A passion for energy

Next May, a new Energy Manager of the Year will be found. Former winner Andy Watson explains why he entered, and how the accolade, which is sponsored by EB publisher Faversham House Group, benefited his company

I had never really been into awards. Life always seemed too busy just keeping up with things, and so I was a bit reluctant when a colleague suggested that I enter the Energy Manager of the Year award in 2005.

Applying for the award really forced me to evaluate what I had been doing for the last four years - what had worked and what could have been better.

It became more apparent what a diversity of techniques and approaches we had used in order to change a company site such as Heathrow Airport. It went from a legacy of equipment designed and maintained to be on and available at all times to a place where energy efficiency was given a chance to improve. It also showed that progress could have only been achieved by a broad range of people and ideas contributing to the energy strategy.

I have since found, when applying for other awards and evaluations, that doing this kind of exercise is a great way of seeing where and how issues can be improved upon. Suffice to say, we still haven't got the ideal monitoring and targeting system.

Winning the award came as an absolute surprise and again added another dimension to understanding the strengths and weaknesses of our energy approach.

I was very happy and the award took pride of place on the windowsill above the kitchen sink - a reminder to not run the hot tap too long whenever I get round to doing the washing up.

Since deciding to leave BAA and seek pastures new, the award has gone a very long way in helping me sell myself. And I realise now how glad I am to have tried for it. Prior to job interviews, which always dig up feelings of inadequacy (how long before they realise that I've been faking all these years?), thinking about the award makes me realise that I can do the job that I am applying for.

But why energy? I'm sure this is a question many energy practitioners have pondered. And given the drastic changes in the energy manager role in the last 10 years, I am sure the answer has evolved somewhat.

For me, my passion for energy conservation is one around trying to contribute to resolving this huge challenge that faces us all. When I first started only five or so years ago, the focus was on conserving energy for financial and infrastructure sakes. Climate change was, of course, an issue, but not the dominant one.

Nowadays, for companies such as Heathrow, growth and development come hand in hand with a firm grip on what climate change impact these developments will have. The game is still strongly influenced by financial impacts but, now, to be seen to be doing the right thing becomes equally important.

The challenges still revolve around keeping climate change high enough on peoples' priorities given all the other considerations. Sudden events and crises often divert attention away from energy efficiency.

The issue I have been trying to overcome is to develop an energy approach which doesn't suffer when people are diverted away from the focus on efficiency. Still, the constant hiking in energy prices should help that one in time.

Andy Watson is now director of Sim Energy Limited.

The Energy Manager of the Year award will be presented at this year's Nemex 2007, part of Sustainabilitylive!, the UK's largest forum for excellence and innovation in environment, water, land and energy. For more information visit www.sustainabilitylive.com

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