The increasing cost and longer term scarcity of energy coupled with the need to progressively reduce CO2 emissions means that energy management should be on the agenda of every organisation. Alan Field looks at the benefits of implementing an Energy Management System (EnMS), with reference to ISO 50001, which has just been reissued in its 2018 version.

Why have an EnMS in the first place?

Energy management has, over a relatively short period of time, moved from being a niche interest to mainstream. This is coupled with the growing realisation that exploiting hydrocarbons reserves and generating energy — even where so-called renewable sources are concerned — have environmental consequences.

One other consideration is energy security, that is, being able, over a period, to guarantee uninterrupted supplies of energy to the end user, no matter what energy sources are being used and the parts of the world they originate from. At a local level, an EnMS supports energy security by minimising the need for energy in the first place. It is also key in identifying ways to minimise energy use, ascertaining the most sustainable sources for any energy that is used and enabling an organisation to comply with any regulatory reporting requirements — either for their products or for their entire operation.

Does an EnMS need to be externally assessed?

An EnMS can be interpreted and implemented without any external assessment. External assessment can assist with any specific customer or regulatory requirements where specific evidence is desired. Some organisations prefer to use their ISO 14001:2015 external assessment process for environmental management systems (EMS), to incorporate their energy management initiatives. For some sectors, such as property management, managing their carbon footprint will form some of their most significant environmental aspects and impacts under ISO 14001.

However, increasingly more organisations are seeking external assessment and the main specific Standard for this is ISO 50001. While this article is not a “how to do” article, it does explain the EnMS landscape, along with some of the key policy drivers that need to be understood. (See our ISO 50001 toolkit for a step-by-step guide to the standard).

ISO 50001:2011 specified the International Standards Organization’s approach to EnMS, either on a standalone basis or in conjunction with other Standards, such as ISO 14001. ISO 50001 does not provide specific performance criteria regarding energy efficiency. Rather, it was designed to be implemented by any type of organisation, in any part of the world, to provide a system whereby organisations can assess, manage and potentially reduce energy usage and related emissions. ISO 50001, appropriately implemented, can assist an organisation better understand its baseline energy usage, identify, prioritise and then analyse opportunities for improving energy performance. In turn, these policies and data collection process energy performance indicators to target reducing energy consumption. These can all be areas where an environment or facilities manager may become involved.

The Standard is now changing. ISO 50001:2018 has been issued and has begun to supersede the 2011 version. It is part of ISO family of Standards aligned to their “Annex SL” approach which, broadly speaking, is a risk and a leadership-based model. ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 14001:2015 are part of the same family. This means it is easier to integrate some or all Standards together in one management system as an organisation so desires, whether they choose to seek external assessment or not.

Risk and opportunities

All Annex SL Standards have a number of common characteristics. For example, the interested parties to an EnMS need to be defined along with the context of the organisation. In other words, how does energy management fit in with the purpose, structure, expectations and the marketplace which the organisation operates in?

For example, energy management can form a significant part of an organisation’s thinking towards product development, how it wishes to be seen by others (ie reputational risk), its policies towards corporate social responsibility and wider societal obligations, attitudes towards sustainability and other big policy questions. More importantly, the attitudes and expectations of stakeholders — owners, employees, customers, suppliers, the wider public and even competitors in some circumstances are all part of this mix. If this seems a little vague then it isn’t. One of the most important part of setting up an EnMS is for the leadership team to stand back and look critically at where the organisation is — and wants to be — on energy management, the cost and longer term scarcity of energy being one concrete issue to plan mitigations for. So, these are fundamental concerns to many organisations — it is not pie in the sky thinking.

It can be seen that the focus on leadership and risk is fundamental to ISO 50001:2018 and the other Annex SL Standards. One fundamental change for those already working to ISO 50001:2011 principles is that the 2018 version requires the EnMS to be risk and opportunities based. This means the policies and objectives reflect the leadership team’s choices on the energy-related risks they wish to address and the opportunities they wish to exploit for their organisation’s current concerns as well as goals. For example, if an organisation’s customer base expects a high degree of renewable usage from its suppliers then these could present both risks and opportunities in terms of the EnMS.

The smartest energy is the energy that doesn’t need to be used. The trite example is turning off unnecessary lights or appliances. However, true energy savings come through designing out the need for energy ie minimising the need for energy consumption during manufacture, distribution and the whole product life cycle. Sometimes energy saving comes through fundamental process change, for example, video conferencing between offices reduces the need for business travel — a considerable saving in carbon management, even allowing for offsetting the carbon expended in manufacturing, transporting and operating the IT facilities supporting the video conferencing.

Finally, energy baselines need to consider the whole product life cycle, both in terms of goods and services and the organisation’s own infrastructure. If the organisation’s waste streams end up in a “recovery” process (for example, instead of being recycled or landfilled the stream undergoes a process to create biogas or to generate electricity through incineration) the energy generated can be calculated to be offset against any energy reduction target the organisation has chosen to set.


  • Energy management is now a mainstream issue.

  • An EnMS can help reduce the need for energy, the types and quantities of energy used and quantifying the reduction both in cost and emissions.

  • An EnMS ensures an organisation critically looks at its energy needs as well as usage.

  • ISO 50001 is the International Standards Organization’s Energy Management Standard. It has just been in a 2018 version.

  • ISO 50001:2018 is part of ISO’s “Annex SL” family of Standards, such as the well-known ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 14001:2015.

  • Like the other “Annex SL” family, ISO 50001:2018 is a leadership and risk-based model.

  • Setting risk-based objectives and looking for opportunities that energy management can bring can be a core part of an organisation’s business improvement.

  • An EnMS can have an influence on the facilities management process — both from policy level to matters such as how much energy is generated from waste sent for recovery processing.

  • The smartest energy use is the energy that is not used — an EnMS should always look at process improvement and life cycle that minimises the need for energy.

Last reviewed 27 November 2018