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Energy excellence certification – a new management tool

Are you an energy management expert? A new energy excellence certification demands that organizations maintain their conservation efforts. Does your organization have what it takes?


June 26, 2008
By David Arkell

Like the weather, a movie, or even a good book, energy has often been the topic of conversation around the office water cooler. However, since oil and natural gas prices have escalated over the last twelve months (since June 1, 2007, oil is up 84 per cent and natural gas, 56 per cent), energy is now being discussed in the media and boardrooms across the nation. It might be the price of gasoline at the pump, your electricity bill at home, or the value of wind turbines to society. It doesn’t matter what the topic is, all costs have dramatically increased and this is not about to change. How you manage those costs effectively and consistently will make a big difference in your business.

Flawed plaudits
For years there has been talk about energy but little to no sustainable action by society. Historically, energy has been viewed as a fixed cost, an expense that cannot be controlled. However, this cannot be further from the truth and should not be ignored. This valuable resource is a depleting (and in most cases, non-renewable) commodity that has a large impact on our environment and standard of living.

We continue to take energy for granted, yet the majority of the world’s population is dependant on it. It is abundantly clear with so many benefits for society – economic, social, and environmental — each of us needs to become more active and proficient in managing energy.

Countless organizations and jurisdictions claim to proactively manage energy and have been recognized for their contribution by letter, plaque or award. Yet, investigating this activity further, this form of recognition tends to be flawed for a variety of reasons. First, the distinction is given by an ‘interested’, self-serving body and is likely not to be comprehensive. Second, the award only measures a small time frame and typically only focuses on one action or department’s involvement.

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Most importantly, energy management recognitions fail because they do not motivate or require continued effort throughout the entire organization or society. They often recognize a short, flavour-of-the-month burst of activity which allows the organization to tick the box for energy management activity. The downfall is that none of these create a sustainable energy management culture or environment.

How can we change our culture and mindset so that society begins to appreciate the value of energy? Also, how can we improve the management of energy by using it efficiently and effectively?

Beyond ISO 14000
360 Energy Inc., a company that promotes energy excellence, has spent considerable time and resources over the last three years looking for an answer. They have been researching the energy management challenges other countries have faced and actions they took to create a culture of energy excellence.

A common denominator was found. Countries that are better at managing energy — such as Sweden, Denmark, Norway, New Zealand, Germany, and the UK — have all taken a structured, organizational approach to energy management, often using a national standard as a baseline. However, having the procedural framework, important as it is, is not enough.

In this respect, many believe the ISO14000 regime requires organizations to employ energy management best practices. This is simply not the case. ISO 14000 does not require an organization to address energy management nor does it measure energy performance improvements. There are proposals being developed for a new energy management ISO standard. Currently, there is a draft European standard that gives an insight to what this future ISO standard might look like. Unfortunately, this standard will be about procedures and not about sustainable results.

The UK’s Energy Efficiency Accreditation Scheme (EEAS) is one of the few programs that is based on procedure and results rather than procedures only.

Full press organizational involvement
The basic structure of the EEAS is now being introduced in Canada as a Certification in Energy Excellence. This program has been developed to help create leaders in energy management — companies and/or municipalities and regions that can show they are stepping up to the plate with continuous improvement efforts in energy management.

Organizations can apply by demonstrating they have been proactive in managing energy in the last three to five years with verifiable performance improvements. In addition, they must also have a structure and an executed mandate to continue to improve their energy management practices for the next three years.

The program has been designed to ensure energy management activity is to be taken seriously and acted upon by all individuals within the organization, from the boardroom right down to the plant floor. The days of relying on one or two departments, like engineering, maintenance, or purchasing, to manage energy for an entire organization has proven not to be effective.

Organizations considering the Certification in Energy Excellence have the flexibility of selecting from four levels of certification, from bronze to platinum. Once an organization has applied and is accepted into the program, a registered assessor — an experienced professional in energy management — is assigned to the organization to gather required evidence. The assessor is independent and must not have worked for the organization in question in the last five years. Their priority is to work with the organization to determine their level of proficiency with respect to managing energy over the last three to five years. They interview a variety of people, auditing the organization’s site to determine their level of attainment in four key areas:

1.    Management commitment to energy.
2.    Energy procurement practices.
3.    Investment in energy efficiency.
4.    Demonstrated improvements in energy performance.

Unlike other certification programs, the assessor is also a mentor and will articulate what steps the organization should take to continue to improve their performance. The certification process can take from 6 to 36 months depending where on the path to excellence the organization is currently positioned.

Serious commitment
Once the assessment process is complete, the assessor attributes a certification score to the organization. The assessment is then forwarded to an independent, international moderator for final approval.

It has been proven in other jurisdictions that by going through this process, leading organizations can save an incremental three per cent on their energy bills. 360 Energy believes this figure is conservative as it does not incorporate procurement best practices, which are included in the Canadian program. 360 Energy expects the program to have very quick payback, possibly within one year. Not only does the organization benefit financially by going through the process but their industry, community and province will know the organization is a committed leader. The Certification in Energy Excellence will demonstrate the organization is serious about managing energy and protecting the environment, a benefit to society. Certified organizations can promote their leadership in energy management in a way that sets them apart from their competition. Additionally, any organization considering the future ISO will be well placed to implement it, as well as enhancing any pre-existing ISO 14000 system.

Currently, 360 Energy has two organizations undertaking the certification process in the industrial and municipal sectors. The Regional Municipality of Peel and St. Mary’s Cement have both been accepted into the program.

“The Certification in Energy Excellence has provided us the opportunity to be recognized as one of Canada’s leading organizations in the area of sustainable energy management,” says Steven Hall, Director of Corporate Energy Management at the Regional Municipality of Peel.

“We feel strongly that the Certification in Energy Excellence helps us achieve our sustainability targets,” notes Martin Vroegh, Corporate Environmental Manager, St. Mary’s Cement.

Organizations from across the country that can demonstrate energy performance improvements and are committed to achieving excellence in energy and environmental management are encouraged to apply. 360 Energy Inc. is currently accepting a limited number of applications for the certification program.

David Arkell is President & CEO of 360 Energy Inc.


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