Saving Energy Step 2 – More Practical Ideas

Collection of light bulbs

In my previous blog, we wrote about implementing a management system. This boils down to sharing a common vision up and down and across the organisation, measuring progress, and pinning accountability on individuals. This time, we would like to talk about simple things that organisations can do to shrink their carbon footprints. But first let’s talk about the things that hold us back.

When we take on new clients we sometimes find that they are baffled by what I call energy industry-speak. We blame this partly on government. We understand they need clear definitions in their regulations. It’s just a pity they don’t use ordinary English when they put their ideas across in public forums.

Consultants sometimes seem to take advantage of these terms, when they roll words like audit, assessment, diagnostic, examination, survey and review across their pages. Dare we suggest they are trying to confuse with jargon? We created ecoVaro to demystify the energy business. Our goal is to convert data into formats business people understand. As promised, here are five easy things your staff could do without even going off on training.

  1. Right-size equipment– outsource peak production in busy periods, rather than wasting energy on a system that is running at half capacity mostly.
  2. Re-Install equipment to OEM specifications – individual pieces of equipment need accurate interfacing with larger systems, to ensure that every ounce of energy delivers on its promise.
  3. Maintain to specification – make sure machine tools are within limits, and that equipment is well-lubricated, optimally adjusted and running smoothly.
  4. Adjust HVAC to demand – Engineers design heating and ventilation systems to cope with maximum requirements, and not all are set up to adapt to quieter periods. Try turning off a few units and see what happens.
  5. Recover Heat – Heat around machines is energy wasted. Find creative ways to recycle it. If you can’t, then insulate the equipment from the rest of the work space, and spend less money cooling the place down.

Well that wasn’t rocket science, was it? There are many more things that we can do to streamline energy use, and coax our profits up. This is as true in a factory as in the office and at home. The power we use is largely non-renewable. Small savings help, and banknotes pile up quickly.

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Saving Energy Step 3 – Towards a Variable Energy Bill

Natural gas burner flame on stove

Do you remember the days when energy was so cheap we paid the bill almost without thinking about it? Things have changed and we have the additional duty of reducing consumption to help save the planet. This is the third article in our mini-series on saving energy. It follows on from the first that explored implementing a management system, and the second listing practical things to implement on the shop floor. These open up the possibility of the variable energy bill we expand on as follows.

If ‘variable energy bill’ sounds strange to you, I used the unusual turn of phrase to encourage you to view things in a different light. We need to move on from the ‘pie chart’ mentality where we focus on the biggest numbers like materials, facilities and labour, and zoom in on energy where we can achieve similar gains faster with less pain. But first, we need to see beyond the jargon that governments and consultants love, and get to grips with the reality that we can vary our energy bill and bring cost down.

As executives we recognise this, although other pressures distract us from accepting it as a personal goal. And so we delegate it down the organisation to a level where it becomes ‘another crazy management idea’ we have to follow to stay out of trouble. I read somewhere that half the world’s organisations do not have energy as a defined objective to monitor in the C Suite. No wonder commerce is only pecking away at energy wastage at a rate of 1% per year.

Find out where you are ‘spending energy’ and relate this to your core business. If there are places where you are unable to make a connection, challenge the activity’s right to exist. Following the energy trail produces unexpected benefits because it permeates everything we do.

  • Improved product design reducing time spent in factory
  • Streamlined production schedules reducing machine run times
  • Less wear on equipment reducing costly maintenance
  • A more motivated workforce that is prouder of ‘what we do’

As you achieve energy savings you can pass these on in terms of lower prices and greater market share. All this and more is possible when you focus on the variables behind your energy bill. Run the numbers. It deserves more attention than it often gets.

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What ISO 14001 Status did for Cummins Inc.

Loan officers are signing approving funds to buy houses.

Cummins manufactures engines and power generation products, and has been a household name almost since inception in 1919. It sells its products in over 300 countries, through approximately 6,000 dealerships employing 40,000 people. Because its product line runs off fossil fuel it is under steady pressure to display a cleaner carbon footprint.

