Bulletin 26 April: realities of decarbonisation; T is for targets

Good morning


We’re hearing a lot in the news, including ambitious government announcements, about ‘decarbonising heat’. Most of the media coverage is about the domestic sector but the chances are that, as a reader, your focus is more on commercial, public-sector or industrial buildings or larger-scale residential facilities. You may have heard that experience with biomass and heat-pump installations has not always been positive, and you will want to understand the problems and pitfalls. You may also be getting questions about how hydrogen in the public supply might play out, and need ready answers.

We’ve therefore arranged a half-day intensive workshop on the practical realities of decarbonising heat in non-domestic buildings, with a team of experienced experts to talk about the lessons that have been learned and the technical and other issues that organisations face in coming decades. Details are at https://vesma.com/z200 and as ever your readers’ discount code is EMR2012.



In energy management the word ‘target’ has two distinct meanings. The first is the ‘aspirational’ target, usually set from on high without regard to practicability, to reduce consumption by x% within a certain time. It’s not a particularly smart approach. In fact in a large organisation it is almost guaranteed to fail, and here’s why. Top management sets a reduction target of x%. There being no easy, transparent and equitable way to do anything else, all departments adopt the same x% target and pass it down the chain to the lowest-tier managers. For some of them, x% is impossible to achieve so they fail. For others it will be achievable or even easy. They will save x% and then probably stop trying. Why would they over-achieve? They have other work to worry about and anyway we all know if we beat our target our managers will just give us a harder target next time. So take the roughly x% saved by the successful ones, blend this with the lower savings achieved by the first group, and you have an aggregate failure.

For me, achievability is key, and when I talk about a performance ‘target’ I mean just maintaining the best performance you can demonstrably achieve. In other words, avoid accidental excess consumption (see next article). This may not be ambitious but it is worth doing; using regression or other modelling methods supported by cusum analysis it is possible to ensure that everything has its own achievable performance characteristic. The word ‘achievable’ is crucial: it’s much more likely to get buy-in than the megaphone-management targeting that I described earlier.

I said achievable ‘characteristic’ because my concept of a target differs from common understanding in another important respect. My ‘target’ is not expressed as an annual kWh figure, nor indeed as a performance indicator, but in terms of an expected consumption quantity dynamically linked to relevant driving factors, meaning that you can track performance at whatever interval you want.



If you’ve ever stumbled over something that was wasting energy in a manner that was easily avoidable, I’d like to hear about it. Every month we’ll donate £50 (or the equivalent) to the charity nominated by the person whose entry is deemed the best by our guest judge. Details at http://EnManReg.org/starspot

Kind regards