We all like to moan about the cost of our home energy bills, and they do seem to have risen disproportionately. But imagine what the rising cost of energy means to an organisation the size of the Ministry of Defence?
My name is Roger Low and I’m an energy manager with the Defence Infrastructure Organisation. We look after thousands of buildings on sites across the UK and overseas, from a 14th century tithe barn in Wales to aircraft hangers in Scotland. They also use the complete range of energy fuel sources, from oil and gas to electricity and solar power.
The focus of my job is to save money and use energy more efficiently. But we’re always mindful that using less energy has other benefits in terms of reducing our carbon footprint and improving the environment.
I recently had the honour of speaking at the EMEX 2016 (Energy Management Exhibition) on the future of energy management as a profession, and its increasing importance within both the public and private sectors.
The conference was well attended, including industry professionals, students from several colleges and universities, members of the public and even government Ministers. One of the key themes was about the recruitment and training of personnel into the role of energy managers, and their retention through the use of continuous professional development. There was special emphasis on persuading more women into the profession. It’s interesting that the average level of female participation in this profession is 10-15%. At the DIO we can be proud that about 30% of roles, including Area Utility Managers (which are energy managers in practice) are done by women.
I’ve always thought that the DIO is the perfect training ground for energy managers because of the vast range of building types, uses, styles and systems, meaning the professional challenges are all the greater.
We also discussed the new energy manager course being developed by DIO in conjunction with the Energy Managers Association. This is designed to replace the old Energy Awareness course at RAF Halton, and is likely to be hosted partly online to allow staff to keep their training records up to date through their entire career even after leaving the MoD.
The increasing costs of energy, coupled with the slowly declining fuel resources, makes energy management a highly important role, increasingly recognised by senior management as essential to efficient business practices, and not just an off shoot of the old Safety, Health and Environmental role. It is a job that I really enjoy, partly because of the technical challenges, but also because it’s possible to make a real difference and have the simple joy of being able to point to something that’s saved money and helped the environment and say “I did that!”
I know some people see energy conservation as something of a dark art, but we’ve all probably made changes at home to reduce our personal energy consumption, so give it a thought at work and why not even consider it as a profession?