Bentley Mills: Sustainability Director Helps Scale Retrofits Using Energy-As-A-Service Financing

Overview

Bentley Mills, a manufacturer of commercial carpet products, expanded its sustainability program to go beyond just improving product performance, but also to look at how carpet is made by minimizing the per yard impact on energy consumption. The company’s Sustainability Director worked with an energy services company and financing partner to conduct a comprehensive audit at Bentley Mills’ main plant in Los Angeles, CA, and then prioritized projects based on energy savings and overall impact on day-to-day operations. For his work, the director won the Department of Energy’s Individuals Taking Energy Action in Manufacturing (ITEAM) Prize.

The first project focused on lighting, compressed air system optimization, and a new boiler control system. The success of the project was tied to two factors: 1) it required no upfront capital and was financed using an energy-as-a-service (EaaS) approach; and 2) attention to detail and planning during the implementation phase, which reduced disruptions to plant operations.

The technical challenges of scoping and specifying the project were overcome through close coordination with Bentley’s energy services company. During the scoping phase, decisions were made with plant supervisors on details like lighting color temperature per space type and boiler control features. The initial cost of the project exceeded $1.5 million and the key to getting the project approved was the sustainability director’s ability to negotiate the terms of energy-as-a-service (EaaS) model used. This approach required no upfront capital on the part of Bentley Mills and dispersed payments over an 8-year term with guarantees that the project would deliver a forecasted level of energy savings. Under the EaaS contract, Bentley Mills would earn a small percentage of the total savings while the majority went towards paying down the cost of the system to the financing partner. If the level of guaranteed savings were recognized before the 8-year commitment had been reached, then the financial obligation would be considered complete.

To ensure that the project did not disrupt normal operations and production schedules, the plant energy manager collaborated with plant supervisors and their employees to notify them of any work being done and discussed specific needs and safety requirements. After the work was completed in each phase, a survey went out to each employee to collect feedback on their satisfaction with the upgrades and the installation process. Of the 350+ surveys that were collected, the overall approval rating was 99.4%.

The EaaS contract stated that over the course of the 8-year term, Bentley would save over 12.8 million kWh broken down to an annual savings of 1.6 million kWh. In one year after the project was complete, the plant measured a 21% decrease in the kWh per square yard manufactured from 2018 to 2019, even with increasing sales growth by 9% during the same time. Monthly reports are shared with the parent company management at the Balta Group and there is interest in replicating the project at other facilities worldwide.