ESOS opportunity will empower energy managers, says Northern Rail

EXCLUSIVE: Implementing energy-saving initiatives highlighted by the Government's Energy Savings Opportunities Scheme (ESOS) should be a 'no-brainer' for businesses, according to the energy and environment manager at Northern Rail.

Speaking exclusively to edie, Gareth Williams said: “As a piece of legislation, ESOS is very clever.

“The benchmarking, the full-on data analysis at the start is the difficult bit. As soon as you’ve done that you’re most of the way there. Once you’ve got that energy audit done, it should be a no-brainer to put some of those initiatives in place.”

ESOS requires all companies with more than 250 employees or a turnover of more than €50m to produce detailed reports on their energy use and efficiency every four years. Lead assessors will carry out an energy audit, paid for by the business, but there is no obligation to implement any of the efficiency measures identified. 

 “The fact that changes aren’t mandatory has made a lot of headlines, but I think that’s good, because otherwise the government is forcing companies to do something they might not want to do,” Williams added. “It’s a business choice, if a company wants to prioritise spending elsewhere, that’s entirely up to them.

“From my perspective if I was given an energy audit and it said you can reduce your energy consumption by £10,000 and it would cost £100,000, so payback is this, then I’d do it, but that’s because I’m an energy manager.

“If I’m an MD, I might be able to spend that £100,000 elsewhere and get £50,000 back. It’s a business decision. What ESOS does do, is give the energy managers more power, because they’ve had to spend the money on all these audits, so they can say let’s do something about it and get a benefit from it.”

Big benefits

As energy manager of Northern Rail, Williams has helped cut non-traction energy consumption (i.e. energy used in train stations and depots) by 12% last year, though a mixture of behaviour change programmes and efficiency’s highlighted by smart metering.

“We have seen big benefits from installing smart meters because now we get accurate data,” said Williams. He and his team use that data to send 450 energy reports out every single month to station and depot managers.

“We can now tell them if their energy use has gone up, where they’re going wrong, and deal with problem or then share best practice.”

Given that transport energy-use is also covered by ESOS, Northern Rail has frozen the amount of fuel its train’s use, despite switching to low-sulphur fuel which is around 5% less efficient. The shortfall has been at least partially made up by a Responsible Driver program.

Williams, who was the highly-commended Energy Manager of the Year at edie’s Sustainability Leaders Awards last year, added: “We brought a driver in to the environment team to work out what a perfectly efficient run would look like on all of our routes, and then we shared that information with our drivers.”

Changes include no idling at stations, using gradients on the route to coast where possible and braking early before stations.

Voluntary standard

These initiatives are all carried out as part of Northern Rail’s compliance with ISO50001, a voluntary energy management standard which also counts towards ESOS compliance.

Williams said: “My advice to other energy managers is simply to go and get an ISO5001 system in place, because it will give you benefit.

“Especially with ESOS coming up, there’s no reason not to put the system in place.”

Gareth Williams at the Energy Management Forum

Gareth Willimas will be leading a session titled’Using ISO 50001 to reach ESOS compliance’ at edie’s Energy Managers Forum in Birmingham on 20 May. To find out more details, click here.

Brad Allen

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