Cummins decided to go for the big one by qualifying for ISO 14001 certification. This is a subset of a family of standards relating to managing environmental impact while complying with all applicable legislation. In this sense, it is similar to the ISO 9000 quality management system, because it focuses on how products are produced (as opposed to how those products perform). Compliance with ISO 14001 was a doubly important goal, because it is part of the European Union’s Eco Management and Audit Scheme and fast becoming mandatory on suppliers to governments.

The qualification process follows the well-established principle of plan, do, check, act. It begins with gap analysis to detect materials and processes that affect the environment. This is followed by implementation of necessary changes affecting operations, documentation, emergency strategies and employee education. The third step involves measuring and monitoring performance. Finally, the project moves into a phase of ongoing maintenance, and continuous improvement as circumstances change.

In Cummins case, the project was almost worldwide and called for environmental, health and safety reporting throughout the organisation. The information was shared via a globally accessible document repository, and then processed centrally at the head office in Columbia, Indiana USA.

Measuring environmental performance almost inevitably has other benefits that make it doubly worthwhile. Speaking at the 2014 National Safety Council Congress after receiving the top award for excellence, Cummins chairman and ceo Tom Linebarger commented on a journey that was ‘nothing short of amazing’ yet wasn’t even a ‘pathway to the finish line’.

‘All of us feel like we have way more to do to make sure that our environment is as safe as it could be,’ he added, ‘so that our sustainability footprint is as good as it can be and that we continue to set more aggressive goals every year. That’s just how we think about it.’ Linebarger concluded.

If you are taking your company on a journey to new heights of environmental excellence, then you should consider choosing ecoVaro as your travelling companion. We are environmental management specialists and have proprietary software geared to process your data. We also have a wealth of experience, and a treasure chest of roadmaps to help you achieve your goal.

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Monitoring Water Banks with Telemetrics

River Lot in France

Longstanding droughts across South Australia are forcing farmers to rethink the moisture in the soil they once regarded as their inalienable right. Trend monitoring is an essential input to applying pesticides and fertilisers in balanced ratios. Soil moisture sensors are transmitting data to central points for onward processing on a cloud, and this is making a positive difference to agricultural output.

Peter Buss, co-founder of Sentek Technology calls ground moisture a water bank and manufactures ground sensors to interrogate it. His hometown of Adelaide is in one of the driest states in Australia. This makes monitoring soil water even more critical, if agriculture is to continue. Sentek has been helping farmers deliver optimum amounts of water since 1992.

The analogy of a water bank is interesting. Agriculturists must ‘bank’ water for less-than-rainy days instead of squeezing the last drop. They need a stream of online data and a safe place somewhere in the cloud to curate it. Sentek is in the lead in places as remote as Peru’s Atacamba desert and the mountains of Mongolia, where it supports sustainable floriculture, forestry, horticulture, pastures, row crops and viticulture through precise delivery of scarce water.

This relies on precision measurement using a variety of drill and drop probes with sensors fixed at 4” / 10cm increments along multiples of 12” / 30cm up to 4 times. These probe soil moisture, soil temperature and soil salinity, and are readily re-positioned to other locations as crops rotate.

Peter Buss is convinced that measurement is a means to the end and only the beginning. ‘Too often, growers start watering when plants don’t really need it, wasting water, energy, and labour. By monitoring that need accurately, that water can be saved until later when the plant really needs it.’ He goes on to add that the crop is the ultimate sensor, and that ‘we should ask the plant what it needs’.

This takes the debate a stage further. Water wise farmers should plant water-wise crops, not try to close the stable door after the horse has bolted and dry years return. The South Australia government thinks the answer also lies in correct farm dam management. It wants farmers to build ones that allow sufficient water to bypass in order to sustain the natural environment too.

There is more to water management than squeezing the last drop. Soil moisture goes beyond measuring for profit. It is about farming sustainably using data from sensors to guide us. ecoVaro is ahead of the curve as we explore imaginative ways to exploit the data these provide for the common good of all.

