pledge to reduce energy intensity by 25% over ten years from the year they begin participation. Since 2010 more than 120 companies having nearly 1,800 plants have signed up to be Better Plants “partners.”
SEP aims to certify individual manufacturing facilities for improvements in energy performance that have already been achieved (retrospective), and verified by a third-party SEP Verification Body. Many companies are already participating in both SEP and Better Plants, with some Better Plants partners implementation of SEP in some plants. In addition, some Better Plants partners are participating in the pilot phase of the enterprise-wide version of SEP, which involves electric and gas utilities to help cost-share implementation and certification costs. The Better Plants program provides structure to companies’ corporate energy management programs and can assist and motivate facilities to implement the SEP program. Companies participating in Better Plants receive technical assistance from DOE to implement energy efficiency and receive national recognition from DOE for their accomplishments. SEP provides a method for Better Plants partner facilities to accelerate their energy savings and achieve their corporate pledge goal. SEP also provides added rigor to verifying energy performance improvement at the facility level.
Also at the national level, is the US Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy Efficient Design (LEED) standard. The LEED standard was designed to foster energy efficient design of commercial and institutional buildings by incorporating energy efficiency standards for the building envelope and appliances. More recently, the USGBC has begun developing an industrial plant design process that could enable manufacturers to certify new or expanded plants to an industrial LEED energy efficiency standard. The LEED industrial standard and programs using ISO 50001 or ISO 50001 principles complement each other but they have separate requirements and outcomes. Recently, USGBC has entered into discussion with DOE to see if an ISO 50001/SEP component can be incorporated into the developing LEED industrial standard.