Checking and acting on energy performance

With energy consumption now firmly established as a major international issue, efforts to manage energy effectively and minimise wastage are moving to centre stage. The UK finds itself facing multiple challenges in this area. There is the need to replace aging infrastructure. Clearly, the lower the overall demand, the cheaper this will be as fewer power stations will be needed and a smaller distribution network.
    
At the same time, the link between carbon emissions from human activity and climate change is becoming ever clearer. At the end of September the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that it was more than 95 per cent certain that human-induced carbon emissions are the dominant influence on climate change.

The policy landscape is changing
Not only is there an urgency in replacing aging infrastructure, such as power stations and transmission/distribution grid, but there is now a new focus on reducing demand through increased attention to energy efficiency and energy management.
    
The UK already has a statutory commitment to reduce carbon emissions by at least 80 per cent by 2050. Although there is a national focus on incorporating more and more zero-carbon renewable energy into the energy mix, it is also widely accepted now that the cheapest way of reducing emissions is to invest in energy efficiency – as a country and as individuals.
    
And of course there is the economic argument. Cutting out waste is a core activity of any organisation – it is inefficient and an inappropriate use of resources that means lower funding for the services that are being provided to customers and clients.
    
So the drive to cut consumption is being driven at both a national and international level. The latest international development is the Energy Efficiency Directive which sets out a range of ways in which organisations within each of the EU member states can reduce consumption and improve energy efficiency. A key element of this (Article 8) is the introduction of mandatory energy audits for larger businesses. The Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) has been put out for consultation by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC). It sets out how this country will meet the requirements of this article. The central thrust of both the European and UK versions is to embed energy efficiency in the operating practice of larger organisations.
    
While this may only directly affect the private sector, it should not be forgotten that the public sector is expected to take a leading role in the drive to improve energy efficiency. Central and local government have targets to reach in this area.

Energy audits
So is there something for the public sector to gain from a greater focus on energy audits. At ESTA we believe there is. We have plenty of evidence of organisations in both public and private sectors making savings through a systematic approach to energy management. Conducted properly, audits will identify options for improvement, which can be ranked in terms of cost‑effectiveness to create priorities for action.
    
By implementing the easiest actions first, savings can then be progressively deployed to the more expensive and complex projects which bring more long term gain. In this way, real change can be achieved with minimum expenditure.

However, energy audits are not just a matter of wandering around the site ticking boxes on a list. Especially with older buildings or those with multiple use, the energy signature can be quite complex. Different systems interact with each other, an adjustment to this piece of equipment may alter the balance of other systems on the site. Sometimes it can be hard to judge exactly where energy is being lost.

Audits should be carried out in compliance with BS EN 16247-1 and reviews its content. It is intended to put sufficient flesh on the bones of the standard to enable good-quality audits to be specified.

External help
So if the expertise exists in-house there are some good manuals available on the theory and practice of audits. For many though, especially for those with multi-site portfolios or complex energy footprints, it may make sense to use some external expertise.
    
There are many energy consultants around – some with two weeks experience and some with 20 years’ experience, so it is important to make sure that you use someone that has the required level of expertise. The skill needed to do a Green Deal assessment is not likely to be enough to carry out an effective energy audit on a large building (something the Government seems to have taken on board in regard to the ESOS programme as well).
    
So where can an energy or facilities manager go to find the professionals whose experience and expertise has been verified and will match your requirements? A good place to start might be the Register of Professional Energy Consultants (RPEC), accredited and administered by the Energy Institute and ESTA as a joint initiative. Membership is restricted to consultants with Chartered Energy and Engineer status, a proven track-record and significant experience in delivering effective improvements in energy efficiency for their clients.

Audits have a fundamental place in any strategic energy management programme. A recent publication produced jointly by ESTA and BRE – ID05 Energy Surveys and Audits: A Guide to Best Practice. This may help energy managers to draw up a specification for an externally-conducted audit. The publication gives practical guidance following the structure of BS EN 16247-1 and reviews its content. It is intended to put sufficient flesh on the bones of the standard to enable good-quality audits to be specified.
    
This new standard is itself designed to dovetail with ISO 50001, the international energy management standard. Audits may be useful in providing a snapshot of current usage and opportunities but they need to be embedded in a systematic approach to improvement if they are to deliver the best results. In the kind of structured framework offered by ISO 50001, audits can provide a means of regularly checking on progress and identifying new ways of managing energy and controlling costs.

Further information
ESTA’s Energy Surveys and Audits: A Guide to Best Practice can be purchased at: www.esta.org.uk/publications. For more details of the RPEC, please visit www.esta.org/rpec

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It is no mystery that there is a huge task at hand to solve the growing problems of waste, inefficient resources, and the disposal of hazardous materials as our communities develop.

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