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Energy Cooperation Mechanisms in the EU

Saving energy and your money

While the original mission of the European Union was to bring countries together to prevent future wars, this has spun out into a variety of other cooperative mechanisms its founders may never have dreamed of. Take energy for example, where the European Energy Directive puts energy cooperation mechanisms in place to help member states achieve the collective goal.

This inter-connectivity is essential because countries have different opportunities. For example, some may easily meet their renewable targets with an abundance of suitable rivers, while others may have a more regular supply of sunshine. To capitalise on these opportunities the EU created an internal energy market to make it easier for countries to work together and achieve their goals in cost-effective ways. The three major mechanisms are

  • Joint Projects
  • Statistical Transfers
  • Joint Support Schemes

Joint Projects

The simplest form is where two member states co-fund a power generation, heating or cooling scheme and share the benefits. This could be anything from a hydro project on their common border to co-developing bio-fuel technology. They do not necessarily share the benefits, but they do share the renewable energy credits that flow from it.

An EU country may also enter into a joint project with a non-EU nation, and claim a portion of the credit, provided the project generates electricity and this physically flows into the union.

Statistical Transfers

A statistical transfer occurs when one member state has an abundance of renewable energy opportunities such that it can readily meet its targets, and has surplus credits it wishes to exchange for cash. It ‘sells’ these through the EU accounting system to a country willing to pay for the assistance.

This aspect of the cooperative mechanism provides an incentive for member states to exceed their targets. It also controls costs, because the receiver has the opportunity to avoid more expensive capital outlays.

Joint Support Schemes

In the case of joint support schemes, two or more member countries combine efforts to encourage renewable energy / heating / cooling systems in their respective territories. This concept is not yet fully explored. It might for example include common feed-in tariffs / premiums or common certificate trading and quota systems.

Conclusion

A common thread runs through these three cooperative mechanisms and there are close interlinks. The question in ecoVaro’s mind is the extent to which the system will evolve from statistical support systems, towards full open engagement.

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2015 ESOS Guidelines Chapter 7, 8 & 9 – Sign-Off, Compliance & Appeals

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This is the final chapter in our series of short posts summarising the quite complex ESOS guidelines (click on ‘Comply with ESOS’ to see the details). This one addresses the legalities to follow to complete your report – and how to appeal if you are not happy with any of the Environment Agency’s decisions.

  1. Director Sign-Off

This is by no means an easy ride. Confirmation of the work at individual or lead assessor level locks the company into the penalty cycle in the event there are significant irregularities. By signing off the assessment, the board level director(s) # agree that they have

  • Reviewed the enterprise’s ESOS recommendations
  • Believe the enterprise is within the scope of the scheme
  • Believe the enterprise is compliant with the scheme
  • Believe the information provided is correct

Having an internal assessor requires a second board-level signature.

  1. Compliance

You report compliance on the internet. This is free and you can do it at any time within the deadline. You can dip in and out of the process as many times as you wish, but must use the link in the receipting email. While this is something a board member must do, there is no reason why the lead assessor should not complete the basics. The online compliance notification addresses the following topics:

  • The ESOS contact person in the enterprise
  • Any aggregation / dis-aggregation during the period
  • The names and contact details of the lead assessor
  • The proportion of energy consumption per compliance route

The Environment Agency will acknowledge receipt. This does not constitute acceptance. You should keep the ESOS evidence pack in a safe place with at least one backup elsewhere.

  1. Compliance & Enforcement Issues

In the event the Environment Agency decides your enterprise has not met ESOS requirements, it may either (a) issue a compliance notice with instructions, or (b) apply one of the following civil penalties:

  • A fine of up to £5,000 for failure to maintain records
  • A fine of up to £50,000 for failure to undertake an energy audit
  • A fine of up to £50,000 for a false or misleading statement

Any enterprise has the right of appeal against government decisions. In the case of ESOS, this is via:

  • The First-Tier Tribunal if your enterprise is England, Wales or off-shore based
  • The Scottish Minister if your enterprise is based in Scotland
  • The Planning Commission if your enterprise is Northern Ireland-based

The notice you appeal against will supply details of the appeal steps to take.

