Here’s How E3 is “Working” in Alabama

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Last month, I wrote about E3 – or Economy, Energy, and Environment – and how E3 is not just relevant to sustainability, but in fact touches upon other MEP Next Generation Strategies such as Technology Acceleration and Continuous Improvement. In this post, I’m highlighting how E3 relates to another key Next Generation Strategy: Workforce.

Recently, I travelled to Prattville, Alabama – near Montgomery – to attend the Heart of Dixie’s first E3 Sustainability Conference, which was co-sponsored by the Alabama Technology Network (ATN), as well as the Alabama Department of Economics and Community Affairs (ADECA), Alabama Power, and ERA Environmental Management Solutions. The conference provided an opportunity to hear firsthand from E3 providers and partners that are providing sustainability assessments and implementation assistance to Alabama manufacturers, and training and workforce support is a key component of this E3 equation. So far, ATN has provided over 400 Alabama workers with training focusing on developing the green skills of employees to introduce them to sustainability and make them aware of their roles and responsibilities in saving energy and reducing wastes in their companies.

Attendees heard from ATN’s Wayne Jackson about the Practical Energy awareness and training program, which teaches sustainable industrial best practices for the most commonly utilized industrial systems. This day-long training involves each participant in the energy saving process, while teaching tools and expanding working knowledge of energy concepts, with the goal of maximizing energy savings for a company. Topics covered include energy savings for motors, lighting, compressed air, chillers and cooling towers, boilers, steam and hot water systems, as well as use of a carbon footprint tool.

ATN’s E3 partners also had the opportunity to share details of their training support. Among these was the Waste Reduction and Technology Transfer (WRATT) Foundation, a non-profit corporation that provides confidential and voluntary waste reduction, pollution prevention, and energy conversation services to business, industries, and public/private institutions. WRATT President Danny Patterson discussed how WRATT partners with ATN to deliver training for energy efficiency, water conservation, waste reduction, Energy Star tracking and life cycling of equipment, as well as environmental factors such as air quality and noise reduction.

While workforce may happen to be the focus of this particular blog, the Alabama E3 Sustainability Conference was not devoted solely to the training and workforce aspects of E3. Numerous Alabama E3 implementation successes, best practices, and lessons learned were shared and discussed among partners and manufacturers. Of note at the conference:

  • Attendees had the opportunity to tour the Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama (HMMA) facility. The impressive 1,744 acre facility employs about 3,000 employees running 3 shifts in concert with over 400 robots to produce over 340,000 Hyundai Elantras and Sonatas per year.
  • The first Alabama E3 Awards were presented during the conference’s closing session. The awards recognized three companies – ZF Industries, JCI-Cottondale, and Electricfil – for their outstanding achievement in the respective categories of economy, energy, and environment.
  • Alabama shared examples of the incorporation of federal, state, and local partners that serve as a key to Alabama’s E3 success. This includes an effort between USDA and the Alabama Saves loan program to provide a combined low interest loan and a USDA grant to support energy efficiency improvements for manufacturers.
  • Matt Bogoshian, Senior Policy Council for the Environmental protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, hosted a Washington, DC Listening Session.
  • Attendees heard about ATN’s development of opportunities between Innovation Engineering and E3 to support companies in considering Sustainability while on their Innovation journey. In fact, watch this blog space for more details on a great example of this effort!
  • Dr. Mike Lynch, managing Director of Green Innovation for NASCAR, delivered the conference keynote address. Lynch discussed how NASCAR Green educates race fans about green opportunities associated with the sport. He explained that NASCAR Green works to reduce the sport’s environmental impact through strategic partnerships with the teams, tracks, and official partners of NASCAR.

Speaking of NASCAR, a future blog post will focus on the yet another MEP Next Generation Strategy that connects to E3: Sustainability. Stay tuned to learn more about opportunities via E3 for NASCAR suppliers to increase productivity, reduce the use of energy and materials, lessen environmental impacts and become better positioned to compete in the global marketplace!

About Author

Ben Vickery

Ben Vickery is Senior Technical Advisor with NIST MEP, and works in its Partnership and Program Development Office. Ben is leading NIST MEP’s efforts to create regional Technology Collaboratives, which serve to develop and sustain regional innovation ecosystems that are positioned and prepared to identify, assess, and adopt technologies resulting from federal R&D investments.

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