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Oct. 20, 2011 Volume 33, No. 9

Energy center awarded 5-year federal funding extension


MoIAC helps train future energy leaders

The University of Missouri Industrial Assessment Center (MoIAC), which helps businesses measure and lower energy costs, has received funding for the next five years from the U.S. Department of Energy. 

The average yearly energy savings for companies utilizing MoIAC is $80,000. But according to the director of the center, the dollar amount is only the tip of the iceberg when is comes to what the center does.

Bin Wu, professor of industrial engineering and director of MoIAC, says energy audits by the center save companies money while also training future leaders in energy efficiency.

To help educate those future leaders, the U.S. Department of Energy has recently awarded a $1.5 million grant to MoIAC for the next five years. The center got its start in 2004 with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Wu said the award process indicates the program’s impact on a business’ bottom line.

“The immediate impact of our energy audits of companies is substantial; $80,000 a year in energy savings is really equal to $800,000 a year in new sales, assuming an average profit margin of 10 percent. What may be more significant is that more than 400 students will show future employers how to be leaders in energy efficiency. This funding allows us to train and educate even more students.”

MoIAC helps regional companies by conducting free energy assessments while simultaneously training students.

When a company decides to have an energy assessment, a team of faculty members and students review the company’s utility bills, visits the site, identifies opportunities to save energy and submits a recommendation report to the company.

The report includes 10 to 20 recommendations focusing on areas that consume a great amount of energy, such as compressed air systems, motors and lighting. The recommendation list notes the costs to make the switch and savings the company can expect.

Within a year, the center follows up with the company to see which recommendations have been taken, as well as the actual cost savings. Energy cost savings typically cover the cost of making the change within less than a year.

Wu estimates that at least 8,000 small- to medium-sized manufacturing companies could benefit from energy assessments in Missouri.

He encourages students to join MoIAC because, according to him, every person, company or home could benefit from energy efficiency knowledge. Future engineers also will learn the new international building code guidelines for energy efficiency that will impact their future careers.

“Some of our graduates are already heading energy efficiency efforts at companies around the world. The job market is there, and there is a real need right now and in the future. It’s a win-win-win situation, because the student benefits, the company benefits and our environment benefits.”

The MoIAC grant is part of a U.S. Department of Energy grant announcement of more than $30 million for 24 universities in 23 states across the country to train undergraduate- and graduate-level engineering students in manufacturing efficiency to help them become the nation’s next generation of industrial energy efficiency experts.

For more information on energy efficiency or MoIAC, visit the center’s website at