What level of commitment and investment is typically required to pursue ISO 50001?

Certifying to ISO 50001 may require significant time and resources, particularly if pursued enterprise-wide. Two types of commitment are necessary: management and financial commitments. The largest investment is in staff time and expertise, which is required to implement all the provisions of the standard. This includes establishing policies, procedures and protocols in relation to energy management. A strong and clear commitment from top management will be necessary to provide the guidance needed in order for the staff to understand the importance of the standard to the organization. These policies and procedures include:

  • Management responsibility for energy management – selecting and appointing an energy manager and energy team who will implement the EnMS.
  •  ISO 50001 energy policy – establishing the organization’s energy policy, which indicates the organization’s energy performance goals and approach. The EnMS will need to support these goals.
  • Energy planning, review and baseline process – organizations need to understand their energy use, determine significant end uses (SEU) and establish energy consumption baselines. For large organizations with multiple fuel sources and numerous energy applications, this can be a significant yet important task.
  • Energy key performance indicators (KPI) – once the energy review is complete, organizations need to determine how to measure energy performance consistently across the organization whether in absolute quantities of energy or energy intensity.
  • Energy objectives, targets and action plans – once the energy planning and review is complete, establishing interim and long-term goals and action plans is necessary to create a pathway to meeting the goals in the policy.
  • Energy communication and training processes – with ISO 50001, broad employee engagement is important. Staffs from multiple business units need to be engaged, trained and committed to achieving their organization’s goals. Communication and training also support development of an organizational culture that values energy efficiency.
  • Energy documentation requirements – energy applications and the amounts of energy they consume need to be documented and reported within the organization.
  • ISO 50001 energy non-conformity, corrective and preventative action – the energy manager and other members of the energy team need training to identify such non-conformities and how to bring the organization back into conformity.
  • ISO 50001 management review – senior management is to be briefed periodically on the organization’s progress towards its energy performance goals.

In addition, the ISO 50001 certification process requires an organization to go through a two-stage audit of its EnMS. In both Europe and the U.S., auditors must be approved by independent certification bodies. In Europe, the first stage audit is often called the “Pre-assessment” and it involves an initial audit of the organization's EnMS to ensure that it meets the minimum requirements of the ISO 50001 standard. The second stage “certification” audit involves review of any issues found in stage one and involves deeper assessment of the EnMS. Both stages are performed by outside auditors.

In the U.S., the company/plant seeking certification performs an internal “readiness” audit of its EnMS with assistance from an SEP Lead Auditor. This “readiness” audit requires the internal audit team to ensure that the basic ISO 50001 and SEP documentation requirements are met. During this audit, the auditor will review the documents that describe the different portions of the EnMS:

  • Scope and Boundaries
  • Energy Planning/ SEUs
  • Action Plans
  • Internal Audits and Management Review

If the internal audit team finds deficiencies, it can correct them before proceeding with the second stage audit of the EnMS that is conducted by an independent auditor to determine certification. During the stage two or “on-site” audit, an outside team composed of a certified SEP Lead Auditor and an SEP Performance Verifier will evaluate the implementation, including effectiveness, of the facility’s management system. This will include applying the SEP measurement and verification protocol to assess and calculate energy performance improvements, e.g. energy intensity savings greater than 5%, 10% or 15%.

The time and effort of the Stage 1 and Stage 2 audits will vary depending upon the facility’s energy consumption and experience with other ISO management system audits. Facilities with existing certifications to ISO 9001 and/or ISO 14001 may have lower certification costs and audit duration than facilities without these certifications. In these cases, common management system processes will have been the subject of previous audits and will already have been found acceptable.

A strong financial commitment is necessary because implementation of the standard incurs costs for training, staff time, monitoring equipment such as meters and sensors, external energy audits and ISO 50001 ‘coaches,’ and the certification audit. For organizations that have little experience with energy management or with other ISO management standards the costs may be more significant.