UK carbon targets ‘under threat’ unless businesses invest in energy managers

Britain's carbon targets could be put at risk unless businesses invest in the tools and training required to equip energy managers for the future, according to new research from utility consultancy Inenco.

The Future Utilities Manager report examines how the role of an energy manager will change as Britain’s energy infrastructure evolves. It claims that the energy manager of 2030 will be a “senior-level, tech-savvy data scientist”, who plays a critical role in reducing the UK’s carbon emissions.

Consequently, a skills and technology gap will need to be addressed in order for businesses to future-proof their operations and help deliver the UK’s low-carbon agenda.

Inenco chief technology officer Jon Bauer said: “Our research has highlighted a significant risk in terms of developing this key role; to deliver the utility manager of the future there is a need for advancements in technology and training. Unless businesses are effectively supported and are able to embrace best practice and innovation, meeting the UK’s energy targets could be under threat.”


Strategic decision-maker

The future utilities manager will be responsible for making key strategic business decisions, the research claims. One area of broader remit will be transport, where one-third of energy managers have already gained responsibility during the last five years. The rising popularity of EVs will see this trend continue, according to the report.

It suggests that the role will require someone who is able to use extensive IT skills to manage data on energy, water, waste and transport activities. In readiness for this data-driven future, 14% of today’s energy managers are reportedly already investing in better data systems and analysis functions.

The study shows insists that energy managers will have a higher level of technology awareness and ability, using AI to aid decision making, while an increased level of automation will result in a smaller energy management team, with outsourcing becoming commonplace.

Moreover, the focus of the energy manager will shift from energy reduction to the identification of income opportunities from energy, utilising onsite generation, energy storage and demand response. And with at least two new energy compliance schemes forecast to be introduced in the next 13 years, they will also need to be adept at navigating new and complex energy legislation.

“In the future, energy will be a decision point in all business investment choices,” Bauer said. “Changes in technology and evolved social behaviours mean the future utilities manger will have access to real-time data and artificial intelligence, allowing them to make strategic decisions that will optimise a business’ own demand, instantly. They will ultimately be responsible for ensuring that the business they work for is aiding the UK’s transition to a low-carbon economy.”

The vast majority of energy managers have taken their organisation beyond the compliance level of energy efficiency by making sites self-sufficient through on-site generation and opening up new revenue streams from surplus power. That was the top-line result of a recent benchmarking survey carried out by edie in association with energy company E.ON.

edie has also compiled a list of 10 tips to move ‘from compliance to competitive edge’ on energy management.

George Ogleby

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