DTE Energy took its own advice – saving money and reducing carbon footprint in the process

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For many of us, some of the best ideas begin with an “a-ha” moment.

For DTE Energy senior environmental engineer Rob Simmons, that moment happened five years ago. Rob is involved in ISO 14001 implementation at DTE.  ISO 14001 are standards developed and published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).  They specify the requirements of an environmental management system and provide guidelines for handling environmental issues within an organization.

Rob explained, “I was in my office, thinking about what projects DTE Gas could implement to positively impact the environment.  As I leaned back in my chair, I looked up at the lights and thought, ‘I wonder how much electricity we are using and how much it costs?”

Rob, crunched the numbers, gathering energy use and cost information, and developed a plan.

“My first step was to address the low-hanging fruit in the lighting area,” he said.  “Installing LED lights has been really effective in helping us save energy. LEDs use about 75 percent less energy and direct light more effectively so workspaces are brighter.” In addition to the lighting projects Rob utilized lighting controls, tankless hot water heaters, and replacing inefficient equipment with more efficient models.

Five years and countless projects later, these efforts have now saved more than $700,000 and reduce enough greenhouse gas to offset the emissions from 420 cars.

Today, Rob is part of a team taking a company-wide focus on reducing both energy use and waste at all DTE facilities.

Over the past six months the team conducted energy, waste and recycling assessments at 40 DTE locations, using DTE’s efficiency tools to gather data and prioritize energy efficiency improvements.  And the company is not stopping.

As part of the company’s environmental leadership plan, they’ve launched an aggressive plan to reduce energy and water within their own facilities by a minimum of 25 percent. Like many of their customers, they’ve moved beyond the basics by installing motion detectors to control lighting, upgrading to low-flow water faucets and implementing energy efficient building upgrades at some facilities.  And they’re continuing to compost more than three tons of organic material monthly from their headquarters complex alone.

For Rob, and the larger team, this work is part of a company-wide commitment to sustainability – one that gives both employees and customers a reason to feel proud.

“I’m an engineer, so I developed lots of spreadsheets on how this work is saving both energy and money,” he said.  “I’m proud that we are saving money, but what means the most to me, is how we’re lowering our impact on the environment.  That’s really how this all makes a difference in the long run.”

DTE customers can start their own energy savings plan by scheduling a free energy consultation.  Residential customers can go online or call 866.796.0512.  Business customers can go online or call 855.234.7335.

Editor’s note: Lisa Bolla contributed to this post.