Benchmarking can be a useful tool for understanding energy consumption patterns in an industrial facility and for designing policy to improve energy efficiency. Energy benchmarking for industry is a process in which the energy performance of an individual plant or an entire sector of similar plants is compared against a common metric that represents "standard" or "optimal" performance. It may also entail comparing the energy performance of a number of plants to each other.
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the U.S. has developed an Excel-based spreadsheet tool called BEST: Benchmarking and Energy Saving Tool for industry to benchmark a plant's energy intensity to best practice and to identify energy-efficiency options that can be implemented by the plant. Some BEST tools also include as assessment of water consumption and identification of water saving technologies and practices.
Best practice in BEST is defined as a plant that uses all cost-effective, commercially-available best practice technologies for each major manufacturing process (cost effective is generally defined as those technologies with a payback period of three years or less). Users input readily-available information on production and energy consumption by fuel and electricity at their plant and BEST compares the plant performance to best-practice, at both the process and total plant levels.
Once the plant has been benchmarked, energy-efficiency technologies and measures contained in the spreadsheet tool that could be implemented in the plant can be chosen by the user. The tool provides a description of each technology or measure and quantifies the energy savings and simple payback period if implemented in the plant. After the energy-efficiency measures that could be implemented are chosen, BEST calculates a revised benchmark value, showing how much closer the plant will be to best practice once the measures are implemented.
BEST has currently been developed for the California wine industry and for the Cement industry in China.