Fluid Power Journal

Technologies Driving the U.S. to Our Energy Future

Fluid Power’s Role in our Nation’s Energy-Efficient Future: Part 8

nfpa-eric-lankeBy Eric Lanke, CEO, NFPA

This article is eighth in a series describing NFPA’s actions focused on the development of a program within the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) that can fund and focus on energy-efficiency improvements using fluid power technology. The envisioned program would be partly research-focused, helping to improve the design and maintenance of existing fluid power systems with current technologies and techniques.

If you’ve been following this series, you know that we have been successful in establishing that fluid power research and education represents significant opportunities to reduce the amount of energy consumed in the United States, especially in the industrial sector. And, as I wrote last time, several interactions with what is now the Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) resulted in an invitation for us to get engaged with the U.S. Council of Competitiveness.

The U.S. Council of Competitiveness is a non-partisan, non-governmental organization composed of peer corporate CEOs, university presidents, labor leaders, and national laboratory directors. It works to set an action agenda to drive U.S. competitiveness while generating innovative public policy solutions for a more prosperous America. One of its core principles identifies sustainable energy—exploiting domestic resources and using energy efficiently—as foundational to U.S. prosperity, and under that principle, the Council has entered into a partnership with the U.S. DOE. The partnership is called the American Energy & Manufacturing Competitiveness Partnership (AEMC), and its focus is currently on something the DOE is calling the Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative (CEMI). Together, the AEMC and the CEMI aim to increase U.S. manufacturing competitiveness across the board by increasing energy productivity and by investing in technologies and practices to enable U.S. manufacturers to increase their competitiveness through energy efficiency. This is where we think fluid power could possibly come in—as one of the technologies that will enable U.S. manufacturers to increase their competitiveness through energy efficiency.

We’ve asked fluid power representatives to attend several meetings of the AEMC, including a series of regional summits they held, where they sought input on how the CEMI could best achieve its aims. These regional meetings culminated in December 2013 in a national summit held in Washington, DC. I attended this event—along with about 500 people—many of them high-ranking government officials and program administrators. The focus was on continuing the dialogue with people outside the Beltway, and they accomplished that through a series of presentations and panel discussions. The most impactful for our industry was the one they titled “Technologies Driving the U.S. to Our Energy Future.” Here’s the description from the summit program materials:

“Over the last several years, global investment in the clean energy sector has risen nearly fivefold, growing from $54 billion in 2004 to $269 billion worldwide in 2012. The United States faces a stark choice: the energy technologies of the future can be developed and manufactured in America for export around the world, or we can cede global leadership and import those technologies from the rest of the world. The panel brings together leaders that create, enable, or deploy the technologies that drive U.S. competitiveness in the production of clean energy products and/or increase energy productivity across the U.S. industrial base to answer the questions: (1) What are the technologies that the U.S. needs to focus on to ensure leadership in the clean energy sector? (2) How do advanced manufacturing technologies drive energy efficiency throughout the U.S. industrial base?”

Fluid power should undoubtedly be one of the technologies, and I said as much at the summit. Not only do we have documentation that shows the significant energy consumption profile of fluid power systems, but we also are still an industry where the most advanced technology is manufactured in the United States. We have a leadership position, and deeper investment into innovation and education can help make sure we don’t lose it.

It is sometimes difficult to know how much impact you’re having when participating in these large sessions, but every opportunity we have to speak up for fluid power is an important one, and we’ll keep taking advantage of them.

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