Do you ever think about how much energy you are using to light and heat or cool your office? A lot of people don’t. While the debate on reducing energy consumption is usually focused on developing and implementing new technologies, a lot can be achieved by changing how employees behave, and using much less energy.
Turning down the office temperature from 24C to 21C during winter is a simple, no-cost way to cut down energy consumption. The same is true for factories. When a production line is not working at full capacity, switching off equipment can lead to substantial savings. However, employees often don’t know how to identify energy-saving opportunities or how to implement them. As a result, most companies do not properly manage their energy use, and are wasting natural and financial resources.
That is why the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) helps companies and countries implement energy management systems (EnMS) in line with ISO 50001. They allow managers to track and quantify energy consumption and design action plans to improve their performance.
The idea is simple: the same principles of continual improvement which are used to ensure product quality should be applied to a company’s energy use and consumption. That means having a structured and systematic approach to integrating energy efficiency into an enterprise’s daily practices.
Usually most medium-sized and large companies only have one or two people responsible for energy use. But when an energy management system is implemented, a cross-departmental team is made responsible or accountable for energy management. In addition, all personnel are made aware of the organization’s energy performance goals, and are encouraged to contribute with ideas and actions to improve them.
In companies that are totally new to energy management, average energy performance gains in the first one to two years can range between 10 and 20 per cent. For example, in Macedonia, Rek Bitola, one of the partner companies trained by UNIDO, managed to cut down their annual energy consumption by 2.97% and in the year 2016 saved over US$350,000, an achievement that did not require the investment of any money.
Another example is Zhilkomservice, a Russian company that manages apartment buildings for more than 100,000 people, also implemented an energy management system with the help of UNIDO. The company innovated and developed software that quickly identifies failures in the heating system and implemented a campaign to change residents’ attitudes to energy use. Company savings amounted to US$200,000 in 2016 and the rate of residents’ satisfaction increased from 75% to 95%, mainly due to a reduction in their utility bills.
Largely funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), UNIDO’s Energy Management System (EnMS) Programme in 18 countries has resulted in a total direct final energy saving of more than 7,500 GWh as of 2017. That is the same amount of energy consumed by about 1.5m households in the European Union over a year. It also avoided the emission of 4.3m tons of CO2, the equivalent of the emissions from 1.75 million cars.
Cutting down emissions
Marco Matteini, a UNIDO Industrial Development Officer, said, “Energy consumption is the main cause of greenhouse gas emissions and globally industry accounts for about one third of such consumption. Improving how companies manage energy use within their operations is not only a way to cut costs, but also a key tool to fight climate change and get on a sound sustainable industrial development track.”
Governments are bound by the Paris Agreement to respond to the global climate change threat by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. But governments cannot solve the climate change challenge on their own.
Private sector organizations need to take action. They have an essential role to play in fighting climate change and reaching Sustainable Development Goal 13 on climate action. Increasing industrial energy efficiency is an effective and cost-free way for them to do just that.