Managing energy is more about managing the people than managing equipment in the organisation.
When I started exploring the opportunities to further develop my career in energy management many years ago, I had the impression that being a technically sound person would be the strongest advantage for me to excel or to convince others to save their energy cost. However, that perception started to slowly vanish as I am moving further exploring energy management with different roles in different organisations. It has been often seen that very brilliant and amazing engineering solutions proposed by many being turned down despite its undisputed benefits, proven success stories and assurance that all that will work to deliver the promised results. I was baffled and clueless on why such things can happen until I realized the key issues that I must understand and what to do to as solutions.
Being out here today in the market trying to sell my services as a consultant has strengthen my feeling that energy management is far beyond just competencies in providing technical or engineering solutions. Finally, I realized that it is not all about how good is the solutions and how much it can save energy costs but it is more about how they see energy with their roles in organisations and in their life. Who decides about energy in any place or at the organization is among the most important part to make the difference. Then who can influence those who have the final say in energy related decisions and these people are also matters. Finally, it comes to who bear the costs of energy or who is pay the energy bills and they are ultimately matters the most.
Then I came into a conclusion that managing these people and others who are under their command or employed by them are the most critical factors in effective and successful energy management program in any entity. It is all about management of the human because there are the one who use, select, operate, maintain and pay for anything that using energy in their day to day life at work and home. Everyone is looking at how they use energy differently. The challenge in promoting efficient use of energy is to convey the same message to different groups of people in the organisation through effective means of communication.
Why they do not really care about how they use energy at their workplace?
Based on experiences as a consultant in communicating with different level and group of people in many organisations, I believe the following could be among the possible main reasons:
- It does not matter to them because they do not pay energy bills themselves.
- There have been no energy supply problems and the use of energy that making them feel is not their job to save energy.
- Existing duties and tasks are that much, and they have no time to think about energy.
- No basis to do anything or clear directives from the top management on how they supposed to use energy in more efficiently.
Then how about the decision makers or the top management?
Why they seem to ignore the importance of managing the energy efficiently too. Again, from communicating with many types of people at many organizations in public and private sectors over the years, I believe these could be the reasons:
- Most decisions makers sitting in the decision-making chairs are not with technical background and their decisions on energy matters are not connected to energy in many business decisions. Concerns on energy efficiency often highlighted and proposed by the technical personnel or managers and these always been seen as operational matters that have little effects on business performance directly.
- The focus is more on core businesses of the organisation where more profits as always associated with more production outputs , quality and technology improvement related matters and more sales as revenue generating strategies and activities.
- Energy cost is too small compare to overall operational costs of the organisation and potentials energy costs savings from energy management do not trigger or attract much interest of the top management.
- Many decision makers are still not convinced about the results can be achieved especially with the failure of the proponents of energy saving solutions to convince them as viable and attractive business proposals instead of just as technical proposals.
Looking and assessing all the above points, I finally must acknowledge that being technically brilliant and advanced persons could be just not good enough to get energy management moving forward in any organisation. I do not see engineering approaches or solutions would be able to resolve issues related to attitude and habits in using energy in people’s life.
Skills and techniques to deal with the human especially in interaction with them are equally important. Then I gradually changed my strategies and approaches in selling the idea of energy management to people from different groups and levels in every organisation. Messages on the importance of energy management need to be conveyed to them in carefully planned strategies and approaches for each target group. In the same time, I have been also quickly polishing more of my skills related to human behaviours and how to handle accordingly to get the messages across. The real challenge is always about the ability the convince decision makers to look at energy management as one of the strategic elements in their operational or business decisions will trigger the bigger wave of the implementation at the organisation.
The main objective is often about to instill the importance of having a systematic approach and method in connecting all levels of people in the organisation to share common goals and spirit in managing and using energy in their own organization. When I summarized all components in an energy management system, I clearly can see and understand how crucial is the people’s management factors in having an effective system to be develop, implement, monitor and finally working for further improvements to sustain and achieve better results.If you are an engineer and technically sound person with the intention to champion and drive energy management program in your organisation, you must also possess skills in effective communications that will help you a lot all the way.
That skills will help you to be more effective and to feel more confident to perform the followings:
- To convey the key messages and convince the top management to indicate their commitment.
- To work with team members in the internal organisation and inspire/motivate them.
- perform the energy management planning works that will involve personnel from other departments.
- To create awareness to all employees on the energy policy and their roles and responsibilities in the implementation.
- To obtain on-going feedback from personnel and data gathering to monitor energy performance.
- To prepare and present progress and results of the system to convince the top management again to continue to give their commitment.
So, the ability to manage the people will determine how successful and how good the intended outputs of energy management program will be produced. The way forward is how to sustain the performance and to get better results by understanding more about how people can be more motivated and excited to get more benefits from energy management in their businesses and life.
