25 June, 2024

Missing the point

07 May, 2021

In November last year, the Prime Minister announced the Government’s ambitious tenpoint plan for a green industrial revolution. However, the British Pump Manufacturers’ Association (BPMA) points out that the contribution of pumps to global warming is not being addressed in the plan, despite the UK’s past commitment to tackle the issue and the fact that liquid pumps and related equipment are the single largest user of electricity in industrial and commercial applications.

Larger industrial pump users have been required to carry out audits of energy use and introduce improvements under the UK’s Energy Saving Opportunity Scheme (ESOS), since 2015. However, the BPMA makes the point that some have taken advantage of a loophole allowing them to opt out of this requirement if they complied with the ISO 50001 standard aimed at energy management. “This has meant they have avoided identifying inefficient pumping systems and subsequently making them more efficient, which would significantly cut their energy use and help the environment,” says Steve Schofield, CEO of the BPMA.

The latest revision of ISO50001 has closed this loophole, but Schofield observes that weak market surveillance and low penalties mean that action in this important area remains stalled. Companies who fall within the scope of ESOS are required to undertake an energy audit conducted or overseen by an approved ESOS Lead Assessor. The pump manufacturing and repair industry reacted positively to this development by investing heavily in training qualified auditors and was fully ready to support the policy. However, as Schofield explains, there was opposition from some major industrial companies who saw this change to better, more reliable, and up-to-date technology in terms of increased cost, rather than as an opportunity for savings. As a result of their lobbying, they succeeded in getting agreement that organisations fully covered by ISO 50001, which is aimed at energy management, did not need to have a separate ESOS audit.

Under UK law, ESOS or ISO 50001 audits must be conducted every four years. The first deadline was 5 December 2015, the second was 5 December 2019 and the next deadline will be 5 December 2023. “So, in principle, the larger companies covered by this energy audit requirement should have been busy since 2015, upgrading their pumps to a green standard, as indicated by the audits,” says Schofield. “However, those who opted for ISO 50001 saw a convenient loophole since, unlike the ESOS audits, ISO 50001 (2012) did not require the audit recommendations to be enacted upon.”

Schofield adds that there continues to be strong resistance among some sectors to undertaking meaningful pump audits. “Most probably, the debate doesn’t even reach the boardroom, and even where there is a solid investment case, nothing happens” he says. According to Schofield, the remedies are two-fold. “Market surveillance in the UK, despite the convenient assumption that we somehow have the ‘gold standard’ when it comes to following rules, is lamentably absent in this area,” he says. “Even if a company is identified as being in breach of ESOS a penalty of £90,000 is not even a slap on the wrist for a big business. Decisive action is needed to tighten enforcement. Introducing meaningful penalties, perhaps based on a proportion of company turnover, should be considered.” In addition, Schofield maintains that there must be the political will to resist what is often misinformed pressure from big industry. “On the other hand, while many of the cases for upgrading pumps will be clear-cut, financial assistance to encourage modernisation should also be examined,” he says.

Surely, Schofield is right in insisting an additional 11th point in the UK Government’s plan should be to ensure our existing sectors are shown the same attention and encouragement to reduce their energy consumption if we are to reach the net zero target; and pumps can play a significant role in this. Greater environmental accountability has been shown to be so critically important for the survival of the planet. It is therefore only fitting that industry in all its guises plays a responsible role; without any missing links enabled by oversights or remaining legal loopholes. A green industrial revolution cannot be anything other than a fully transparent and fully committed enterprise.

Ed Holden, editor

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