This blog and its companion chapters concerning the ESOS Guidelines as amended 2015 are with compliments of ecoVaro. We are the people who break ESOS data into manageable chunks of information, so that board-level directors have greater confidence in what they sign.

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2015 ESOS Guidelines Chapter 3 to 5 – The ESOS Assessment

Digital electric meters in a row measuring power use. Electricity consumption concept.

ESOS operates in tandem with the ISO 50001 (Energy Management) system that encourages continual improvement in the efficient use of energy. Any UK enterprise qualifying for ESOS that has current ISO 50001 certification on the compliance date by an approved body (and that covers the entire UK corporate group) may present this as evidence of having completed its ESOS assessment. It does however still require board-level certification, following which it must notify the Environment Agency accordingly.

The Alternate ESOS Route

In the absence of an ISO 50001 energy management certificate addressing comprehensive energy use, a qualifying UK enterprise must:

  1. Measure Total Energy Consumption in either kWh or energy spend in pounds sterling, and across the entire operation including buildings, industrial processes and transport.
  2. Identify Areas of Significant Energy Consumption that account for at least 90% of the total. The balance falls into a de minimis group that is officially too trivial to merit consideration.
  1. Consider Available Routes to Compliance. These could include ISO 500001 part-certification, display energy certificates, green deal assessments, ESOS compliant energy audits, self-audits and independent assessments
  1. Do an Internal Review to make sure that you have covered every area of significant consumption. This is an important strategic step to avoid the possibility of failing to comply completely.
  1. Appoint an Approved Lead Assessor who may be internal or external to your enterprise, but must have ESOS approval. This person confirms you have met all ESOS requirements (unless you have no de minimis exceptions).
  1. Obtain Internal Certification by one of more board-level directors. They must certify they are satisfied with the veracity of the reports. They must also confirm that the enterprise is compliant with the scheme.
  1. Notify the Environment Agency of Compliance within the deadline using the online notification system as soon as the enterprise believes is fully compliant.
  1. Assemble your ESOS Evidential Pack and back it up in a safe place. Remember, it is your responsibility to provide proof of the above. Unearthing evidence a year later it not something to look forward to.

The ESOS assessment process is largely self-regulatory, although there are checks and balances in place including lead assessor and board-level certifications. As you work through what may seem to be a nuisance remember the primary objectives. These are saving money and reducing carbon emissions. Contact ecoVaro if we can assist in any way.

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2015 ESOS Guidelines Chapter 6 – Role of Lead Assessor

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The primary role of the lead assessor is to make sure the enterprise’s assessment meets ESOS requirements. Their contribution is mandatory, with the only exception being where 100% of energy consumption received attention in an ISO 50001 that forms the basis of the ESOS report.

How to Find a Lead Assessor

An enterprise subject to ESOS must negotiate with a lead assessor with the necessary specialisms from one of the panels approved by the UK government. This can be a person within the organisation or an third party. If independent, then only one director of the enterprise need countersign the assessment report. If an employee, then two signatures are necessary. Before reaching a decision, consider

  • Whether the person has auditing experience in the sector
  • Whether they are familiar with the technology and the processes
  • Whether they have experience of auditing against a standard

The choice rests on the enterprise itself. The lead assessor performs the appointed role.

The Lead Assessor’s Role

The Lead Assessor’s main job is reviewing an ESOS assessment prepared by others against the standard, and deciding whether it meets the requirements. They may also contribute towards it. Typically their role includes:

  • Checking the calculation for total energy consumption across the entire enterprise
  • Reviewing the process whereby the 90% areas of significant consumption were identified
  • Confirming that certifications are in place for all alternate routes to compliance chosen
  • Checking that the audit reports meet the minimum criteria laid down by the ESOS system

Note: A lead assessor may partly prepare the assessment themselves, or simply verify that others did it correctly.

