ISO 50001: What & Why?

ISO 50001:2011 is a standard created by ISO for an energy management system. This standard’s purpose is to enable organisations to follow a systematic approach in achieving continual improvement of energy performance. ISO 50001 aims to help organisations to continually reduce energy use, resulting in a reduction in energy costs and also their carbon footprint.

ISO 50001 provides a framework of requirements for organisations to:

  • Develop a policy for efficient energy use
  • Use data constructively to understand energy use
  • Implement targets and objectives to meet policy
  • Review results against policy, targets and objectives

Benefits

  • Achieves energy savings of 10%-25% through close monitoring of energy management policy
  • Builds energy management best practice into business practices
  • Improves transparency and communication of energy resource management
  • Helps to evaluate new energy-efficient technology
  • Provides a framework to promote energy management throughout the supply chain
  • Reduces administrative work

Drivers

  • Corporate sustainability programmes
  • Energy cost reduction initiatives
  • Demand from vendors in every part of the supply chain
  • Carbon and energy taxes
  • Requirement to reduce carbon footprint

Certification is not obligatory. Some organisations implement the standard for its benefits alone, while others opt for ISO 50001 certification.

A company’s senior management must be engaged in order for ISO 50001 to be a success. To implement and sustain adoption of the standard requires behavioural change across the organisation.

Certificate

Year of first publication

Number of certified organisations

ISO 9001

1987

>1m

ISO 14001

1996

>250,000

ISO 50001

2011

>500

From the above chart it is clear that ISO 50001 is still at an early stage of adoption in comparison to ISO 14001 and ISO 9001. As with many new standards, companies may well want to wait until the benefits of ISO 50001 are proven or until customers demand that such energy policies are implemented.

One particular reason for lack of adoption may be a lack of education around the difference between ISO 50001 and ISO 14001. Many organisations will manage energy via ISO 14001, but where energy has a significant environmental impact, ISO 50001 provides a sharper focus on energy efficiency which may ultimately have more benefits for an organisation.

Adoption currently has been led by energy intensive industries such as smelting, mining, chemical, glass and cement. Whether or not adoption will go beyond these industries could be influenced by energy costs, customer demand and education in the benefits of the standard itself.

With Europe committing to a reduction in emissions of 20% by 2020, there is definitely growing support for energy efficiency to bolster emissions reduction efforts. The adoption of ISO 50001 as the European standard for energy management systems sets a precedent: the EU is actively pursuing a policy to implement energy management systems in order to drive more energy efficient industries. Now the real challenge will be to encourage the adoption of ISO 50001.
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