ISO 50001 : everything you need to know about the 2018 version in 10 questions & answers

Voluntary standard ISO 50001 provides universal guidance on how to implement an efficient energy management system. A new version was released on 21 August 2018 to help you measure, maximize and sustain your energy performance improvements. Let’s see what it’s all about.


What is ISO 50001 and must I apply it?

ISO 50001 is an international voluntary standard developed by approximately 50 member countries of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). It provides guidance on how to roll out an efficient energy management system within a company or any other organization. ISO 50001 can be considered to be a reference procedure for those who wish to improve their organization’s energy efficiency in order to make savings and to reduce greenhouse gas and pollutant emissions associated with energy use. As with all ISO standards, its application is not obligatory. However, its use is recommended for the formalization of an energy policy, since the experts involved in its drafting are united in the view that it contains the best practices required to achieve the intended outcome of improving energy performance. The standard defines energy performance accordingly: “measurable results related to energy efficiency, energy use and energy consumption”.


Why has ISO 50001 been revised ?

It is important to reflect changes in practices and markets in order to be able to offer up-to-date guidance that bears fruit quickly and effectively. All voluntary standards are revised at some point. In France, which is represented by AFNOR within ISO, around 30 expert members who form part of the “energy management” standardization commission played a role in the drafting of the new standard. ISO 50001 (or ‘NF EN ISO 50001’) thereby entered the AFNOR collection on 21 August 2018, replacing the 2011 version. The new version clarifies certain terminological concepts, such as the relationship between “energy performance indicators” and the “energy baseline” in the demonstration of an energy performance improvement.


What is the biggest change ?

The new version of the standard expands on, in particular, the collection of energy data and the measurement of energy performance improvements. As the new standard requires companies to prove their continual improvement in energy performance, it provides guidance on the method to be used. Finally, users will learn how to organize themselves and prove to a third party that the energy savings expected at the end of an action plan are reached and sustained over time.


I am the energy specialist within my company. What changes must I make to my work ?

You must place emphasis on the measurement and verification (M&V) of energy performance. You will be asked to prove that your energy performance has continually improved by providing suitable measurement plans and relevant energy data, which you will have to have rigorously analyzed and from which you will draw performance indicators. The new version of the standard will also enable you to cross-reference your work with that of the quality specialist, the environmental management system manager and the occupational health and safety manager. These three roles have access to standards (ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 45001) that are built on a common structure, which is practical when a common reporting process is in place !


Will it help me to reassure investors ?

Yes, without a doubt. The new ISO 50001 standard helps you deploy the right tools to ensure you keep your promise to save a given amount of energy by a given year. It therefore comes at just the right time to support the credibility of an energy-saving scenario and thereby remove barriers to the funding of the work that should generate these savings. The standard will appeal to local authorities and all organizations that are looking for funding! With regards to this matter, the new version benefited from contributions from previous international standards on the measurement and verification of energy performance (ISO 50006, ISO 50015 and ISO 17741), which were, in turn, inspired by the IPMVP.

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Managing energy is a technical matter. Is ISO 50001 still a technical standard meant for technicians ?

No. First, because it is a management standard. Secondly, because the 2018 version makes energy management a part of the company’s business strategy. For example, chapter 5 covers matters related to the responsibility of the management team and to energy policy. It places greater emphasis on leadership and the involvement of management, which will have to, in particular, draft a policy and set goals that are compatible with the organization’s strategic aims, and support management teams so that they can also contribute to the management system.


I am fed up with foreseeing energy savings that do not materialize. Will ISO 50001 act as a safeguard ?

This is the exact purpose of the M&V work recommended in the new version of the standard. If, in addition, you contract consultancy firms and service providers that are also keen to apply the standard correctly, it is more likely that the energy performance improvement curve that you are promised on paper will coincide with actual changes. An energy management system that is built on the new ISO 50001 standard gives further impetus to a sustainable results-based culture. Not only is the standard based on the continual improvement principle of PDCA (plan, do, check, act), as it applies to a resource that is easy to quantify, it also incorporates the latest practices in the measurement of energy and the verification of energy savings.


My company operates in the tertiary sector and will have to abide by the goals of the forthcoming “Tertiary Decree”. How can the 2018 version of ISO 50001 help in this regard ?

Under this decree, you will have to improve the energy performance of your buildings and your first deadline is most probably 2030. ISO 50001 gets you started as it gives you a foundation for identifying, selecting, monitoring and measuring the right consumption data and getting personnel involved. When the decree comes into force, you will know how to organize yourself to pinpoint the right energy-saving solutions, implement an action plan, ascertain the extent to which your actions are bearing fruit and extend these savings over time. In addition, you will have gotten your entire organization involved in a formalized management system.


I am ISO 50001 certified. Must I redo all of my work ?

International rules stipulate that organizations already certified under the 2011 version of ISO 50001 have three years as from the publication of the new standard to update their energy management systems and move to the new version. The deadline is, therefore, 2021. The move to the new standard can take place during the certification cycle or at the time of the recertification audit. Those who wish to adopt ISO 50001 in 2018 or 2019 may choose the version of their choice; however, the new version is recommended.


Can I avoid the regulatory energy audit by applying the ISO 50001 standard ?

In accordance with a 2012 European directive, companies “other than SMEs” must carry out an energy consumption audit every four years in order to find potential energy savings and implement action plans. In France, the first deadline was 5 December 2015. Those companies concerned must therefore prepare for the next deadline: the end of 2019. The directive exempts companies that hold ISO 50001 certification. To be exempted from the regulatory audit, not only must your company apply the ISO 50001 standard (currently, either the old or new version), but a third-party organization like AFNOR Certification must also have vouched that your company is applying it correctly by issuing a certificate following an audit performed by an independent auditor. If your company is not certified, even if it decides to apply every aspect of the standard, it will still have to conduct the regulatory energy audit.