The EDF Climate Corps

by | Sep 6, 2012

This article is included in these additional categories:

This is the first in a few articles drawing from the annals of the Environmental Defense Funds Climate Corps activities. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has been active in a number of areas for many years to work in partnership with business to provide solutions, scalable, to address issues that impact the environment – things like energy consumption, global warming, etc. The EDF website gives all the details. They are about as independent as one can be as their work is not funded by the companies they work with. As stated on their website (and in my conversations with their representatives) they, “… take a nonpartisan approach to smart policy, supplying analysis and advice to decision-makers on key issues.”

The environment is their only client: “we accept no funding from our corporate partners.”

Their approach is novel – they try to work with companies rather than in opposition to them and their practices and their website illustrates a number of successful partnerships including McDonalds, FedEx and Walmart.

Let me add, at the front, I am not in any way associated with EDF (although I am a member) and I am including this information below only because it is pertinent to green manufacturing and the topics we’ve been discussing over the many postings.

We focus here specifically on an EDF program called the Climate Corps. This program is based on an ” … innovative summer fellowship program that places specially-trained MBA and MPA students in companies, cities and universities to build the business case for energy efficiency.”

I’ll work on them to think about something involving engineers in the future – they probably know something about energy efficiency too!

The results of this program have been impressive (if you accumulate all the savings identified and addressed by the corp since 2008 when it was introduced.) The website lists the following statistics:

“… fellows have uncovered efficiencies in lighting, computer equipment and heating and cooling systems that can:

– Cut 1.6 billion kilowatt hours of electricity use and 27 million therms of natural gas annually, equivalent to the annual energy use of 100,000 homes;
– Avoid over 1 million metric tons of CO2 emissions annually, equivalent to the annual emissions of 200,000 passenger vehicles; and
– Save $1 billion in net operational costs over the project lifetimes.

To date, companies report that projects representing 86 percent of the energy savings identified by EDF Climate Corps fellows are complete or underway.”

I was contacted by EDF about this program and its results, especially as applied to industry/manufacturing, and offered the opportunity to show some of the results in this blog. I have never re-posted anything substantial from another source (other than the usual web links, quotes and images) but this seems specially pertinent – so I agreed!

Here is the first. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the data or claims presented but I am more than comfortable in their procedures and record and believe these to be accurate. The handbook that describes the Climate Corp activities is online also and can be downloaded. The handbook focuses on identifying, analyzing and prioritizing energy efficiency investments in commercial buildings – but the examples are broad enough to include manufacturing, as you will see. I think you will find this very interesting.

Specific details on the results of the program can be found on line.

The first example covers the development of an “Energy Management Scorecard” for Cummins, Inc (a multinational engine manufacturing company). The details are reproduced below but you can find the original posting on line also. This is repeated verbatim from EDF.

Fellow: Michael Norbeck, 2012 EDF Climate Corps fellow at Cummins Inc., MPA Candidate at Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs

Opportunity: Energy use and CO2 emissions from a global portfolio of over 600 facilities

Summary: You’re a multinational engine manufacturing company that has set ambitious enterprise-wide targets for energy intensity and CO2 emissions reduction. Facilities are a key component of your energy footprint, and therefore your carbon footprint as well. How do you drive the energy management performance you need to meet your targets? Start by understanding how your facilities are using energy, and why.

As a 2012 EDF Climate Corps fellow, I developed an energy management scorecard for Cummins that will provide site-level energy and performance data for Cummins facilities all over the world. It also provides standardized metrics for analyzing that data, helping to track site-level energy use and drive progress toward Cummins’ recently-adopted energy intensity and greenhouse gas reduction goals.


Cummins takes energy management seriously, keeping careful records of energy expenses and related greenhouse gas emissions at its sites. Specific information on how its sites are using energy, however, is hard to get, often because the right people or tools aren’t in place.

Cummins has also compiled a wealth of information on standards and best practices in facilities energy management, but it’s unclear if this backlog of knowledge is factoring into the energy management decision making.

The company’s scope and scale are also challenges in this project. Cummins operates in countries across the globe, from Australia to Zimbabwe, in sites ranging from 50-staff office buildings to manufacturing plants employing thousands.


I developed an energy balance framework and accompanying scorecard to tackle data collection and best practice implementation. I also worked with my manager to convene an interdisciplinary team of company experts to provide critical input as we refined the tool, ensuring buy-in from key stakeholders now and their cooperation when the tool is rolled out.

The facility energy balance tool I created is an adaptable, user-friendly interface that will help sites large and small identify their major energy users and improve their energy management. Site managers simply plug in energy meter data or energy use estimates and the tool produces metrics on greenhouse gas emissions, cost and aggregate energy use, all categorized by operational process or equipment category.

The scorecard will help Business Unit and Corporate-level decision makers understand how effectively sites are managing their energy use and shed light on site-level personnel or funding gaps. These services will provide a roadmap for future capital allocation, driving site progress toward key performance standards.

These results will play a key role in moving Cummins toward its aggressive energy intensity and greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals.

Key Takeaways

This project yielded a number of valuable lessons, but I found that asking this question and following these mantras streamlined my work at nearly every turn:

Can employees use the tool and see its value?
What are the stakeholders you’re trying to work with already accountable for, and how much will your tools add to their workload? How can you maximize their value per unit of time spent using your tools?
Don’t reinvent the wheel.
How can lessons from the successes and failures of similar, past projects be applied to your own? How can existing structures and content be leveraged effectively?
Synchronize with existing tools to reduce redundancy.
Is company culture driven toward quantifiable results and performance assessment? Cummins culture certainly is! How can you structure your tools to tap into resources already available at your company?

End of example.

You can find more info, including hot links to some of the above, and other Climate Corps postings on line at EDF.

I’ll write about others from time to time!

Next time…back to our discussion about social impacts in sustainable manufacturing.

David Dornfeld is the Will C. Hall Family Chair in Engineering in Mechanical Engineering at University of California Berkeley. He leads the Laboratory for Manufacturing and Sustainability (LMAS), and he writes the Green Manufacturing blog.

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