Taking the initiative to curb energy costs, a group of D.C. businessmen have joined forces to create a voluntary energy conservation program designed to meet the specific needs of each industry throughout the region.

As part of its ongoing energy program, Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade officials outlined plans yesterday to act as a catalyst by helping area firms work together to set their own energy goals.

Because industries understand their own problems, officials maintain that companies can get a jump on government regulations by setting goals with more impressive results than under federally mandated rules.

"We believe we can exceed the expectations of arbitrary regulations with convincing results," said board President Oliver T. Carr, who said the program should be in full swing within the year.

Already the govenors of Maryland and Virginia and D.C. Mayor Marion Barry have endorsed the proposal designed by a task force of 40 community businessmen.

Carr explained that the task force would begin by identifying industry groups and then would assist the groups to help them develop standards and goals characteristic of each industry.

He said one area department store has spent more than $500,000 with a 28 percent reduction in kilowatt-hour use.

Further, Hechinger's has reduced energy consumption by controlling lighting and temperature with a computerized system.

By providing a cooperative forum for workshops and exchange of information the board members maintain that companies can pass along information to help other firms.

With self-regulation and "strong self-interest incentives for compliance," the proposal can be achieved more effectively, in a "rational, uniform" manner and at less cost to the public than with federally-regulated programs, Carr said.

John Wander, chairman of the task force, said that the breakdown of the industries would cover grocery, retail printing, offices, restaurants, and hotels and apartment operators.

According to Wander, the proposal projects a conservation target of 8 percent to 15 percent industry by industry. A mechanism for self-monitoring is integrated into the plan to assist businessmen in achieving targets.