In the former instance a lead assessor might

  • Determine energy use profiles
  • Identify savings opportunities
  • Calculate savings measures
  • Present audit findings
  • Determine future methodology
  • Define sampling methods
  • Develop audit timetables
  • Establish site visit programs
  • Assemble ESOS information pack

Core Enterprise Responsibilities

The enterprise cannot absolve itself from responsibility for good governance. Accordingly, it remains liable for

  • Ensuring compliance with ESOS requirements
  • Selecting and appointing the lead assessor
  • Drawing attention to previous audit work
  • Agreeing with what the lead assessor does
  • Requesting directors to sign the assessment

The Environment Agency does not provide assessment templates as it believes this reduces the administrative burden on the enterprises it serves.

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2015 ESOS Guidelines Chapter 1 – Who Qualifies

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The base criteria are any UK undertaking that employs more than 250 people and/or has a turnover in excess of €50 million and/or has a balance sheet total greater than €43 million. There is little point in attempting to separate off high polluting areas. If one corporate group qualifies for ESOS, then all the others are obligated to take part too. The sterling equivalents of £38,937,777 and £33,486,489 were set on 31 December 2014 and apply to the first compliance period.

Representatives of Overseas Entities

UK registered branches of foreign entities are treated as if fully UK owned. They also have to sign up if any overseas corporate element meets the threshold no matter where in the world. The deciding factor is common ownership throughout the ESOS system. ecoVaro appreciates this. We have seen European companies dumping pollution in under-regulated countries for far too long.

Generic Undertakings that Could Comply

The common factor is energy consumption and the organisation’s type of work is irrelevant. The Environmental Agency has provided the following generic checklist of undertakings that could qualify:

Limited CompaniesPublic CompaniesTrusts
PartnershipsPrivate Equity CompaniesLimited Liability Partnerships
Unincorporated AssociationsNot-for-Profit BodiesUniversities (Per Funding)

Organisations Close to Thresholds

Organisations that come close to, but do not quite meet the qualification threshold should cast their minds back to previous accounting periods, because ESOS considers current and previous years. The exact wording in the regulations states:

“Where, in any accounting period, an undertaking is a large undertaking (or a small or medium undertaking, as the case may be), it retains that status until it falls within the definition of a small or medium undertaking (or a large undertaking, as the case may be) for two consecutive accounting periods.”

Considering the £50,000 penalty for not completing an assessment or making a false or misleading statement, it makes good sense for close misses to comply.

Joint Ventures and Participative Undertakings

If one element of a UK group qualifies for ESOS, then the others must follow suit with the highest one carrying responsibility. Franchisees are independent undertakings although they may collectively agree to participate. If trusts receive energy from a third party that must do an ESOS, then so must they. Private equity firms and private finance initiatives receive the same treatment as other enterprises. De-aggregations must be in writing following which separated ESOS accountability applies.

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EcoVaro – ESOS Solution on a Cloud

The UK’s Energy Saving Opportunity Scheme – and all others in the EU stable – is bound to generate huge quantities of data beyond the reach of processing on standalone computers. This leaves some companies in the mandatory sector between a rock and a hard place. They already have to divert scarce talent to draft compliance reports. Now they face purchasing equipment with big data processing power.

The more astute are turning to cloud computing solutions like EcoVaro in increasing numbers. They are also keen to benefit from remote secure backup. .

Increasing migration to public clouds has caused a growth in niche big data consultants. EcoVaro is one of these. We want to do more than simply open up a port and leave you to become familiar with our technology. We service a growing group of companies who want us to analyse their energy usage reports, and isolate the main demand drivers so they know where to start saving.

We are consumer-centric energy consultants with the emphasis on corporates and sme’s. We offer more than just big data processing facilities. We also help set up your dashboard and are full of practical ideas you can use to start trimming energy costs right away. So please treat us as your affordable energy partner who really wants to help.

Finally, contact EcoVaro for a discussion.