It's often said that energy efficiency is the best single weapon for combating climate change. And, just as often, the statement is met by yawns or a few compact fluorescent light bulbs.
Yet energy efficiency — in office buildings, public buildings and homes, in cars, planes and trains — can yield big payoffs over both the short and long term.
So it’s good news that the International Organization for Standardization has released ISO 50001, a standard for energy-management systems, which is designed to help companies, among other things, make better use of their energy-consuming assets.
It will also help companies in evaluating systems and establishing priorities for implementing energy-efficient technologies, and to promote efficiency throughout the supply chain.
That’s a big mouthful for something most of us will never read or rarely think of. But properly applied, ISO 50001 can have a profound effect on worldwide energy use, and that in turn can reduce costs and improve environmental performance, whether you are the purchaser of a new office building or the guy who builds it.
Even without the new standard, companies can, and have, come up with systems for managing energy, recognizing it as a valuable asset, not simply something you burned as necessary and forgot about.
But, with this new standard as guidance, it will be easier for companies to devise systems that work, and can be proven to work, providing THEM with the nudge needed to reduce their environmental impact.
The standard is focused only on energy, but it doesn’t set specific energy targets for any building, product, company or industry. Instead, it gives organizations a chance to set their own goals and have their progress verified by an independent third party.
The U.S. Department of Energy has announced that it will use the standard in 22 pilot projects it has on the drawing board, some of which are new buildings and some are retrofits.
It will also be used as part of the American Superior Energy Performance certification program for industrial facilities.
Another certification program that has already referenced ISO 50001 is the new Global Superior Energy Performance partnership established about a year ago.
It’s a program requiring implementation of an energy management system with independent validation of both initial improvements, as well as those made over time.
So far, the partnership has just 13 members, including Canada, the U.S., Japan, France and the European Commission.
The group has set up a number of working groups dealing such matters as cool roofs and pavement, steel, cement, and combined heat and power.
These groups will come up with policies and actions needed within their own sectors, with the ultimate objective of encouraging industrial facilities and commercial buildings to pursue continuous improvements in energy efficiency.
Part of being certified by the partnership is adoption of an energy management system that conforms with ISO 50001.
All this merely underscores the views held by international industry about the need to conserve energy. After all, as one wag has said that efficiency is the only cheap power left.
As ISO 50001 gradually comes into use, it will be reflected in plans for retrofits of existing buildings, and especially, in the design and construction of new buildings, and the kinds of energy management systems incorporated. It will start with the big projects built by big contractors, sure. But, there will be an inevitable trickle-down to smaller jobs and smaller builders as the realities of energy management in a warming world begin to bite. You can find out more about all this at www.iso.org.
Korky Koroluk is a regular freelance contributor to the Journal of Commerce. Send comments or questions to email@example.com.