Career in Energy Management – Kirsty Rice Environmental Manager at JTI UK

KIRSTY RICE Environmental Manager at JTI UK

An Interview with an EMA Recognised Energy Manager

What made you choose environment and energy management as a career?

I became interested in the environment in my teenage years and went on to do a BSC in Environmental Science and Technology. My career just developed from there. I’ve spent time working as an Environmental Projects Manager, an Energy Specialist and now as an Environmental Lead. My drive is about creating a better world with practical solutions.

What does your role at your organisation entail?

I cover everything to do with energy, waste, water and biodiversity. The role is new, and this gives me a fantastic opportunity to start from the basics, bring the people along on the journey and to deliver some fantastic sustainability projects.

In the few months I’ve been with the company, I’ve carried out an environmental audit of our buildings and operations, begun work on sustainability projects and developed the content for an interactive zone on environmental themes for our UK conference.

What is the most exciting part of your job?

I am currently developing the strategy for the UK market. This is an opportunity to shape the ambition for the company and reduce our environmental impact. All large organisations have a role to play in understanding their impact and mitigating this wherever possible. We are seeing a huge amount of press around Zero Carbon and Zero Waste targets and it’s really inspirational to witness this change happening.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I worked for the National Trust as their Energy Manager, then Energy Specialist. During this time, I developed their energy strategy and targets, led on national projects and delivered training and support to create better awareness.

I worked up a multi-million investment programme to meet their renewable energy target, covering biomass, heat pump and hydro-electric projects. It took 6 months to develop and was tested out through a trial of 5 projects. The programme was approved and is still working successfully today.

What is the most frustrating part of your job?

It’s a new role for me, so I’ve been along a journey of discovery. I’ve been really lucky in this and previous roles where I’ve been able to take ownership and drive the environmental or energy agenda. What complicates this is the multitude of priorities that any organisation faces.

In my previous experience, energy improvements can be the first to be cut from projects because they are perceived as a “nice-to-do” rather than a necessity. When the world is saying that climate change is our number one threat, we need to make room to consider this within our commercial decisions.

If you had the opportunity to change one thing, what would you change?

To remove the standby button. Not on everything – I realise that it will be needed in some circumstances – but we definitely don’t need commercial coffee machines, office printers or our own TVs on standby overnight. By doing this, we’ll help reduce our emissions without even thinking about it.

If you could recommend three things to ensure success as an environmental manager, what would you recommend?

  1. Understand that yours isn’t the only agenda that needs to be heard, but don’t give up!
  2. Surround yourself with colleagues who can support you and take ownership for themselves, for instance, by setting up an environmental/energy committee or network.
  3. Start from the basics, identify easy wins and create buy-in from senior management.

What advice would you give to someone looking to become an energy or environmental manager?

If you have an inquisitive mind, are proactive and want to make a difference, this could be the role for you. You don’t need to have academic qualifications or to be a qualified engineer, but you do need to be prepared to learn on the job and gain professional accreditation. Being an energy or environmental manager is more than checking boiler settings or light fittings, it’s also about engaging with your audience, testing out new ways of working and setting future ambition. You need to have a pretty rounded set of skills and those don’t have to come from years of working solely in energy management.

What is the most absurd statement that you have heard in your job?

Switching a light off when you leave a room and on again when you come back in uses more energy than just leaving the light on.

There are so many energy myths out there. Our technology has moved on considerably and many of them are no longer based on reality.

What prompted you to undertake the Knowledge and Skills’ Gap Analysis Interview with the EMA?

I had attended some of the training sessions run by EMA and thought the next step would be to undertake the interview to become a Recognised Energy Manager. I found it useful to identify strengths and weaknesses to help plan my training needs.

Do you think that the EMA Recognised Energy Manager status will allow you to highlight your credentials as an energy manager?

I think Energy Managers now are expected to also manage transport, waste and water – pretty much acting in some ways as an Environmental Manager.

Having the EMA accreditation on my CV certainly allows me to demonstrate my professional aptitude in this area and a desire for continuing development which I think employers expect to see.

What are your long-term motivations in the company or the position?

To continue developing my skills and knowledge in the environmental field and to continue providing advice and direction for my organisation.

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