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Certified Energy Management: ISO 50001

9 Months of Certified Energy Management: ISO 50001 Starts Out

In July 2011, the promising ISO 50001 energy management standard was launched. This certificate rewards companies and public organizations willing to continuously reduce their energy consumption by providing a guideline on energy management systems. This article explains how the norm works, which companies have adopted it and what achievements have been made since its introduction nine months ago. Referring to the advantages of ISO 9001 and ISO 14001, Paul Baier of enterprisesmartgrid.org describes the new norm’s virtues:

We’ve seen that business benefits from a more systematic focus on quality and environmental management,and a similar opportunity exists with a more methodological focus on energy management.

When the norm was launched, the international standardization organization claimed for it the chance to influence 58% of the world’s energy use in a positive way. This incredible percentage was calculated under the assumption that if all industry (which consumes 51% of the energy worldwide), as well as all commerce (the missing 7%) come to be certified, energy consumption would decrease drastically. You may ask, why does the industrial sector score so high? Because the ISO uses data from the US Energy Information Administration, which, by definition, includes agriculture, mining and construction.

Shortly after the introduction of ISO 50001, Paul Baier critically asked of what use another certification standard” would be. The answer is clear and he gave it right away:

It’s certainly true that the world is flooded with product- and company-level certifications. Ecolabelling.org lists 424 of them, and companies should be very cautious about expanding their supplier criteria. Organizations, however, should adopt standards that have a proven ability to save money and provide competitive differentiation. ISO 50001 promises to be one of these standards.
Adopting ISO 50001 is advantageous because the ISO framework is already a well-accepted global standard that is supported by hundreds of ISO practitioners and is also familiar to senior management. Some organizations already certified with 9001 and 14001 are currently considering 50001.

Apart from the two fundamental benefits that an energy management system brings – saving money by using less electrical energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions – there is a third benefit. By adopting the norm, you prove to the public that your efforts are serious. Measurable results and a verifiable procedure speak for themselves.

Thomas Welch tells us more about the two ways in which ISO 50001 achieves its three goals. His book “Implementing ISO 50001” clarifies:

ISO 50001 was designed as a common-sense management template to guide organizations to significantly reduce their energy costs through prudent investments, coupled with wise implementation of energy systems.

The norm, hence, supports decisions concerning investments and shows how to introduce an EnMS correctly. ISO 50001 itself puts it like this:

This International Standard specifies requirements of an energy management system (EnMS) for an organization to develop and implement an energy policy, establish objectives, targets, and action plans, which take into account legal requirements and information related to significant energy use.

Environmental and quality managers, and anyone who worked with ISO 9001 and ISO 14001, is familiar with the “Plan-Do-Check-Act continual improvement framework”. ISO 50001 follows exactly the same approach as its predecessors. In terms of energy management, the steps are as follows:

According to greenbiz.com, there were 24 companies testing ISO 50001 by the time right after its launch (end of July, 2011). During a three year pilot phase, energy improvements at five companies were 6.5 – 17.1 %. This is close to the general rule most consultants apply: that a 10 % reduction is always possible, in any manufacturing company.

It is now April 15th, which means that organizations around the globe have had nine months to get certified. Did they? And who did?

ISO has published a list of ISO 50001 certified companies that have achieved splendid energy reductions. The following data should be treated carefully since they are based on the respective companies’ own figures. But even if these numbers might have had a slight gloss put on them, it is impressive how continuous energy management positively affects production efficiency. China-based Delta Electronics, for instance, achieved a 37 % reduction in two years, at a factory in Dongguan. The firm’s ambitious goal is to reduce its absolute energy consumption by 50%, between 2009 and 2014. AU Optronics Corporation, a TV screen producer from Taiwan, expects 10% savings in the first year of ISO 50001 certification for its plant in Suzhou. But it is not only companies from the manufacturing industry that have been certified recently; the public sector is also starting to get active: the small, but ambitious village of Bad Eisenkappel in the Austrian Alps tuned its infrastructure with more efficient technology. The municipality aims to reduce its electrical energy consumption by 25% while at the same time converting the supply to 100% renewables.

Other electronics manufacturers with certified plants, but that have not yet published information on their savings, are: Rakusai Laboratory of Dainippon Screen, Japan; Gumi plant of Samsung Electronics, South Korea; and Sunhope Photoelectricity, Taiwan. In the US, Alcoa, Eaton and 3M obtained certification. In the car industry, Germany showed the lead by Porsche’s main plant in Stuttgart getting certified, but it is not alone; Nissan now has a plant in the US equipped with a brand new 50001 logo. In the chemical industry, Germany-based Oxea has a certificate.

As you see, things are starting to roll. So don’t be the last in your business sector to consider benefiting from the numerous advantages of well-grounded energy management.

Article image by Wikimedia Commons showing three fashionable engineers in the control room of a waste incinerator


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