Government prepares 
a robust case for energy efficiency measures

While the government is pushing ahead with its new nuclear strategy, it does seem to have accepted that it is not possible to just build its way out of the country’s energy supply problems. Energy, whether from conventional fossil fuels, nuclear stations or renewable sources, is becoming ever more expensive. And building the power stations that provide the electricity the country runs on is also a very long and expensive process.

Successive governments have paid lip service to the idea that investing in energy efficiency is less costly than building new supply, but for decades reducing energy consumption through energy management gained less traction than the lure of large ticket construction projects.

Yet something now seems to have changed. And there can be no more powerful symbol of the change in approach than the presence of the Prime Minister at the launch of the government’s energy efficiency mission, held earlier this year at the prestigious central London venue of the Royal Society.

Coherent strategy
At the mission launch, prime minister  David Cameron referred to a range of policies and programmes to encourage energy efficiency and reward consumers, whether domestic, business or public sector, that adopt energy efficiency technologies and reduce consumption. But Cameron acknowledged the need to join them all up into “one coherent strategy to make Britain the most energy efficient country in Europe”.

That is a big challenge, but the energy supply companies warned once again in late March that there is a “very real risk” that the lights could go out. Energy regulator Ofgem has also warned of the likelihood of supply shortages. Now it takes some time to plan and build new power stations so the only way to minimise the risk of blackouts in the short term is to reduce consumption, for example to use energy as efficiently as possible.

Energy price shocks
The prime minister focused on the economic benefits of pursuing energy efficiency. He noted that it is “the businesses that are best insulated from energy price shocks who will be the most successful, it is the consumers who are the least vulnerable to energy prices whose household bills will be the lowest and who can be the most confident about their future”.

Cameron added that the countries that prioritise green energy will secure the biggest share of jobs and growth in a global low-carbon sector set to be worth $4 trillion by 2015.

Reform process
Also at the launch event, energy and climate change secretary Ed Davey referred to his determination that energy efficiency should be explicitly recognised in the energy market reform process currently underway. Davey argued that energy efficiency should always be the “first policy call of choice when it is the cheapest option”. It is very likely that late amendments will be added to the energy bill to incorporate and rebalance towards demand side issues.

The big question is how to get individuals, as well as businesses and public sector organisations, to become more energy efficient. And perhaps the Prime Minister has identified a key part of the problem. There are a number of programmes that promote energy efficiency as well as several schemes, like the carbon reduction commitment energy efficiency scheme that penalise those who are wasteful. But there needs to be an overarching appreciation that all of these exist to make the UK a place where resources are used efficiently and environmental impact is kept to a minimum.

It should be part of every organisation’s operational strategy to optimise energy consumption by managing it wisely. And there are now a number of tools available to demonstrate that this is being done. As the public sector has a reporting responsibility to central government on energy usage – as well as a need to use all its resources as effectively as possible in a period of financial austerity – such tools will become increasingly important.

With the advent of the international energy management standard ISO 50001, there is now a globally recognised framework for addressing this task within organisations of all sizes and functions. The new standard was developed from the established ISO 9000, a family of standards which deals with quality assurance, and ISO 14001, which deals with environmental management systems. Members of ESTA were closely involved with the development of ISO 50001 so that it represents the needs and insights of users.

A standardised framework makes it much easier for others in the organisation to see and comprehend what is being done in terms of effectively managing this increasingly expensive part of the operational budget. Reporting is made more transparent while a readily accessible framework means that it is easier to engage other departments and staff in implementing efficiency programmes.

Scale of savings
One of the complaints often made by auditing bodies and grant-making bodies, for that matter, is that the scale of savings made through energy management programmes is often very difficult to quantify or verify.

Indeed, the government’s energy strategy recognises as one of the main barriers to improved energy efficiency a lack of trust in the outcomes of projects. Methodology may not be very robust and the data not complete. In such cases, these bodies have difficulty validating the estimates and effectiveness of such programmes.

So, in parallel with its support for the operational rigour of ISO 50001, ESTA has been actively promoting the use of measurement and verification techniques. Working with the international authority on measurement and verification Efficiency Valuation Organisation (EVO), ESTA has organised a programme of professional training and keeps a register of those who have achieved the certified measurement and verification professional (CMVP) qualification in the UK.

The techniques are based on the globally recognised international performance measurement and verification protocol (IPMVP), developed by the US Department of Energy to promote transparency, completeness and objectivity and is available through the EVO.

Being able to demonstrate the savings achieved to an agreed external standard may be especially important where there are contractual implications but this is important in other contexts, too. Rigorous evaluation enables worthwhile projects to be separated out from those which are more speculative. It also helps to identify why projects have failed or have not achieved the results predicted. In addition, those project proposals which include undertakings to rigorously assess performance are more likely to attract funding.

Robust procedures
IPMVP is already used as the basis for energy service company contracts in the Greater London Authority’s successful RE:FIT framework and is set to be rolled out nationally as part of the strategy of the government’s energy efficiency deployment office.

The introduction of robust procedures for energy management, both in operational frameworks and performance accounting, offers great opportunities to develop the case for energy efficiency within an organisation.

Verifiable savings and transparent frameworks for managing energy provide an evidence base for further programmes and for more resources. These will help prove what the energy management community already knows, that energy efficiency makes economic and environmental sense – and now we can prove it.

Further information
ESTA represents over 100 major providers of energy management equipment and services across the UK: www.esta.org.uk

For more details of CMVP training, visit www.esta.org.uk/training

 

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