Achieving energy sustainability: what difference can energy professionals really make?

Abigail Basketter provides an energy professional’s honest reflections on the challenge of tackling climate change against commercial and legislative pressures.

If there is a traditional route into energy management, I didn’t take it, but I knew I had a focus and passion for the environment and addressing the impact we as humans have on its resources. I became an Energy Manager to make a tangible difference, in whatever way I could, against climate change.
On-going news of a ‘climate crisis’ has continued to appear in the media in recent months, despite commitments from the government to tackle the UK’s contribution to emissions.

As energy professionals the prospect of being part of the fight against climate change is both exciting but can also be overwhelming. Our roles can feel so defined and limited by organisational targets, legislation and bureaucracy, that our commitment to these principles and a desire to deliver change can sometimes get lost.

Bold action

Amidst the calls and protests of climate change activism of recent months, the Climate Change Committee published their recommendations to government to stop global warming.

In the following weeks Prime Minister, Theresa May revealed plans to legislate to achieve net zero emissions in the UK by 2050. Only last week we were confirmed as the joint hosts of the next UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in 2020. Change is happening, and fast.

The challenge to businesses

A report from the UK Energy Research Centre has warned that businesses will face ‘unprecedented change’ as we work towards becoming a zero-carbon economy, including the phasing out of some core functions to meet emissions policies.

The heat, transport, electricity and construction sectors are expected to be most affected and will need to adapt in order to remain competitive.

Organisations must face the disruption this brings and embrace the opportunities it will present.

The role of the energy professional

Despite the enormity of this challenge, I believe energy professionals should feel energised by this new commitment and it is our job to highlight to businesses the key role that energy management will play in achieving such a target. I know just how effective energy management can be in reducing the impact that businesses have on the environment.

But not all businesses will have a dedicated team, they won’t have the support of qualified energy experts to guide their energy compliance and management.

With the effect of the net zero agenda inevitable, now is the time to invest in good energy management practices. Despite how simple they may seem, small changes will benefit a company’s energy spend and help them meet current carbon reduction targets. A long-term strategy with board level input will be vital in the count-down to net zero.

The role of the energy professional needs to be championed and invested in, after all, they will be the force behind helping businesses realise these 2050 goals.

Taking action together

We have seen the passion the climate crisis evokes; actions groups, think-tank organisations and school children alike are inspiring and driving the climate change movement.

This new commitment only further supports my belief that the power (no pun intended) is in our hands and energy professionals must lead the way in driving the net zero agenda at a business level. In amongst the bureaucracy of energy sector legislation and acronyms, the knowledge and tools we can harness to promote and achieve effective sustainability practices are fundamental to lasting change.

The everyday actions of an energy professional, such as capturing carbon emissions data or monitoring and targeting energy reduction are incredibly important in the battle against climate change. DECs, ESOS, SECR, all have their place. Every small-scale energy project or compliance target achieved is a step forward, and those steps add up.

The solution to a global problem such as climate change is the cumulative action of individuals and organisations creating a mass movement of change. And to guide you on the way, let energy professionals take the reins.

Discover 23 things that you can start doing this year to help you reach your net zero goal.

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