By Jerry Schwartz
Senior Director, Energy & Environmental Policy
When AF&PA was considering which sustainability goals to adopt for
its Better Practices, Better Planet 2020 sustainability initiative,
industry leaders provided important guidance at the outset of the
process: make sure that the goals promote progress in each of the
economic, social, and environmental pillars of sustainability. While that guidance engendered discussion for some of the proposed goals, it was easy to see that an energy efficiency goal furthers economic, social, and environmental progress. Using energy more efficiently reduces overall energy costs, thereby improving profitability; frees up resources for other more productive investments in mills and communities; and, reduces environmental impacts.
While AF&PA members self-generate most of their energy needs (most of which is renewable energy), our industry remains energy intensive and strives to use all the energy consumed as efficiently as possible. This is important for a company whether it is small or large, as demonstrated by the impressive member company energy efficiency programs that have received AF&PA Sustainability Awards for their energy efficiency improvements.
AF&PA members have improved their purchased energy efficiency by 8.8 percent, well on their way to achieving the 10 percent Better Practices improvement goal for 2020. Among the ways in which members improve their energy efficiency is by relying on the much more efficient combined heat and power (CHP) generation process to produce the electricity and steam used in manufacturing. In fact, in 2012, 96.4 per cent of the electricity the industry generated was through CHP. The forest products industry produced 30 percent of the CHP electricity generated by manufacturing sectors; only the chemical industry produced more.
Going forward, as mills consider their energy choices and strategies in light of upcoming environmental requirements and changing cost scenarios and fuel availability, improving energy efficiency will remain a key element of those deliberations. We are confident we will reach our efficiency goal, as energy efficiency is a core element of mill sustainability.