When it comes to energy consumption and efficiency, industrial organizations have much more to consider than your average homeowner or small business. While a startup or a married couple might be looking for ways to trim a few dollars off their monthly energy bill, manufacturers must feed a hungry supply chain every day. Traditionally, this includes running powerful equipment for hours on end and generating massive amounts of heat to conduct their necessary manufacturing work.

However, as the times change, so does industrial energy use. According to a recent report published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, energy consumption in the industrial sector is projected to grow by approximately 0.7 percent annually between now and 2040, more than twice the overall national rate. Meanwhile, the EIA forecasts residential and transportation sectors dropping at a slight, but noticeable rate, in large part due to renewable energy initiatives and new regulation. What new factors will dictate industrial energy use in the coming years?

“The use of natural gas as a feedstock ingredient will increase by 3 percent annually.”

Chemical production

The manufacture of feedstock chemicals for polymers, fertilizers and other such products will be the driving force behind how industrial organizations allocate their energy consumption. The EIA believes that this portion of the industrial sector – valued at around $288 billion in 2013 – will grow to $454 billion by 2040.

Though increased production might lead to high-powered machinery running longer and drawing more electricity, the real consumption will come in the form of natural gas and petrochemical purchases. As the cost of these resources dip lower and lower, manufacturers will look for ways of incorporating these inexpensive materials into their products to save money and suppress end user costs. Manufacturing.net reported that between now and 2025, the use of natural gas as a feedstock ingredient will increase by 3 percent year after year. Roughly the same holds true for petrochemicals and hydrocarbon gas liquids.

Energy-intensive machinery and new production methods will push industrial energy consumption higher with each passing year.

Energy-intensive machinery and new production methods will push industrial energy consumption higher with each passing year.


Energy regulation

This summer, the U.S. government is pushing a bold agenda, cracking down on wasteful energy practices and outlining new oversight to prepare the country for a greener future. But according to Scott Tew, executive director for the Center for Energy Efficiency and Sustainability at Ingersoll Rand, these reevaluations of energy policy don’t have to be extreme in order to be effective. Even minor changes to how the industrial sector consumes energy can have a serious effect on the rest of the world.

In an article for CleanTechnica, Tew stated to save more than $20 billion in energy costs, industrial manufacturers need only reduce consumption by 10 percent. This savings will also cut greenhouse gas levels significantly, the equivalent of removing 30 million carbon-emitting cars off the road. Hard to believe industrial organizations could hold that much sway, but since global manufacturing generates more than a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions according to the Environmental Protection Agency, developing a system of accountability and a subsequent contingency plan for these businesses could do more for the environment than any residential efficiency program could.