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A structured approach to energy management
Energy management is not a new discipline: the government was issuing energy management advice at least as far back as the Second World War. But periodic energy crunches – and now a potential carbon crunch – have provided powerful incentives for organisations to pay more attention to it.
With the global nature of energy supply and the impending threat from climate change, effective management of energy consumption has become internationalised over the last decades. The internet age has meant that procedures and techniques are increasingly shared between professionals across the world.
Sharing best practice
The days of the individual doing his or her own thing in isolation are drawing to an end.
In a global village this is not only inevitable but also desirable. Let me add here that I am not proposing that individual initiative and flair should be stamped out – there will always be a place for these talents. I do believe, however, that we need the ability to share the best from around the world and incorporate it into our own efforts. For that we need similar frameworks within which to work.
With increasing internationalisation – we have ever-closer links across the European Union for example – we are exposed to alternative ways of doing things. This happens in energy management as well. Some of these may be better than the procedures we currently use. And it makes obvious sense to adopt new ways of doing things if they are going to give better results. But it can be difficult to adopt best practice if it is embedded in unfamiliar procedures or technical specifications.
That is not just in the international arena, either. Procurement processes rely increasingly on standard qualifications from suppliers in terms of third-party certification. Investment proposals have to be couched in standard ways. Office administration systems are becoming more and more universal – down to Microsoft Word and Powerpoint in many cases.
The process of standardisation has been gathering pace for several decades. Just as production methods have become standardised (and the ISO 9000 series of standards on quality management has formalised this process), so resource management has become a focus for attention. Environmental management systems have a series of internationally accepted standards (the ISO 14000 family) and last year energy management became the latest to adopt this approach with the launch of EN 16001. The Energy Services and Technology Association (ESTA) welcomes this development, not least because a number of ESTA members were closely involved in its drafting.
This European standard (there is not yet a global equivalent) provides a standard framework within which to position energy management procedures and technologies. This platform will make it simpler to exchange best practice – and there is a great deal of this around which can be adopted, adapted and exploited for specific circumstances. As EN 16001 becomes better known (it was only launched a few months ago), systems and services providers will link into it.
The new standard will also be able to provide a common template for reporting and evaluating performance. For public sector organisations, the ability to compare and contrast across the whole government estate has an obvious appeal. Benchmarking of performance has been a feature of successive government initiatives, but the difficulty has always been in comparing apples and pears. Organisations will now be able to set out reporting requirements using a standard format. That should mean reduced effort and less duplication of resources.
A serious profession
We should not forget the useful role that standards have in a profession that is expanding as energy/carbon control becomes ever more urgent. Energy management used to have a significant churn with people taking on the role for a few years before moving on. Today, the role of the energy or facilities manager has more status and more people are making a career in this area. The emergence of more CPD programmes and university degrees in this field is a sign of its acceptance as a separate and important discipline. And demand for these skills will increase. Common standards provide a framework for new entrants to adopt, as well as a way for established practitioners to disseminate their own best practice across sometimes quite disparate organisations.
EN 16001 is really only the beginning of the process though. BSI has already launched a Kitemark scheme based upon it, which will offer a route to claiming credit under the Early Action Metric of the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme. With many public sector organisations included in the CRC EES, there is likely to be significant interest in this development. The approval of the Kitemark for this mandatory scheme is also likely to increase interest in the full energy management standard itself.
Today, there are also other standards under development. There is a new European standard on energy audits currently being negotiated. Within the EU, the UK is widely recognised as having taken the lead in developing energy audits; hence several ESTA members are involved in drafting this standard. Unlike the EN 16001 standard, which does not have global reach (the USA has been drawing up its own version and any eventual ISO standard will have to take both into account), the European committee is working closely with its American counterparts to achieve a common auditing process that will work on both sides of the Atlantic – and well beyond. We hope that the auditing standard will be in place within the next couple of years as this will allow users to commission energy audits knowing the standard, consistency and quality they can expect.
A meaningful assessment
Of course, one of the key aims of a standardised approach to energy management is the achievement of robust and verifiable savings figures. These are essential for any meaningful assessment of performance improvement. They are very important in demonstrating to other parts of the organisation – and especially funding committees – the savings achievable under proposed energy efficiency programmes.
In an effort to aid this process, ESTA is leading the introduction of the International Performance Measurement and Verification Protocol, IPMVP, which is already widely used in the USA and Europe. It provides a standard format for identifying and confirming savings which result from the installation of specific products or even from a project involving multiple systems (such as a new energy centre). Originally created to assess the return on energy service contracts (where payments are directly tied to energy performance improvements) the methodology has now been extended.
ESTA believes that such a system will give energy users confidence in the figures for projected savings offered by suppliers of energy-efficiency products and services. One of ESTA’s members, powerPerfector, is already using IPMVP to quantify the effectiveness of its services and we expect this to become a widely adopted evaluation technique over the coming years.
The Energy Services and Technology Association (ESTA) represents over 100 major providers of energy management equipment and services across the UK.
Alan Aldridge is executive director of the Energy Services and Technology Association (ESTA)
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