file under: Energy, Industrial, Integrated Resources Management, Program Management, Sustainability, Smart Energy

Industries Managing Energy for Global Innovation

An Interview with Bob Gaudes, CDM Smith senior vice president

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is the world’s largest developer and publisher of international standards. The non-governmental organization recently released ISO 50001, an international energy management standard expected to influence up to 60 percent of the world’s energy use by promoting energy planning and efficiency.

What is the premise behind ISO 50001?
The focus is on transitioning organizations to long-term energy planning by convincing people to look at energy management differently. Commitment from the boardroom level can promote cultural change in an organization and promote energy-efficient thinking among all employees. This paradigm shift will lead to new products and services suitable for the low-carbon economy of the future. The philosophy of continuous improvement is an important aspect of ISO 50001.

How is ISO 50001 different from previous energy standards?
ISO 50001 is a standardized approach that is recognized globally. Several countries had developed energy management guidelines prior to ISO 50001. Some were more robust than others, and definitions, approaches and measurements differed. EN 16001—a European Union standard for energy management—was one of the standards used to develop ISO 50001.

What was this standard's development process like?
In 2008, a group of scientists and engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology proposed to ISO that they develop an international energy management standard. The core group, funded by the American National Standards Institute, began identifying agencies around the world to contribute.

Large industrial companies took the lead at first, but the group solicited membership from a variety of sectors—educators, legislators, regulators, consultants, environmental groups and power companies. Because many organizations wanted to be represented, the process involved significant discussions, drafts and revisions. Each position—for example, whether you should have specified ways to calculate energy savings or instructions on how to conduct an audit—was voted on and presented to the ISO working groups. Drafts and subsections were reviewed internationally by a large number of countries; meetings were held in the United States, Ireland, Brazil and China.

What was your role in the process?
I was a member of the U.S. technical advisory group (TAG). The United States was the lead agency, followed by Brazil. Thirty-two countries formed the initial development group.

The TAG included 50 people from organizations with an interest in the standard. Each country had a similar advisory group composed of representatives from energy companies; major industrial players, including participants from the auto, manufacturing and technology industries; and academics and consultants. The U.S. TAG included representatives from the U.S. Departments of Energy and Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

What types of businesses can benefit from ISO 50001?
The principles of energy management apply to all organizations providing goods or services. While the standard initially focused on private industry, the TAG membership expanded to include consultants, regulators and educators, providing a more balanced perspective.

What are some of those benefits?
The primary and immediate benefit for most organizations will be cost savings. While reducing energy use is a priority for many organizations, companies have services to provide and products to manufacture. They have to reduce energy in ways consistent with their own goals.

By helping companies outline and implement a formal energy management plan, ISO 50001 provides many important benefits—integrating management systems can mitigate energy risks and result in better efficiency, productivity and innovation.

For green organizations, ISO certification can reinforce your brand. It says to clients, investors and potential partners that your management team is committed to continuous improvements in energy use, costs and the environment. Hewlett Packard, a global company that employs more than 300,000 people, requires that all of its suppliers become ISO 50001 certified. This type of leveraging is expected to catch on.

Many companies proudly display their ISO 9000 and ISO 14001 compliance on their letterhead, websites and in advertisements. We expect the same for ISO 50001.

How does a business implement ISO 50001?
Some companies know where to start, and others will need an audit. There is usually low hanging fruit—changes that will be paid back within a year, like managing heating, cooling, water use and lighting. Computers and projectors generate heat, so to reduce cooling costs, you may want to assess the appliances and electronics being used. Eventually, you might consider replacing desktop computers with laptops, which consume less energy.

For major impact, you need to plan, design and implement. Many companies have aging assets, like boilers and air handlers, that are not as efficient as modern units. The paybacks may take longer, but the cumulative effect of upgrading these systems may be large. For example, Microsoft installed a smart building management system at its corporate campus, and expects to save $1 million annually, with a payback period of 18 months.