Reduce energy costs and combat climate change with ISO 50001

Climate change is important. Now, you need to consider energy management as part of the way that you manage risk and opportunities within your organisation.

There is a management standard to guide you in this important task – ISO 50001:2018.

Why is energy management important?

Modern society is still utterly dependant on oil, gas and progressively, renewable energy sources. Just imagine a world without electricity – no computers, no mobile phones, and this is before we think about energy sources for heating and powering vehicles.

Changes in technology mean that the dependence on all forms of energy can be better understood and then quantified if any organisation has a management system that can also help understand energy consumption.

Energy distribution – like any complex array of virtual systems – is vulnerable to cyber attacks. This is because any energy management system interfaces with different technological processes. For example, there must be systems in place in order to enable electricity to arrive at your computer from a wind farm or offshore gas well far, far away.

IT Governance Publishing’s ISO 50001 – A strategic guide to establishing an energy management system explains the pragmatic decision making behind implementing an EnMS (energy management system).

What the book contains

Let’s begin with an extract from the guide:

It is key to remember that simply saying an organisation will reduce energy consumption does not mean it has an EnMS. Understanding how, why and where energy is being used is essential when devising an EnMS, whatever the motives may be for trying to use less energy.

While some experts might frown at the analogy, there are similarities between waste management policies and energy policies – there is as much a hierarchy of energy consumption as there is waste generation; the ideal waste is that which isn’t generated and, equally, instead of using energy reduction as a starting point, it is critical to look at each stage of a process to see if fewer resources can be deployed for the same outputs. This where quality and energy management can become bedfellows.

This leads us to another strategic reason for implementing an EnMS – energy security. For example, natural gas sometimes originates from politically unstable areas of the world, so there is a risk supplies could be withdrawn for political reasons. Another example is the use of electric cars – while substantiable in themselves, their recharging requirements will eventually put enormous demand on the National Grid. These are just two examples, but show that energy may not always be available on demand.

All security – be it energy or otherwise – reflects an element of uncertainty that has to be accepted and, where possible, addressed. Looking critically at your organisation’s energy consumption today, projecting it over a longer period of time and deciding how these outcomes can be improved not only makes good business sense but also supports resiliency goals for both the organisation and its stakeholders. Or, to put it another way, opportunity cost discussions will now always have energy factored in.

Benefits of an EnMS

  • Better understanding of actual energy use on a periodic basis (depending on the process, this might mean by the day or by the second).
  • More effective leadership focus on energy flows, e.g. setting energy policy and objectives.
  • Better focus of both staff and other interested parties regarding energy use and how it may be more efficiently used.
  • Smarter use of energy – unnecessary, excessive or inconsistent consumption can be identified and resolved.
  • The risks and opportunities arising from using different energy sources can be examined, including renewable sources.
  • Capital investment decisions can take into account energy considerations, e.g. new equipment and/or processes that use less energy or have less carbon impact. Many organisations think they are managing their energy, often through renegotiating electricity and gas contracts but this is a procurement outcome.

Other organisations with EMSs (environmental management systems) must fully optimise their energy management. This entirely depends on how the EMS has been implemented.

Making the positive decision to implement an EnMS means there will be specific focus on identifying and implementing better energy management within your organisation.

To use ISO 50001:2018 as the focus of this implication means that there is an internationally recognised framework that your organisation can use to guide its EnMS implementation. This is true even if the need for a third party assessment to ISO 50001 isn’t anticipated.

This pocket guide is a succinct, strategic overview of energy management for those new to ISO 50001:2018, and discusses how this standard can be integrated with existing environmental and quality management systems.

Alan Field is a chartered quality professional, an IRCA registered lead auditor and member of The Society of Authors. His full list is publications with ITGP are available here.