Energy management system and standard
Applying energy management approach is an effective strategy to implement initiatives to reduce energy costs from energy saving measures. For organisations to be able to achieve sustainable energy management which is mainly to ensure sustainability if energy efficiency initiatives with changes in the organisation and personnel and due to other factors such as costs, competitiveness, market requirements, depleting energy resources, green commitments towards mitigating impacts of global warming and etc. With the uncertainty of global prices on energy which finally will affect energy users in all sectors, energy management has become a necessity and energy too has become one of the strategic resources that require strategic attention in many organisations especially for business operators or owners from energy intensive industries.
The typical basic structure of a sustainable energy management system is in a cycle which consists of six main components namely commitment from the top management, energy management policy, energy planning, implementation, system checking and system review for improvement as illustrated in the figure below.
The typical sustainable energy management system implementation cycle for organisations
The importance of each element as shown in the above figure will depend on at what stage the organisation will start their energy management initiatives and for them to move forward in having a comprehensive and more sustainable system in place.
For example, if the organisation is starting from the Business As Usual (BAU) practices or energy is not properly managed on how it is being used in the organisation, obtaining the commitment from the top management would be the most important challenge to overcome.
The fundamentals of the energy management system are based on the Plan-Do-Check-Action (PDCA) management cycle concept. It has been proven in many organisations that by adopting a systematic approach in developing and implementing energy management system coupled with main low and no-cost energy saving measures, the reduction from 5% to 10% of the total energy consumption cost is achievable and can be sustained in a long term as well.
What is ISO50001?
The development, implementation and performance monitoring of the energy management system can use key requirements outlined in the ISO50001 as the reference which is an internationally recognized standard for energy management system. The ISO 50001 on Energy Management System was launched by International Standardization Organisation on 15 June 2011. The standard later adopted by Malaysia and known as Malaysian Standard MS ISO 50001:2011 Energy Management Systems – Requirements with Guidance for Use in November 2011. The latest revised version of this standard was launched in 2018 with some changes to make more synchronized with common requirements of other ISO standards such as ISO14001,ISO450001 and ISO90001.
The ISO50001 is a global guide on requirements that establishes a framework for commercial, institutional, and governmental facilities; and entire organisations to manage energy efficiently. It is targeting broad applicability across national economic sectors; it is estimated to influence up to 60 % of the global energy use. The adoption of ISO50001 in energy management program development and implementation will assist in firstly, to provide organisations with technical and management strategies to increase energy efficiency, reduce costs, and improve environmental performance with a recognized framework for integrating energy efficiency into the organisation’s management practices. Secondly, it provides organisations an access to a single, harmonized standard for implementation across the organisation with a logical and consistent methodology for identifying and implementing improvements.
In summary, the ISO50001 outlined the following requirements for organisations to have a comprehensive and sustainable energy management program implementation to achieve their intended targets and for continual improvements:
- The need to have leadership and commitment from the top management to lead and sustain the energy management program.
- The preparation and introduction of energy policy together with the establishment of internal energy management organisation with clearly defined roles and responsibilities of its team members.
- To establish the energy management targets and the planning on how to achieve the
- The need to conducting energy review and to establish the energy performance indicators and energy base line as the benchmark for improvement together with the plan on data collection.
- To provide supports by the management with resources required to develop and implement the system and the requirements to develop competent personnel through training, effective awareness programme and communication with all interested parties.
- The operation of the system with the need to establish necessary operational planning and controls with the criteria for the operation and maintenance activities of facilities, equipment, systems and energy-using processes.
- The need to consider energy performance improvement opportunities in the design of energy efficient facilities, equipment, infrastructure, systems and processes right from project stage .
- To requirement to establish criteria in procurement of energy efficient equipment, instrument and services.
- Monitoring and measurement plan for energy performance evaluation and compliance to the system requirements.
- Identification and ensuring compliance against legal and other requirements.
- Internal audit, management review and control of documents and records
- The need to have a continual improvement plan for the developed and implemented system.
The energy management system implementation will enable the organisation to ensure all employees to contribute in achieving the common objectives and targets for all its energy management program for the company in long term. It is expected with the process of development and implementation of effective energy management system, all levels of personnel will gradually embrace the energy efficiently culture in their daily life at work and also at home. Energy being seen differently by different types of user in the organisation. Efforts must be taken to ensure every energy user will understand and play their roles accordingly.
In the next article, I will share more about the expectations from the top management and tips on how to convince them for the organisation to be able to develop and later implementing the energy management system effectively. This is mainly because the commitment from the top management is the key and the most important factor in successful implementation of energy management system in any organisation. The top management must demonstrate its commitment to support the implementation of the system and subsequently agree to continually improve it to ensure the system remain relevant and effective in the way forward.