Can manufacturers decrease energy use while increasing production?

Public interest in alternative energy has increased over time, as economists predict manufacturing – a traditionally energy intensive industry – will double by 2050, according to recent research from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As manufacturing continues to increase, renewable energy production may also rise as big companies try to find solutions to their energy needs.

Between 2002 and 2010, the manufacturing industry cut back energy usage by 17 percent while only decreasing production output by 3 percent, based on a new Manufacturing Energy Consumption survey from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

 This means overall energy use for each unit of output decreased. The manufacturing industry in the U.S. is positioned to experience a renaissance of sorts as costs of labor overseas rise and companies begin to bring back more domestic jobs. U.S. energy has become more available and costs less, according to Greentech Efficiency. As manufacturers and energy providers expand, they can work with recruiters to find experienced professionals.

Skepticism over decreasing energy use and increasing manufacturing
The research team at MIT was not confident in the manufacturing industry's ability to both reduce energy use by 50 percent and double in size by 2050. Their findings indicated that while energy improvements have been made, production processes for materials like steel, cement, paper and aluminum have become about as streamlined as they can with the available technology. Currently, there aren't many options to significantly increase energy efficiency in factories. In addition, it can be extremely costly for facilities to replace old systems that waste energy. 

"I think the game is to get people to do this without it hurting too much," said Tim Gutkowski, a professor of mechanical engineering at MIT. "If we put in place incentives, we could probably surprise ourselves at how we might be able to make great strides."

Despite the difficulties, Gutkowski stated it is important for companies to try to improve energy efficiency. Doing so isn't something manufacturers can achieve alone, the researchers said. 

Greentech identified the manufacturing sectors experiencing the most growth as those able to shape the future of energy usage. Computer chip manufacturing, which requires less energy, has overtaken chemical production, which is energy-intensive. The source also stated energy technology may catch up to manufacturing efficiency as progress is made in both industries.

While the future of manufacturing and alternative energy remains uncertain, it seems like both will experience growth in the years to come. Manufacturers and renewable energy firms can count on the services of recruiting agencies to find high quality talent to fill new positions.