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Robert Brown

5 Minutes With… Robert Brown from ENGIE Impact

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As part of our energy management executive interview series, we sat down with Robert Brown, a Director of Sustainable Resource Management at ENGIE Impact, a global consultancy company accelerating sustainability transformation for businesses, cities and governments. The discussion shed light on energy management challenges, goal setting, and the roles of digital tools and data in reaching decarbonisation objectives…

What have been the biggest challenges the Energy Management industry has faced over the past 12 months?

Many organisations have been caught out by record energy price rises this year. Wholesale gas prices have risen by an average of 250% across the world and businesses are now facing unbudgeted bills for natural gas and electricity this year . At the same time, the pressure to progress with a sustainability transformation strategy contributes to the challenges for effective energy management. As announced at this year’s COP26, 60 of the UK’s FTSE 100 companies have signed up to the United Nation’s Race to Zero campaign, showing that more and more businesses are now realising the full potential of an integrated sustainability strategy.

And what have been the biggest opportunities?

I like to think that every challenge unveils an opportunity. This surge in global market energy pricing was an alarming call to those who haven’t conducted a holistic risk assessment, and who haven’t taken into account potential factors beyond daily business operations that could  affect the company’s bottom line and ultimate viability. For those who haven’t already, now is the time for organisations to review their strategy, and consider emerging energy buying options.

Business leaders have benefitted and are benefitting from integrating more renewables into their energy mix, which has dovetailed with their zero-carbon strategy to achieve a commercial advantage whilst accelerating the achievement of sustainability goals.

In 2025 we’ll all be talking about…?

2025 will mark the 10-year anniversary of the Paris Agreement. I think that we will be discussing our progress in decarbonisation and the achievements to date of this “Decade to Deliver”. The UK has set a goal to achieve 51% emissions reduction by 2025, compared to 1990 levels. Governments and businesses are partnering towards this objective, and although we are on the right track, we still have a long way to go, especially as the UK has pledged a new target of 78% emissions reduction by 2035.

What is the biggest priority for the Energy Management industry in  2022? What technology is going to have the biggest impact on the market this year?

Given the recent rise in energy cost and the increasing urgency around climate change, it is important to keep in mind a business’ bottom line while implementing sustainable practices. We are now in an era full of evolution and dominance of digital tools, and energy management is no exception to this trend. Digital platforms are being used to leverage data intelligence and pinpoint optimisation opportunities through a holistic view of energy consumption data.

However, having the right data is not enough. Applying advanced analytics to data can deliver real value to an organisation as long as it is consistent and timely. This is something industry leaders like Tesla, Kraft Heinz, NatWest, DHL, Unilever and DS Smith have already started investing in.

This approach to energy management allows for granular sustainability reporting. Just as financial reporting supports a business in determining budgets, evaluating investment and minimising financial risk, sustainability reporting with meaningful and accurate data allows for transparency, effective decision-making and minimising environmental risk.

At ENGIE Impact, we recently launched ENGIE Ellipse: Zero Carbon Platform – a dynamic intelligence tool to accelerate decarbonisation. This scalable digital platform enables companies to measure their carbon footprint, set targets and design roadmaps, track progress and investments, and optimise performance.

How can your business help energy managers address these challenges?

ENGIE Impact supports businesses to mature their energy efficiency programmes across their portfolio of sites. By collecting the right data at the right time, we help our customers to understand their energy consumption and grasp opportunities for optimisation, as well as customise strategies tailored to their business goals and priorities. Our teams don’t just supply a plan; we are there at every step of the journey from initial concept through to full execution and post-project monitoring. From measuring results, to reporting on progress, we fuel continuous enhancement in energy management strategy for our clients.

What’s the most exciting thing about your job?

Meeting with peer leaders in sustainability and energy management, and helping them in their decarbonisation journey and future proofing their organization. This is a professional driver for me and it’s really meaningful to see the positive impact to the bottom line competitiveness and sustainable progress that our collaborations bring.

And what’s the most challenging?

Sustainability is easier said than done. Unpredictable external factors, such as the extreme spike in energy prices this year and the effects that the pandemic has had on wider resource availability, can make it more challenging for businesses to reach their goals as efforts focus on financial survival in the short-term.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Energy requires a robust strategic approach. Doing nothing is a conscious decision.  The time to act is NOW and arming the right stakeholders with the right timely information and data to be able to act on is incredibly powerful so measure what matters.

Businesses will then gain competitive advantage and progress towards their energy efficiency and zero/neutral carbon ambitions in their daily operations.

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