A century of professionalism – with more to come


Courtesy of Energy Institute (EI)

I consider myself very fortunate. I have had the privilege to work with colleagues in the Energy Institute, and those Institutes that have gone before, for the last 21 years. For 15 of those years I have led the charge, together with the able guidance of both the Trustees and the wider membership. For the first decade I was probably most frustrated by the lack of interest that almost everyone outside the energy world had in the subject of energy. However, for the last 10 years, nothing could have been further from the truth.

As I write, the Energy Bill has just received Royal Assent, further consultations on the development of the detail for implementation have been issued, high energy prices and their impact on consumers remain in the news, the lights have gone out in parts of England – albeit temporarily as a result of high winds – and the fourth carbon budget has been reaffirmed by the Committee on Climate Change. All this is just in the UK.

As a professional body with members now in 100 countries, we could look to any of these and find real challenges for local professionals and global companies to rise to and resolve.

So, our role and purpose remains constant as it has done for the last 100 years and is likely to be for the next century. No other independent charitable learned body pursues the same depth and breadth of understanding of energy for public benefit as the Energy Institute does. By doing so, and being focused on developing good energy knowledge, skills and good practice for energy professionals around the globe, EI Members will be providing the energy solutions societies will need for decades to come.

The next energy revolution

There is a limit to what most of us mere mortals think we know about the future, largely gleaned from the lessons we have taken from history, if we really challenge our thinking. For example, we can be sure the energy technology we use today will not be the technology our children, or children’s children will be familiar with in 100 years’ time. Even with the long time horizons with which the energy industry works (for both the supply and demand), some of the industry’s major technology is yet to be invented.

What is blue sky thinking in a research lab today may take 25 years of development before an innovation is ready for commercial application, and sometimes longer.

How society will work and what the next three revolutions might be that follow the computer, the mobile phone, the internet and social media are a mystery, but they will likely change the way humans do things on a daily basis and shape how the social dimensions of society will function.

Thus far, that’s been about more energy use, not a reduction, and that’s a cycle we need to break – at least in terms of energy intensity if not overall energy demand.

Could the ‘internet of things’ be our next energy revolution – where ‘big data’ resides in one open access resource for energy efficiency? So that demand can be automatically balanced with supply and really become embedded in our consciousness as a resource to be managed and conserved?

That revolution has the potential to be just around the corner, from a technological point of view – far less than 100 years away. The challenges are largely around organising the transformation and driving human behaviour to accept and buy into change.

Creative public engagement

Just as the energy industry and society are interdependent, so are the solutions to the energy challenges we face. The energy industry cannot today bring about solutions in isolation of the consumer, but will only be able to do so because of the consumer in future. This change must be enabled by a policy and regulatory framework which adopts a systems-based approach to its development; not one which is piecemeal and disconnected.

Creative public engagement is needed to motivate us all to be effective resource managers, driven and supported by enabling technology produced by manufacturers of the goods and services we require or aspire to access.

Linked to both these points is how access to energy will change. There are still two billion people in the world without ready access to electricity and the services it provides.

As world population grows, is this a situation that will stay the same or, as societies develop, will they grow to enjoy the benefits that access to electricity can provide, creating more challenge to managing energy demand and the implications this has for climate change?

Add to this the challenges of access to clean water and food, and the connections that producing energy has with these, and we see a growing set of issues to tackle on a global basis.

Whatever we believe will happen, there is no sensible argument to do anything other than manage all the resources we have access to as effectively as we know how to, and to always be looking ahead to do better.

Hallmarks of proficiency

With this in mind, the next 100 years will be busy ones for the Energy Institute. No doubt how it is organised, where it is based and how it does what it does will have been transformed but, as today, its original raison d’être will likely remain its constant – ‘to determine the hallmark of proficiency in connection with our profession.’

Today, that hallmark contains three important elements which will be developed, adopted and shared by more than 20,000 members who are recognised energy professionals around the globe.

The first element focuses on individuals having the skills, experience and competence necessary to be professionally recognised. The second is also centred on the individual, to ensure they have access to the best evidence-based and authoritative energy knowledge to share. The third element of the hallmark of proficiency is then demonstrated by companies using the competence and knowledge of their energy professionals to work to the highest standards of operational excellence in health, safety and environmental practices.

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