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ISO 50001 Standard Approved and Released

Industrial Plant

ISO 50001 provides industry with a tool to improve the energy efficiency of industrial and commercial operations.

ISO 50001 is a sleeping giant just beginning to awaken. The International Organization for Standardization's ISO 50001 energy management standard was published in June, and it now offers a common framework for industrial plants, commercial operations, and other organizations to manage their energy efficiently. Given the breadth of its target users, this voluntary standard's international impact is likely to be substantial and widespread, with the potential to affect as much as 60 percent of the world's energy use.

Pursuing a Common Standard

The need for an international energy management standard became clear in 2007. At that time, some countries had already established their own energy management standards, and others were in the process of developing them. That same year, Aimee McKane, who works for the U.S. Department of Energy and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), prepared an issues paper for the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), analyzing the commonalities and differences of the existing national energy management standards.

"What the paper showed," McKane explains, "is how well aligned the different standards were. There were some differences among them, certainly, but there was also a lot of commonality. It became clear that harmonizing them into an international standard wouldn't be that difficult to do."

That paper served as a trigger for UNIDO to hold a discussion on the topic later that year, and that discussion became the impetus in developing support for ISO 50001. In 2008, the ISO formally set the project in motion by establishing the ISO PC 242 Energy Management project committee to develop an international standard. Members from the United States and Brazil were chosen to guide the process.

The Answer: ISO 50001

Written to enable companies to manage all aspects of their energy operations, ISO 50001 provides technical and management strategies for every level of an organization to set and reach goals to optimize its energy efficiency, lower costs, and meet environmental targets. It follows the examples of ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 by incorporating the Plan-Do-Check-Act approach to encourage and support continual improvement. That is, it not only provides a framework for addressing energy use and planning, it also includes action plans and identifies methods for measuring and documenting improvements, so that successful activities can be used to further improve processes throughout the organization. In essence, it incorporates energy valuation and continual energy efficiency improvement into a company's everyday activities and decision making—from top management on down. Multinational companies will also able to use it to standardize energy management across operations in different countries.

Widespread Agreement Led to Rapid Development

As Vice-Chair of the U.S. delegation to the ISO's Project Committee 242 (ISO PC 242), McKane spent 2010 working on the ISO 50001 standard, helping to shepherd it into its final form. The fourth meeting of ISO PC 242 was last October in Beijing, China. More than 100 delegates from 23 countries gathered to review and address the hundreds of comments that had been received on the draft standard. Based on further expert input in November and December, the Final Draft International Standard (FDIS) was prepared and released in March 2011. It was approved in June, without a single vote against it.

"The whole process happened in two-and-half years, which is very unusual," says McKane. "Even small standards typically take three years or more to be approved, and this is the biggest standard that the ISO has ever put together. That gives you an idea of the consensus we were able to achieve. Of course, even in 2008, when we began, we had a lot of the information together, so we had a good running start."

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and its government, industry, commercial, and research partners played a strong role in ensuring that the standard was robust. "In particular, the U.S. drove the requirement that ISO 50001 requires organizations to establish an energy performance baseline, explains McKane. "After implementing their action plans, organizations are required to measure their energy performance against that baseline and to establish future targets for continued energy performance improvement."

Strong Interest in Adoption

Now that the standard is published, each country will decide for itself whether or not to adopt it as a national standard, although its strong acceptance throughout the development process virtually guarantees that it will enjoy universal adoption. In the United States, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) will formally adopt it.

The standard is receiving strong interest among organizations seeking to reduce their energy use. Particularly, it is likely to be adopted by organizations that want an internationally recognized framework to continually improve their energy performance , thus contributing to:

  • sustainability programs,
  • energy cost reduction,
  • promoting energy efficiency throughout the manufacturing supply chain, and
  • reducing their carbon footprint, carbon cap and trade programs, and international carbon agreements.

The establishment of this standard is timely, as the need for companies to reduce costs and greenhouse gas emissions rises in response to the world's economic situation and environmental policies. So timely, in fact, that some organizations began to adopt the standard before its final approval.

For example, 26 U.S. industrial facilities are already using the ISO 50001 standard as participants in DOE's Superior Energy Performance (SEP) demonstration program. To participate in the program, organizations must meet a specific percentage improvement in their energy performance over their current practice, which is verified by an independent third party and recertified every three years. The first five facilities have already received SEP certification last year using the ANSI national standard, and will be recertified to ISO 50001.

In addition to the energy and cost benefits that organizations will receive by adopting the standard, they benefit from third-party verification of their energy improvements, which helps them validate their success for purposes such as due diligence, green labeling, corporate carbon footprint reduction goals, and supply chain sustainability. The ANSI-American National Standards Institute-ASQ National Accreditation Board, or ANSI-ANAB, will provide certification of conformance to SEP and the ISO 50001 standard.

The DOE is already reaching out to other countries through the Global Superior Energy Performance Partnership (GSEP) to share information about SEP and exchange best practices on ISO 50001 implementation. For more information on the GSEP, see the article "Berkeley Lab Initiative Opens Clean Energy Ministerial" from the EETD News summer 2010 issue.

Maintaining the Momentum

As a strong vote of confidence, the ISO PC 242 unanimously resolved to create an ISO Technical Committee (ISO TC 242), continuing under U.S. and Brazilian leadership. "The technical committee will develop an ISO family of standards that address guidance, implementation, and other pertinent issues relating to the standard," says McKane. "The goal is that this follow-on work will facilitate ease of use and broad implementation of ISO 50001." The committee's first meeting will take place in Washington, D.C., in October 2011.

The release of ISO 50001 was celebrated in Geneva, Switzerland, in June. However, for those such as McKane, who represents the United States on the ISO Strategic Advisory Group for Energy and has pursued this vision for years, the real payoff will be in seeing its effect as more and more organizations begin to use it to reduce their energy use.

"It's a groundbreaking international standard that's designed to have a long-term effect on how managers value energy efficiency in their organizations. says McKane. "It's bound to have a noticeable impact on energy use, worldwide."

—Mark Wilson

For more information, contact:

  • Aimee McKane
  • (518) 782-7002

Additional information:

Industrial Energy Analysis Featured Research: ISO 50001
ISO 50001 Energy Management Standard
Superior Energy Performance program

Aimee McKane's papers supporting the ISO 50001 process can be found at the Industry Energy Analysis website. Her most recent paper can be found here:Industrial Energy Efficiency as Standard Practice.

Clean Energy Ministerial: Global Superior Energy Performance Partnership (GSEP)

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