‘Red tape’ is always a hot topic in business and political circles. Governments talk about it and set targets in their manifesto pledges to win votes. Big business spends a lot of time and money lobbying to avoid it. Regulators spend their time trying to impose it (and remove it).
The issue of red tape can lead to some strange and unusual headlines. Recently, apparent ‘red tape’ came under the spotlight in the news in relation to a European Union directive on vacuum cleaners. Sadly, the headlines missed the point.
Some regulations and legislation, however painful to business, are necessary and show the right leadership.
The EU’s Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) is one that attempts to show the way forward.
One of EED’s main targets is for energy consumption for the entire EU to be no more than 1,474 Mtoe of primary energy and/or no more than 1,078 Mtoe of final energy by 2020. This is the leading aspect of their plan to achieve an overall target of 20 per cent of energy savings by the end of the decade.
So why are they doing this? EED cites three reasons:
- Better energy security by reducing reliance on imports
- Contributing to climate change goals
- Saving money – EU countries import energy worth €488bn or 3.9 per cent of GDP (2011)
These are issues important to many chemical engineers, and IChemE.
The Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) requires EU member states to introduce a mandatory programme of energy audits for organisations with more than 250 employees or a turnover of €50m and an annual balance sheet above €43m.
The legislation is forecast to affect over 7,000 UK organisations covering more than 200,000 buildings and 10,000 industrial plants.
IChemE has the power to register ‘Lead Energy Assessors (LEAs)’, who will be responsible for undertaking the organisations’ energy audits.
There are two things to say about this news. Firstly, it is an excellent achievement and the result of a lot of hard work by some of my colleagues at IChemE led by Libby Steele, head of educational affairs and CPD.
Secondly, we have created an opportunity for chemical and process engineers to become ‘qualified’ to lead a more sustainable approach to how we use energy with clear financial and environmental benefits.
The data tells us that large UK organisations account for around ten per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions, many of which operate in the chemical and process industries.
The UK Government indicates businesses can secure £2bn of savings as a result of ESOS. They also say that: “…the typical ESOS audit will identify potential cost savings that are 13.5 times greater than the cost of the audit“.
The initial audits will need to be undertaken by 5 December 2015 and must carry out an audit of 90 per cent of its total energy usage for a one-year period. The audit must include buildings, transport and industrial operations.
IChemE has set-up a dedicated ESOS website and will be running its first two one-day courses – called ‘Leading An Energy Assessment’ – for all chemical engineers interested in becoming LEAs on 17 November and 8 December 2014.
I’m sure there will be some critics of ESOS. There are costs involved and fines of £45,000 for non-compliance.
However, IChemE views this as an excellent opportunity for chemical engineers to use their knowledge and skills in a way which will bring macro-scale benefits of saving money, mitigating climate change and ‘keeping the lights turned on’ in a turbulent world.
When world governments are criticised for failing to act on the big issues like climate change, on this issue the EU has shown the way.