Energy is one of the top five operating expenses for most companies, but it is often managed like a fixed cost: total spending is tracked but with little understanding of savings potential or how business decisions will impact energy use elsewhere in the company. The international energy management system (EnMS) standard ISO 50001 is designed to help companies understand and continually improve their energy performance.
ISO 50001 is already one of the fastest growing certification standards worldwide. The initial growth was driven primarily by legislation and tax breaks. Now, stakeholder expectation is adding to market drivers for businesses to have a structured system of energy management, and further growth is expected because of the EU Energy Efficiency Directive (EED).
Lessons from the first certification assessments
The benefits of an EnMS will vary depending on the starting point. For organisations that have not yet adopted a formalised EnMS there are quick savings to be made. However even the front-runners in energy management benefit from the standard by staying leaner and more competitive.
The first ISO 50001 certifications ERM CVS conducted were with companies that had been implementing energy saving measures for several years prior to adopting the standard, as part of their ISO 14001 environmental management system. For such companies, ISO 50001 EnMS provides a structure to deepen energy analysis, broaden the scope, and find further opportunities to improve energy use. For example, internal communication on ISO 50001 and encouragement for all employees to give comments and suggestions on energy use allowed companies to identify new opportunities, and systematic tracking of prioritised energy saving opportunities facilitated management focus. With the low-hanging fruit of basic energy efficiency already implemented, the adoption of ISO 50001 ensures businesses maintain the momentum to push for further improvements.
Also, using established management systems as the basis for an ISO 50001 EnMS and creating an integrated management system will minimise their internal costs, and external certification costs.
The EU EED requires ‘large undertakings’ to conduct energy audits every four years. In most EU countries an EnMS certified to ISO 50001 meets this requirement and can provide a more cost-effective compliance route than trying to understand a patchwork of national requirements.
For organisations that have already commissioned or conducted EU EED audits there is good news. One of the specific requirements of ISO 50001 is an energy review, which is essentially a thorough analysis of energy use. Work done on an EU EED energy audit can be used for the EnMS’s energy review, and it is anticipated that many organisations completing energy audits will then move on to ISO 50001 thereby maintaining traction with regard to energy savings.
The ERM CVS approach to certification
ERM CVS is involved in the certification of these systems using a behaviour-based approach to assessing management systems, with a focus on what actually happens on the ground rather than what is meant to happen according to a written procedure. In addition to evaluating whether the EnMS conforms to the requirements of the standard, the assessment focuses on understanding whether the system operates in line with managers’ expectations. The approach goes beyond checking procedures – it is an external test to see if the system is working. This is where businesses gain real value as identified weaknesses in the way the system functions are highlighted and opportunities to further improve energy performance can be identified and action plans implemented.
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