Putting energy into management

For most organisations, there are still opportunities to make significant energy savings from one-off, short-term interventions. These quick wins raise the profile of energy efficiency and, hopefully, win senior management approval for further initiatives. Such immediate targets though are part of a larger challenge – one which, if left unaddressed, can be a threat to productivity and profitability.

Bearing down on costs, while maintaining productivity and working conditions, and improving environmental performance, requires a well-planned strategy, meticulously executed. The value of standardised, proven frameworks for achieving best performance, through the use of ISO 9000 and ISO 14001, has been well-documented.

Energy management has now been given its own strategic framework. ISO 50001 not only offers the systematic approach necessary to achieve the best results, it also uses a similar structure to those other familiar standards, making it easier to integrate energy-performance reporting with other management tools and strategies.

Energy needs an effective management structure, allowing managers to constantly reassess the potential for improvement against new circumstances. New technologies arrive, like low- energy applications or variable-speed drives on motors. Control equipment becomes more intelligent, able to initiate change and then communicate that to a central unit. Technologies that previously relied on human input are increasingly automated, such as monitoring and targeting.

All these changes mean more opportunities to save energy cost-effectively. If projects have to be revisited and re-evaluated on a regular basis, a systematic approach is essential.

Bearing down on costs, while maintaining productivity and working conditions, and improving environmental performance, requires a well-planned strategy

In addition, the policy and regulatory framework is being progressively tightened. This too presents opportunities. Take automatic monitoring and targeting (aM&T) as an example. The building regulations offer a “discount” on the carbon target if this technology is used. Newer systems can produce a display energy certificate (DEC) as one of their outputs. Annual DECs are already required by law for many large public-sector buildings and incoming European legislation will mean that the private sector has to comply in future. So this technology offers advantages to building owners and operators beyond just the pure energy saving element.

Many larger organisations have outsourced their energy management to third parties, either through contract energy management (CEM) agreements or through energy performance contracts.

But outsourcing does not absolve the owner or operator from responsibility to ensure that these contracts are operating well. Here another international standard, the International Performance Management and Verification Protocol (IPMVP) is – like ISO 50001 – helping to put energy management on a rational, measurable basis. Using an independent consultant to evaluate performance (in terms of energy and cost savings), via a standard template, brings fairness and consistency to these contracts.

And, whether energy management is outsourced or remains an in-house function, the key variable is the “people factor”. It is hard to see how long-term change can be achieved without a strategic approach to behavioural change. This involves developing procedures and processes that encourage lower energy use. This could range from installing movement detectors to manage lighting in unused areas or adjusting procedures so equipment is only activated when needed (and then switches off after a period of idleness). These procedures can be designed, documented, trained and audited to become part of the fabric of business processes.

Energy management in the UK is rich and varied with cost-effective technologies for every circumstance, but it needs a structured approach to make the best of all the opportunities. Whether that strategy is implemented in-house, (and perhaps supplemented by external assistance from qualified consultants, such as those in the ESTA/Energy Institute Register of Professional Energy Consultants), or through outsourced services, the opportunities are there to save money, reduce consumption and cut emissions. They just have to be grasped.

Alan Aldridge, executive director of the Energy Services and Technology Association (ESTA), is a chartered engineer with a background in computer-based control and automation in the process industries. He has been heavily involved in many aspects of legislation, including building regulations, energy performance and display energy certificates, carbon reduction commitment, the EU Energy Services Directive, and roll-out of smart and advanced meters.