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The Health Service is being expected to deliver more and more on an increasingly constrained budget. While its overall funding from Government may be ring-fenced, major efficiency savings are being demanded from it in order to focus a greater proportion of resources on frontline patient care – and this is all against the background of rising costs across the Service.
Finding opportunities to save
The question in many professionals’ minds is where those savings are going to come from. One area that continues to provide opportunities for efficiency improvements is that of utility management. This is not because the Health Service is a profligate user of energy and water – far from it in many cases. Yet advances in technology, together with new approaches to management, hold out the promise of additional savings even where significant initial improvements have already been achieved.
It does however have to be acknowledged that the Health Service, like most other areas of both public and private sectors, still has a patchy record regarding energy. The experience of ESTA members is that, while some Trusts and health providers have achieved exceptional efficiency levels, others could still find major savings through a more coordinated, strategic approach. We find that on average, savings of up to 20 per cent on energy and water bills are achievable (and in some cases even more) for a wide range of organisations in this sector. When every pound saved here could go on patient services, it surely makes sense to get this right.
Efficiency through automation
A fundamental aspect of utility management remains the identification of waste through careful monitoring of consumption. Only then can comparisons be made against relevant benchmarks, targets set for improvement and continuous monitoring of activity carried out.
In recent years, the fundamental techniques of Monitoring & Targeting have been transformed by automation. Gone is the laborious manual data-gathering and data‑inputting, to be replaced by automatic meter reading, analysis and reporting. Automatic Monitoring & Targeting (aM&T) has proved so successful that it merits special treatment in the Building Regulations. Added functions, like the automatic production of Display Energy Certificates (DECs) are making this a mainstay of modern energy management. But it is still a developing technology and to find out just how powerful a tool this technology can be and what the latest developments are, ESTA has organised annual conferences.
An effective framework
Technology is only part of the answer though. Energy management is about delivering efficiency, month-by-month, year-by-year. That needs a formal structure which is understood – and endorsed – by the wider organisation. For that to happen the energy manager needs to be able to implement a framework that will command wide acceptance. While individual flair will always have a place in any discipline, there needs to be an underpinning structure that everyone can use. So ESTA was closely involved in the development of the international standard for energy management ISO 50001. This is built around the same concepts as established standards such as ISO 14001 and the ISO 9000 series.
ISO 50001 provides an internationally accepted framework that will interface with the rest of the operational structure of the organisation. It allows energy to be integrated with many other aspects of day-to-day activity. It also makes it possible for non-specialists to understand what energy and facilities managers are telling them about ways to improve resource efficiency.
The benefits of clarity
A standard approach to energy management offers other benefits as well. Optimal control of the wide range of energy systems in a building may sometimes call for specialist knowledge which is not available internally. With ISO 50001, requirements for external help can be set out in a clear and consistent way – and the reports provided in a way that can be aligned with internal procedures.
External consultants should have a good knowledge of ISO 50001 and its workings. But there are many energy consultants in the market, and it can be difficult to select the best one for a particular project. ESTA together with the Energy Institute have launched a Register of Professional Energy Consultants (RPEC) to give organisations confidence in selecting specialists for particular tasks. RPEC members have, in the large majority of cases, chartered status as well as significant experience. Organisations can either select candidates from the membership list or alternatively can use the Register as a way of publicising their requirements.
An ongoing task
As all energy managers know, equipment, whether for heating, cooling or lighting all have a propensity to ‘drift’ away from their original operating settings (and sometimes they break down completely). This is why energy management involves continual monitoring and maintenance. The human aspect should not be ignored either: people are as prone to get into habits which waste energy too. The effects of performance drift can be significant.
Energy management is a process of continual review, revision and improvement. There will always be opportunities for enhancing energy performance, whether through employing new technology, trying different approaches, further training of the workforce, or simply through addressing performance drift. It’s safe to say that the energy manager’s work is never done.