ESOS – The tip of the iceberg

In last month’s Water, Energy and Environment magazine, Lord Redesdale, CEO of the Energy Manager’s association asked, “Why have so few people heard of ESOS?”

Posted on 19 May 2015.

I don’t know who he has been speaking to, or where he gets his information, but the many organisations that we speak to on a daily basis are well aware of their obligations and many have already taken steps to comply.  Anyone who hasn’t seen the hundreds of ESOS articles, workshops, webinars and presentations must really have their head in the sand.

What does surprise me, however, is the belief by many organisations that an ESOS audit will deliver a comprehensive energy survey identifying a complete list of energy saving opportunities.  I am also surprised by the number of Lead Assessors that are giving confusing, misleading advice about what should and shouldn’t be audited.

We recently had an example of a client with four department stores who was being told by another consultant that each of the stores had to be fully audited as they were of differing size, age and construction.  As the stores were using energy in the same way through HVAC, lighting and point of sale equipment, only one of the stores actually required auditing.  Yes, the opportunities for saving energy in each would be different and yes, auditing each of them to identify energy saving opportunities would result in the most potential savings, but this is not what ESOS requires.  Clearly the difference in approach would give widely differing fee proposals which would not be comparable.

An example of where individual facilities would require auditing could be a food manufacturing organisation where different food lines required different processes such as chilling, baking, washing, mixing:  each clearly using energy in distinctly different ways. 

The requirements of ESOS state that you must identify assets and activities that represent at least 90% of your total energy consumption.  You must carry out site visits as part of your audit, but you don’t have to visit every site. You must make sure you’ve collected and analysed data for all your areas of significant energy consumption regardless of the number of site visits. Organisations with multiple sites or assets that are identical or very similar can take a proportionate approach and apply the energy saving opportunities identified in their site visits to their wider portfolio. The lead assessor and participant organisation should determine a suitable site visit sampling approach to reflect the energy consumption patterns of their assets and activities.

What this representative approach means for organisations being audited is that whilst they will have a list of energy saving opportunities from which to work to reduce their energy consumption, the ESOS audit is only the tip of the iceberg, and may not even identify the opportunities where most savings can be made.

Organisations that are serious about creating a holistic energy management programme should, as a first step, carry out a survey of each of their assets and develop a comprehensive continuous improvement programme.  For most organisations, it will not be possible to have a dedicated energy manager or team to work on the programme nor the budget available and so the task can seem daunting.  But a modular approach to tackling improvement projects can achieve measurable results within a relatively short timescale and does not need to involve huge capital expenditure.  Technical projects often seem the most obvious and the ones that have measurable results.  Key to achieving significant savings, however, is behavioural change which often also proves to be a relatively low cost approach.    One client that we work with achieved a 7½ % energy saving through a £500k programme of replacing a lighting system with a more energy efficient alternative.  The same organisation invested £50k in behaviour training which also resulted in a 7 ½ % saving. 

ESOS is the tip of the iceberg of energy savings opportunities. I would encourage all organisations to explore below the surface and see this as just the beginning of their energy saving journey.