For over 30 years, the U.S. Department of Energy's Industrial Assessment Center (IAC) program has provided small and medium-sized manufacturing firms with the technical assistance necessary to make important energy efficiency improvements in their facilities. The IAC program has relied on the ingenuity and dedication of its academic partners to provide manufacturing firms with cutting-edge energy guidance. The program has been among the most cost-effective and impactful of the federal energy efficiency programs: in 2006 the program yielded a 90:1 return on federal dollars. While the program has been targeted at smaller manufacturing firms, the expertise developed by the program was the basis for the Save Energy Now initiative for energy-intensive manufacturers, launched by DOE in response to the hurricanes of 2005. Both of these initiatives demonstrate the effectiveness of manufacturing assessment programs in achieving energy savings and productivity enhancements.
The program's university connections also provide a much-needed direct pipeline through which engineering students are prepared for careers focused on energy management and efficiency. It is this role that is so critical to the continued growth and strengthening of energy efficiency investments in the industrial sector. Though the IAC provides this direct pipeline to energy-related positions within the private sector, it is clear that the demand for well-educated, highly skilled and adept energy engineers far outstrips the supply. IAC graduates are highly sought, and for good reason. They are well-versed in the most up-to-date and cutting edge technologies and have a keen sense for improving energy efficiency in a wide range of applications including product design, project engineering and organizational/facility energy management.
We thus propose that the IAC program be expanded and enhanced to meet these two needs. This proposal takes a two-pronged approach:
- 1. Expanding the network of IAC centers to meet more of the needs for assessment services. We suggest that this expanded federal role should be complemented with state co-funding.
- 2. Introducing new program elements that explicitly enhance the workforce development aspects of the program.