Going beyond energy efficiency, Corning turns - Smart Energy Decisions

Energy Efficiency, Industrial, Utilities, Finance, Industrial, Sourcing Renewables  -  July 1, 2016 - By Amy Poszywak

A decade into energy management, Corning looks to renewable energy

Photo: Duke Energy Renewables' solar-generating facility in Conetoe, N.C., courtesy of of Corning. 

A Smart Energy Decisions exclusive 

This story is the fifth in a series of original features exploring the successes of a selection of corporations recognized by Energy Star for achievements in energy management. Each company we've talked with for this series, made possible through our partnership with Energy Star, has a unique story about their efforts to reduce electric use across their organization, and in this case, those efforts are coupled with renewable energy sourcing. Taken in aggregate, we hope the series provides readers with a useful glimpse into the kinds of strategies being implemented across the commercial and industrial sectors as well as a deeper understanding of vetted, real-life tactics for managing energy consumption. 

Ten years after the initial launch of its internal global energy management program, Corning Incorporated's strategy has evolved beyond traditional efficiency into a new era; one that's powered with renewable energy.

To-date, the 160-plus year old American glass and materials manufacturer has entered into at least four deals for solar power, its most recent being a 25-year power purchase agreement with Duke Energy Renewables. The deal with the Duke Energy subsidiary was Corning's first in the U.S., but is unlikely to be its last, according Patrick Jackson, the director the company's global energy management , or GEM, program. 

The program, which started in 2006 with the goal of working across all of Corning's different facilities to address easily fixable consumption issues such as lighting and other low-cost/no-cost projects, has since evolved to tackling all new aspects of energy management, including renewable energy procurement. What led Corning to pursue solar, Jackson said, were all the energy lessons learned through that program. 

"For Corning, this agreement [with Duke Energy Renewables] makes good business sense because it encourages efficiencies and clean power usage which will eventually lower costs,” Jackson recently told Smart Energy Decisions. "Corning is committed to its corporate mission to be a good steward of the environment, and has goals to pursue more renewable energy projects."

A key part of why Corning's solar deals make so much sense economically is they are sized specifically to match the company's electric load, something the GEM team has a tight grasp on from years of focusing on energy efficiency. Generally, Jackson said, Corning saves costs by pairing renewable energy with energy efficiency, so there's no extra amount of capacity being wasted.

The GEM team at Corning started looking at renewable energy sourcing about three years ago, partnering with Customer First Renewables. The company works on behalf of Corning with renewable energy providers, such as Duke Energy, to negotiate renewable energy procurement deals for large businesses and institutions in exchange for a fee.

"They work for the end-user, and they're looking out for Corning's interests,” Jackson said.

Corning announced their solar deal with Duke in December 2015; through it, Corning pledged to purchase 62.5% of the expected output of a massive solar array being built in Conetoe, N.C. The energy Corning purchases will go back onto the electric grid in that region, and Corning will receive the renewable energy credits associated with its portion of the output.

Lockheed Martin subsequently signed a deal for the remaining capacity from the planned, 80-MW facility, which has been called referred to as the largest solar array east of the Mississippi River.

In launching its GEM program in 2006, Corning's initial goal was to work in its various facilities to address easily fixable consumption issues such as lighting and other low-cost or no-cost projects. After that, the program moved into manufacturing and focused on making Corning's diverse manufacturing processes as efficient as possible. While working on those manufacturing processes, the company developed a way to link its research and development efforts with those of its energy management teams in manufacturing.

"Several years and a Six Sigma project later, we've begun building a community of energy efficiency within our R&D and science and technology community. Our division energy managers are now collaborating with the scientists working on innovations to understand what kinds of cost-saving and energy-saving measures can be taken once those innovations move to the manufacturing floor," Jackson said. "We think this is a unique, albeit necessary, step in our energy-management journey."

Since its inception, the policies and practices developed and implemented by Corning's global energy management program have saved the company more than $410 million in cumulative energy costs. Corning's GEM program has worked with Energy Star for years, and was recognized in 2016 as partner of the year in sustained excellence for energy efficiency program delivery. 

Corning manufactures glass, ceramics and related materials, primarily for industrial and scientific applications. The global company, which is headquartered in Corning, N.Y., has U.S. operations consisting of nearly 50 facilities in 16 states and the District of Columbia.

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