What are the options to consider in choosing an energy management system?

In the U.S. and Canada, several options in energy management systems exist for companies and organization that want to manage energy. An energy management system in this context is a framework by which an organization establishes processes to achieve control and improvement of its energy performance. This is important because currently, there are different uses of the phrase in the market. Some technology vendors will use the phrase, energy management system, to describe a software platform that provides centralized monitoring of energy use data, or a control system such as a Building Energy Management System (BEMS) or Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system that enables specific building or plant energy control functions, such as lowering steam pressure or changing building temperature.  In addition, some developers of energy efficiency programs include energy management principles for the programs they create. This is true for the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA) and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star for Industry program. NEEA collaborated with some utility companies in the northwestern U.S. and British Columbia to include energy management principles in NEEA’s Strategic Energy Management program. The EPA requires its Energy Star partner organizations to implement that program’s “energy management principles.” Although, ISO 50001 was published more than two years ago, NEEA’s SEM and the EPA’s Energy Star programs continue to exist and recruit participants.

The energy management system (EnMS) fostered by ISO 50001 is a more sophisticated type of energy management system because it unites best energy management principles with a framework of requirements for organizations to improve energy performance. In an ISO 50001 EnMS, an organization will develop a corporate energy efficiency policy, targets and objectives to meet the policy, energy data collection and reporting procedures, measurement of energy performance, and continuous energy management to enable persistence of energy savings. ISO 50001 is the first management system standard that combines a management system with internally established performance requirements.

One of the important achievements of the development of ISO 50001 is a uniform methodology for establishing an effective energy management system that is consistent, scalable and recognized across the world. ISO 50001 applies to all types and sizes of organizations irrespective of geographical, cultural or social conditions. Application of the ISO 50001 standard can also be tailored to fit the unique requirements of an organization—including the complexity of its energy using equipment, degree of documentation, and resources—and applies to the activities under an organization’s control. Until ISO 50001, different countries had their own national energy management standards. For example, in the U.S., the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) published the second ANSI Management Standard for Energy in 2008 (MSE: 2008). 

In Europe, several countries had their own national standards and some European Union (EU) directives promoted energy management (2004/8/EC and 2006/32/EC). In 2009, the EU published EN 16001:2009 ‘Energy Management Systems - Requirements with guidance for use.’ This standard provided European organizations and companies with a common framework to help them establish the systems and processes necessary to improve energy efficiency. Companies and organizations that adopted EN 16001:2009 would establish continuous improvement processes that would yield energy cost savings, thereby improving competitiveness and enable the compliance with current and future legislation and regulations on greenhouse gasses emissions and mandatory energy efficiency targets. ISO 50001 has now replaced EN 16001.

An important contributing standard is EN 15900 ‘Energy Efficiency Services,’ which establishes minimum requirements of energy efficiency service providers including transparency in energy efficiency improvement services, guarantees for energy performance improvements and liabilities on each party. EN 15900 also facilitates financing of energy efficiency improvements by simplifying project return evaluations by financial institutions.

Now, the EU directive of 2012 encourages companies and organizations to adopt ISO 50001. This directive requires ‘mandatory and regular audits for large enterprises’ but grants an exception to the audit requirement if such enterprises are implementing an energy or environmental management system ‘certified by an independent body according to the relevant European or International Standards’.

Whether companies and organizations have very little or very much experience with energy efficiency, implementing an ISO 50001-based EnMS will have significant benefits. An ISO 50001 EnMS can help an organization save more energy than an ad hoc or project based approach towards energy management. Because ISO 50001 is globally recognized, it can enable compliance with environmental regulations. Also, companies and organizations that are considering purchase of a BEMS can get more value from it by first implementing an ISO 50001-based EnMS to achieve energy focus. Then, the BEMS will be able to support the EnMS and facilitate energy management for the organization.