These days, energy experts seem to be everywhere and offers of energy audits promising significant savings seem to land in our inbox on a daily basis. Are we right to ignore these offers or are we missing out on huge energy savings?

Well, before you make any decisions it is worth thinking about why you want to undertake an energy audit in the first place. It can stem from a general desire to save money based on a feeling, rightly or wrongly, that energy is being used wastefully. A need to meet corporate social responsibility commitments or a desire to improve operational performance and drive down running costs can also play a part. Public sector energy reduction and carbon emission targets also stimulate interest in energy audits within public sector bodies and recently of course many private sector organisations have been driven to undertake energy audits to comply with ESOS (Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme) and indeed many are still to meet this requirement. Ultimately, the most important aim should be to reduce energy use where possible.

Whatever the driver once you have decided to undertake an energy audit it is important to understand what it should include. There is no shortage of guidance available but thankfully recent harmonisation of European and ISO standards has laid down clear guidelines on what a good quality energy audit should cover. At its simplest it can be summarised as a two stage process as follows:

  • Energy data review – desk based preliminary audit to review an organisation’s existing energy data, identify data gaps and make an assessment of current energy performance where possible.
  • Energy Surveying – site surveys varying in depth from:
    • Simple “walk-around” surveys to identify key opportunities for further investigation Detailed surveys including interrogation of control systems, energy consuming plant and equipment, processes and building operations to generate a prioritised list of energy saving opportunities with estimate costs and savings
    • “Investment level audits” to provide business cases for investment in energy saving projects requiring significant capital investment

It is easy to overlook the first step but it is essential as it will provide critical information to identify which areas should be targeted based on their level of “energy significance” within the organisational energy footprint. Frequently it also generates recommended improvements in energy data collection and reporting procedures and of course provides crucial baseline data against which future energy performance and the success of energy saving projects can be assessed.

The final crucial decision then is to consider how to undertake your energy audit programme. It is useful to identify any internal expertise and resources you can use and consider what can you do yourself? Equally it is important to be honest and identify your knowledge gaps and how these can be filled, usually by engaging external experts.

When choosing an external provider it is important to ensure that they are independent, qualified, have quality processes in place and a proven track record. A good starting point is to look for ESOS Assessors accredited with organisations such as CIBSE, the Association of Energy Engineers and the Register of Professional Energy Engineers plus Chartered Energy Managers, Energy Institute members, ISO 50001 Lead Assessors, Certified Energy Managers and CIBSE Low Carbon Energy Assessors. Also look for compliance with relevant standards such as EN 16247 and ISO 50002 and ideally verifiable case studies of previous work.

However you decide to proceed with an energy audit, good communication of the process within your organisation can make a huge difference to its effectiveness. This can range from simple things like arranging access for surveys to successfully engaging with key people with useful knowledge, experience and ideas to feed into the process.

Finally, having completed your energy audit programme what should you expect as a successful outcome? At the end of the process you should have a clear understanding of you organisational energy footprint, including the highest areas of energy use & expenditure and a good indication of you energy performance and potential for improvement. As a minimum you should also have a prioritised list of specific energy saving opportunities, ideally some that you can act on immediately and other’s that require further investigation. These should include recommendations for organisational change & improvements to reporting procedures to enable ongoing monitoring of energy use and spend as well as the more expected physical energy projects.

All of which brings us back the where we started, why do you want to undertake an energy audit in the first place? Taking the time the think clearly about this, what you hope to achieve and who you need to engage with will pay dividends at the end of the process. Ultimately you should come out of the process with a strong desire within your organisation to take real action to achieve some actual energy savings, which ultimately is the goal of any energy audit process.