ISO 50001 energy management systems standard

An exacting framework for continuous improvement
Thursday, May 10, 2012
By Barbara Carss

The ISO 50001 energy management systems standard initially focuses more on commitment to performance than performance itself. Compliance is not tied to achieving a minimum level of energy savings or energy intensity within a facility. Rather, proponents must demonstrate they’ve followed a rigorous process that provides direction for oversight of all aspects of energy use.

“Once you implement ISO 50001, you are committed to doing better,” says Bob Bach, an engineer and energy management specialist with Energy Profiles Ltd. “It is based on a ‘plan-do-check-act’ approach. Plan what you are going to do, do it, check, review and improve the process, and (then) go back to the plan and modify it.”

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) released the standard in 2011 – applying the same methodology for driving continuous improvement found in earlier standards such as ISO 9001 for quality management and ISO 140001 for environmental management systems.

Third party verification is required for official certification but the standard can also be used simply to guide an organization’s efforts and internal documentation.

“It does not establish absolute requirements for energy performance. Whatever your business is, you are going to establish those yourself,” Bach told attendees at an educational seminar in conjunction with the annual PM Expo last December. “What it does require is a commitment to achieve continual improvement of your energy performance.”

The standard’s definition of energy performance is broad, encompassing overall consumption, end use of energy, efficiency and intensity, as well as options for peak demand reduction, harnessing waste energy and operational improvements. Organizations have flexibility to define intensity as it best fits their operations, whether that is by floor space measurement in the real estate sector, energy use per patient-hour in a health care facility or per unit of output in an industrial scenario.

Prescriptive checklists
From this self-directed starting point, proponents must follow a prescriptive path. The standard includes a series of requisite elements, each with its own checklist of actions.

“It is very demanding for those who choose to apply an energy management system that is consistent with this standard,” says Bach.

The organization’s top management must endorse the energy policy and plan, ensure it is communicated to all employees and contractors, provide necessary resources for its implementation and review, and factor it into long-term decision-making.

The energy policy makes the broad statement of the organization’s commitment to energy performance improvement, while the plan sets out the framework for translating policy into outcomes. This includes an energy review, determination of the baseline for improvement, identification of performance indicators and targets, and documentation procedures.

Implementation and operation, or the “do” part of the strategy, occurs almost in tandem with the “check” actions to measure what is accomplished and how it complies with the plan. To close the continuous improvement circle, senior management must review these results, ensure underpinning plans and actions are effective and revise them where necessary.

The process oriented approach is more arduous and time-consuming than some other certification programs and mandates organization-wide involvement and obligations to supporting the energy policies, goals and action steps. Prospective implementers are advised to weigh that commitment in light of other programs they may already have in place.

“ISO 50001 is really just an energy management system and we, as a company, have had our own energy management system in place for five years that’s given us good results,” says Nada Sutic, director of sustainability with Bentall Kennedy (Canada) LP. “I’m not sure there would be a lot of value in implementing another one.”

Guidance for regulatory compliance
On the flipside, ISO 50001 provides a disciplined framework for improvement and ongoing assessment of opportunities to save energy, which conveys the status of ISO’s recognized meticulous methods. This could provide both guidance and assurance to kick-start new measuring and monitoring initiatives, particularly for proponents who must comply with regulatory dictates.

For example, most public sector entities in Ontario, including municipal governments, school boards and the health care sector, are now required to report on energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, and identify and implement actions to reduce energy use.

“I expect ISO 50001 will provide a useful framework as we further develop our energy conservation and demand management plan under O.Reg 397/11 of the Green Energy Act,” says Michael Lithgow, manager of corporate energy and municipal energy conservation officer in the Greater Toronto Area’s York Region.

Barbara Carss is editor-in-chief of Canadian Property Management magazine.

1 thought on “ISO 50001 energy management systems standard

  1. It will be interesting to see how this all goes for the public sector in Ontario. It is nice to see that there is some level of commitment from the public sector. It would be nice to see that level here in the U.K.

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