How Cummins Became an Engine of Energy Efficiency

Aug. 28, 2018
We now save an estimated $40 million to $50 million annually in energy costs.

Engine manufacturers may not immediately come to mind when you think of environmental stewards, but Cummins is not a typical engine manufacturer. In 2006, our team wanted to grow the company into a leader in industrial sustainability, so we set our first public energy savings and greenhouse gas reduction goal.

Since then, we have successfully completed nearly 1,000 energy efficiency projects and now save an estimated $40 million to $50 million annually in energy costs and average about a 2% to 3% energy intensity reduction per year. Our energy efficiency and sustainability measures are part of the reason we’ve done so well as a company.

And we are not alone. According to a recent report by the Alliance for Industrial Efficiency, "Committed to Savings: Major U.S. Manufacturers Set Public Goals for Energy Efficiency," the vast majority of major U.S. manufacturers are making public commitments to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. A full 79% of the nation’s top 160 manufacturers have either set energy savings or GHG reduction goals or both.

To help achieve our targets, Cummins created a central internal energy efficiency team and a staff-training program to teach our employees to identify ways to improve energy efficiency in our facilities. Currently, more than 500 of our employees are trained energy management specialists. We also established a corporate-sponsored fund to support the best energy-saving projects the teams put forward.

To further our sustainability efforts, in 2006 we joined the U.S. EPA Climate Leaders Program and in 2011, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings, Better Plants program. We recently set a new goal to implement the stringent ISO 50001 standards (an internationally recognized framework for implementing an energy management system) at 40 of our sites, which cover 90% of our carbon footprint, by 2020. In addition to this goal, we entered a Virtual Purchase Power Agreement (VPPA) in 2017 to add 75 megawatts to an existing 600-megawatt wind farm in Indiana. When fully operational, the amount of energy the expansion will generate is expected to be equivalent to the energy used at all Cummins facilities in Indiana.

One energy efficiency project at our Seymour, Indiana, plant is a showcase for our commitment. The plant takes power used during the engine testing process and recycles it using regenerative dynamometers to power the plant’s electricity needs. The new energy recapture system supplies up to 20% of the energy used at that facility. Because of this and other projects, the Seymour plant gained certification to the global ISO 50001 Energy Management Standard as well as the Superior Energy Performance (SEP) program of the U.S. Department of Energy. Our Seymour facility saved over $2.75 million on energy costs after cutting 15% of its energy usage over two years, and continues to save the company money every year.

Not only do we work to improve the efficiency of our own operations; we also produce many of the systems other companies use to improve their own energy efficiency. We manufacture near zero natural gas engines and the AEOS —the first fully electric heavy-duty concept truck. Cummins also builds combined heat and power (CHP) systems, a proven technology that produces power as well as useful heat to be used in manufacturing processes. CHP systems can be powered by many different fuels, including ones that can use anaerobic digesters that turn biological waste into natural gas.

The energy-saving efforts we have taken over the last decade have added to our brand value and established our company as a national leader in industrial sustainability. In 2006, we took a risk by establishing public goals before devising a specific plan to reach them, but we knew our company had to step up and be held more accountable for our environmental footprint. After our first goals were met, we have continued to set increasingly challenging goals for ourselves, including a new goal of 32% reduction in energy intensity by 2020—our most ambitious reduction target yet.

What we and clearly other companies have learned is that setting public targets helps align and motivate employees, provide focus and drive innovation. We are excited for the new energy-saving opportunities our updated goal will afford—and we are up for the challenge.

Mark Dhennin is director, energy & environment, at Cummins Inc. 

About the Author

Mark Dhennin | Director, energy and environment

Mark Dhennin is director, energy and environment, at Cummins Inc. He leads the energy, climate change and eco-efficiency initiatives for Cummins global facilities and operations. Mark has over 35 years experience at Cummins, leading energy, environmental, health & safety, and product engineering programs at site, business unit and global levels. He received his B.S. degree in biology and M.S. degree in environmental engineering from the University of Minnesota.

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