Tackling the Energy Challenge
03/03/2014« Back

The price of energy – and its implications for UK business – was put into stark relief by the head of one of the UK’s largest energy consumers in December. In an interview with the BBC, Jim Ratcliffe, head of Ineos (which owns the Grangemouth refinery in Scotland) said that the UK “probably has the most expensive energy in the world”. Along with the Government offering the developers of the new nuclear station at Hinkley Point a minimum of £93 per MWh (albeit from 2023), there seems to be no likelihood that it will drop. Given this future, the only way of keeping energy costs under some sort of control must be to use it ever more efficiently.

Now most Government initiatives have stressed the opportunities available to save money and cut emissions by focussing on “low hanging fruit” – but that has limited efficacy and is not a long term answer for business. Few successful organisations base their performance projections on short term campaigns. We need to be moving on and concentrating on how we can optimise a long-term strategy to deliver continuing savings and greater efficiency over time.

Much sterling work has been done over many years by individual energy and facilities managers, innovating and improving in their own specific circumstances. But energy management is no longer primarily about individual effort – although there will always be room for flair and personal insight.

Today, as in other established management disciplines, we have common frameworks and accepted methodologies. We apply best practice and then add our own contributions, which in turn can be replicated or adapted by others. In this way energy management can be embedded into the organisation rather than remain the province of a single, highly effective individual.

It is the very existence of common frameworks and systems that makes best practice transferable in the first place, the search for this transferability provided the original impetus that drew ESTA into the development of standards for energy management. And so today we have a global framework, embodied in ISO50001. This shares terminology and structures with other long-established standards like ISO14001 and ISO9000 series, which are well-known, widely-understood and applied across the world.

ISO50001 Energy Standard

The standard now provides an opportunity to go further and to address what was until recently a chronic problem for energy managers: how to robustly demonstrate the savings that energy efficiency programmes could deliver. Time and again, this has been highlighted as a major issue in getting senior management buy-in for new investment. ISO50001, working in tandem with two other initiatives being championed by ESTA, offers a solution to this challenge.

ISO50001 provides a framework for energy management that can be readily understood by managers in other departments because it operates along similar lines to widely-known standard frameworks. It allows progress to be monitored and evaluated.

By using standard measurements and verification methods, energy managers can be sure that their results and proposals will stand up to scrutiny. ESTA is the lead organisation in the UK for the International Performance Measurement and Verification Protocol (IPMVP).

The Protocol was developed by the international Efficiency Valuation Organisation (EVO) and once again offers an independent, global standard for assessment. It is currently used in 63 countries and for example forms the basis for verification of contract performance for the GLA’s RE-FIT initiative. Finally, getting the best available performance means optimising a number of different energy-consuming systems – from boilers and air-conditioning to lighting and electronic equipment. While the skills to do so may reside within the organisation, specialist external knowledge is often needed.

What criteria should be used when selecting the best individual for the task?

There are a great many energy consultants in the market. The Carbon Trust used to maintain a list of approved consultants but no longer. In order to help energy-users get the best available expertise, ESTA has worked with the Energy Institute to develop a Register of
Professional Energy Consultants (RPEC).

Organisations can use the register either to search by name/specialism or to publish a tender for services. Members of the Register will generally have Chartered status with many years experience in the industry. With energy being an increasingly expensive – but nevertheless essential – item in an organisations budget, the requirement to contain and manage these costs as much as possible is a central challenge. UK energy managers today have a range of highly effective tools that put them in a good position to do just that.

The Energy Services and Technology Association (ESTA) represents over 100 major providers of energy management equipment and services across the UK.

Richard Hipkiss is the Elected (by Members) Chair of ESTA, a part-time role fitted around the responsibilities as Commercial Director at digitalenergy Ltd. 



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