After last winter’s extreme weather in the UK, businesses should act now to be better prepared in future. And that includes improving energy management.
As the UK has sweltered in record-breaking temperatures this summer, the blizzard conditions of last winter’s so-called “Beast from the East” already seem a distant memory. But, as US president John F Kennedy famously said: “The time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining.”
It is worth recalling that the extremely cold weather front that brought “the Beast” to the UK in March had very serious consequences for businesses. Most obviously, many roads were blocked with snow and driving conditions were hazardous across much of the country. Rail and air transport was also badly hit, causing further problems for people trying to get to work, and for businesses striving to provide goods and services.
Lack of energy
Another sign of the weather’s adverse business impact came from National Grid, which issued its first warning for eight years that it was struggling to source enough gas for its power stations in the face of increased demand for energy from households and businesses, and losses of gas supply from pipelines in northern Europe.
National Grid requested heavy industrial users of energy to cut their consumption, and threatened to reduce supplies to them. Such users also suffered higher costs, with a 74pc increase in gas prices on one day.
Industry lobbyist the Energy Intensive Users Group says such businesses typically buy some of their gas at short-term prices in the wholesale market, so the surge in gas prices hit them hard. Experts point to the prospect of similar, or worse, energy squeezes in future.
Planning for the worst
The threat of reduced energy supplies leading to business interruptions, together with potentially crippling energy costs, means that large and small businesses should waste no time in giving proper consideration to energy efficiency and usage as part of their business continuity plans.
The BCI Horizon Scan Report 2018, published in association with BSI, reinforces the point. It places “interruption to utility supply” and “adverse weather” among the top five threats to business continuity, based on feedback from risk professionals in more than 650 organisations.
And such fears are supported by actual business disruptions in the past 12 months, with half of businesses surveyed affected by adverse weather and 43pc by a utility failure.
Best practice: ISO 50001
ISO 50001: 2018, a standard that represents the latest international best practice in energy management, also has a key role to play. The revised standard, which has just been published, provides guidance for organisations on how to establish the systems and processes necessary to continually improve energy performance.
ISO 50001: 011 has already helped numerous organisations in the UK set and achieve energy targets, and benefit from costs savings as a result. It also remains an accepted method for organisations to demonstrate compliance with the Government’s Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS). Now, the standard has been revised to ensure it keeps pace with changes in energy management.
“Regulation such as ESOS has put energy management high on the agenda for many organisations, encouraging them to examine their total energy use, energy efficiency and cost-effective energy-saving opportunities.
On top of this, rising energy costs, possible energy shortages and the need to protect their ‘green’ credentials are driving them to think more strategically about energy management.
Achieving conformity to ISO 50001 can help organisations drive efficiency improvements, remain sustainable and be more resilient.”
One SME that has already discovered the advantages of ISO 50001 is Stoke-based Fuchs Lubricants UK, the 300-employee UK arm of the world’s largest independent supplier of industrial lubricants. Through its conformity with ISO 50001, Fuchs has cut its energy usage by 1-2pc in each of the past two years, making hundreds of thousands of pounds of cost savings.
Simeon Preston, compliance manager at Fuchs, says:
“The savings are transparent and almost instant. Although there are some variables, such as the price of fuel, we see the savings continuing year on year.”
The biggest challenge Fuchs faced was mapping energy use and the introduction of sub-metering.
“By having the energy mapped we could focus on improvement projects and we’ve been able to quantify actual savings each project has given us,” says Mr Preston.
He sums up:
“Many customer site visits take place throughout the year, and we can showcase our improvements such as installing solar panels and LED lighting. BSI-approved conformity with ISO 50001 demonstrates the rigour of our approach to customers and other stakeholders.”