How can we improve energy efficiency

Improving energy-related performance: how, what and what, if not?

The revised energy management standard ISO 50001 now presents companies with the challenge of credibly demonstrating during certification that their energy-related performance is continuously improving. How is that supposed to work? Energy performance indicators play a bigger role in this than ever before. The FAQ list of the DIN standards committee also provides a lot of relevant information for practice. This article summarizes the current regulations.

Certification according to ISO 50001 cannot be maintained without proof that the energy-related performance has improved. The attempt to first measure such an improvement, then analyze it and finally document it, makes one pause at first before the cumbersome term: Improvement of the energy-related performance - what exactly is meant by this?

Energy efficiency, energy use and energy consumption

Let's let ISO 50001: 2018 have their say here. The standard defines an improvement in energy-related performance as a

"Improvement of the measurable results of the energy efficiency (3.5.3) or the energy consumption (3.5.2), related to the energy use (3.5.4), in comparison with the energetic starting basis (3.4.7)"
  • Energy efficiency: The quantitative relationship between energy input and yield improves.
  • Power consumption: The amount of energy used is reduced. However, lower absolute energy consumption can quickly run counter to economic goals.
  • Energy use: The use of energy describes the type or method of using energy. Attention, an improvement in the use of energy is now left out according to the definition of the standard. Energy use is still a benchmark, but it doesn't stand alone.

In practice, the Energy efficiency probably the biggest role. It is therefore the focus of the following explanations.


Nonetheless, changes in the way a company uses its energy can also have practical relevance. The use of renewable energies, for example, can be dealt with within the framework of energy policy or by setting corresponding goals within the EnMS. But the Use of renewable energy does not imply any improvement in energy-related performance in the sense of ISO 50001: 2018! The DIN standards committee expressly points this out in its FAQ list on the subject.

Top-down or bottom-up?

There is not one and the right way to demonstrate an improvement in energy-related performance. ISO 50047 (energy savings - determination of energy savings in organizations) describes two opposing approaches to approach the topic: bottom-up and top-down.

The Bottom-up approach looks at specific areas within a company and tries to prove that these have become more energy efficient. This is made more likely simply by the number of projects and areas into which a company is divided. The key figures are narrowly defined and allow the energy efficiency of individual systems, machines or projects to be assessed.

The Top-down approach considers superordinate energy performance indicators, e.g. the energy consumption per production volume for the entire company.

In a list of frequently asked questions on exactly this topic, the DIN standards committee made it clear that companies always several energy performance indicators need to define. There is also one Measure for the entire organization required to recognize the general trend development. Likewise, energy performance indicators (EnPIs) are to be collected and monitored accordingly for each essential energy use area (SEU).

In practice, the overall key figure for companies in particular could cause some problems. Because if many of the energetically insignificant areas deteriorate (which are not the focus of the energy management system), this can also have a negative effect on the organization-wide EnPIs.

Calculate the improvement in energy-related performance

Neither the bottom-up nor the top-down approach exempts you from mathematical analysis. The ISO 50001 refers here to the ISO 50006, which deals in depth with the comparison and analysis of energy performance indicators.

You can read more about ISO 50006 in this article.

In order to determine an improvement, be it in small parts, within the SEU or in general in the form of the organization-wide EnPIs, you must define energetic starting points and normalize them, i.e. make them comparable.

Read more about normalization in this post.

The values ​​of the energy indicators must improve!

When looking at your results, you need to see a positive trend over time. In other words: Your EnPIs are continuously improving.

What happens if an energy indicator deteriorates?

Then you have the thankless task of finding out why. Ask yourself whether the “non-achievement of goals” is the result of a non-functioning / ineffective EnMS or whether there are other causes. Either way, the certifier wants to see that you do Detect deviations and take action against them. If the energy performance indicators deteriorate permanently, your company will not receive a certificate in the worst case.