Ever since the Energy Saving Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) came into force in July 2014, organisations and energy consultancies have been making the case that participants should focus on the ‘O’ in ESOS – Opportunity. And opportunity has largely referred to the opportunity to save money. Countless articles, blogs, and webinars have highlighted the scheme’s potential to identify large energy savings, thus cost savings for participants. I even laboured this point during a recent talk I gave at Pulse’s ESOS and Energy Trading Seminar in December this year. (You can find the video of this talk from that event at the bottom of this page.) It makes sense that much effort has gone into driving home this point. The success of ESOS hinges on organisations taking to heart the idea that ESOS can help them save money through realising real increases in energy efficiency.
Yet the recent focus on direct economic gains as a result of positive engagement with ESOS may be overshadowing another set of important benefits associated with positive participation in the scheme. Namely, these overshadowed benefits are the positive PR or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) narratives that may be harvested from active engagement with ESOS.
Active engagement with ESOS and with Energy Efficiency will provide organisations with another type of opportunity – the chance to communicate about their energy use and management with their investors, clients, and wider audiences. The proactive energy management hat ESOS will facilitate will increasingly resonate with investors and the public in 2015 and beyond. This is mostly due to the fact that energy and climate issues were in 2014, and will continue to be a focus of media attention in the coming year.
Media’s Focus on Energy and Climate Issues
Indeed many of 2014’s big stories in the media involved energy issues in one way or another. For example, the ongoing tension between Russia and Ukraine have perhaps left the British and European public increasingly aware and uncomfortable with the nation’s (and Europe’s) dependency on Russian gas. These events have also left the public much more aware of where their gas comes from, and thus likely slightly more invested in reducing reliance on gas associated with political regimes they may not wish to support.
Looking forward, a continued focus on energy and climate issues is expected in 2015. This is mostly due to the run up to the UN climate talks in Paris in late 2015 (COP 21), which many are outwardly positive about. The momentum behind these upcoming talks in Paris has even overshadowed the Dec 2014 negotiations in Lima, with UN General Secretary sometimes discussing COP 21 more actively than the 2014 negotiations (COP 20).
Experts, negotiators, and diplomats are the most positive that they have been about a set of UN Climate negotiations since the so-called failed talks in 2009, in Copenhagen (COP 15). There seems to be a real likelihood that parties at the talks will produce an international climate deal. There are many reasons for this building momentum behind COP21 in Paris, with reasons such as the improved economics of renewables, cited. Importantly, the fact that the US and China are clearly on board this time around, having finally signed a bi-lateral climate agreement in November 2014, seems to be another key signal for Paris’ success.
It is expected that the momentum around the UN climate negotiations and increasing unease with the European dependence on Russian gas will continue to direct media attention to energy and climate issues, and will ultimately direct public attention toward energy.
Leveraging Increased Interest in Energy Efficiency into More
Media attention on energy issues, of course, includes renewable energy since tackling climate change means addressing energy production. But increasingly, the media and public attention are going to be focused on energy efficiency will to continue to grow, especially since it is much less political. The fact is, the UK has realised that around half of the country’s national carbon reduction targets will need to be achieved via energy efficiency.
For large businesses around the UK, the nation’s focus on energy and climate issues in 2015 and beyond will mean that the population are increasingly interested in energy efficiency. If energy efficiency, and ESOS, are positively engaged with, there will be considerable opportunities to leverage this engagement with the scheme into positive narratives about organisations. Narratives which will be likely be quite well received. In sum, then, there are very real CSR opportunities with ESOS, apart from potential monetary gains.
Robin Hamaker is an Energy Analyst and Consultant for Pulse. She provides advice and services on energy efficiency and audits, energy behaviour change, and on UK energy legislation such as CRC, CCA, and now ESOS. She can be reached at RHamaker@pulsebusinessenergy.co.uk