What does the U.S. Department of Energy's Industrial Technologies Program (ITP) have in common with U.S. utility companies? Both recognize energy efficiency as an energy resource in helping to offset rising fuel costs, increase productivity, boost the bottom line, and reduce environmental impacts. A partnership between the two sectors to provide energy efficiency resources to U.S. industrial customers could be a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Through its Save Energy Now initiative, ITP is joining forces with U.S. utility companies and associations to deliver energy efficiency assistance to industrial customers. This includes free energy assessments, system-specific training workshops, technical publications, software tools and other resources. The new partnership will complement existing demand-side management programs already offered by utilities to their customers.

The partnership results from a series of meetings between ITP and various utility companies and associations, including the American Public Power Association, California Energy Commission, Edison Electric Institute, Energy Solutions Center, and Tennessee Valley Authority. Results of these meetings are forthcoming in a Utility Action Plan. This plan will identify key activities to help improve energy efficiency of U.S. industry, and addresses how ITP can directly help utility companies lower their energy consumption and reduce their carbon footprint.

Utilities use demand-side management programs to encourage customers to reduce their energy bill, including load control options, implementation of energy-efficient technologies, and conservation information. These programs work to reduce energy use; the Energy Information Administration reports that since 2003, actual peak electricity load has decreased by an annual average of 5.9 percent, while energy savings have risen an average of 8.3 percent.

Because of their unique relationship, utility companies are in a prime position to provide information to help their industrial customers reduce their energy use and become more efficient. The energy-saving opportunities gained from the "low-hanging fruit" can help companies control their own energy costs and stay economically viable.

And, when customers cut energy costs, utility companies also benefit. Utility companies recognize that energy efficiency practices are the easiest, cheapest, and fastest way to meet power demand. Through conservation measures, utilities can offset new power generation facilities, prevent load instability during peak times, and make more energy available for other customers at no extra cost.