Global focus: Germany

6th May 2014


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  • Management ,
  • Certification ,
  • Mitigation



Fred Wenke calls on all politicians to learn from the German example of using ISO 50001 certification in energy policy

It is almost 20 years since ISO 14001 was published but, while almost 300,000 certificates have been issued worldwide, very few governments are using third-party certification to support their environmental goals.

One notable exception in Germany is the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG): The Act aims to support the development of sustainable, low-carbon energy supplies. For every kilowatt hour of electricity consumed in Germany a nationwide levy is paid by all end consumers to fund the development of renewable technologies.

For supplies governed by the EEG’s “special equalisation scheme”, however, the regulator can limit the levy for certain portions of the power consumed, to just 10% or even 1% of the regular fee. About 2,100 energy-intensive companies will benefit from this in 2014.

To qualify for the lower levy, companies must be certified against ISO 50001 or registered to EMAS. This largely explains why German companies hold more than 50% of all 50001 certificates – 1,767 out of 3,356. While, there is controversy over whether the privileged electricity price is distorting market competition in the EU, the scheme still shows how management systems standards can be used by governments to achieve policy goals.

The EEG ensures that all privileged companies must contribute to reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions by improving their own energy performance through implementing an energy management system instead of paying the full EEG levy. 50001 has a strict requirement to improve energy performance, which is why politicians trust that certified businesses will cut their energy consumption and intensity.

There are debates as to whether the current 14001 requirements contain the right balance between improving the management system itself and delivering “real” improvements in environmental performance. This might be one reason why politicians have not seen the value of 14001 in the same way the German government has seen the benefit of 50001.

The revised 14001, due in 2015, aims to rectify this issue by clarifying throughout its text that the ultimate goal is to improve “real” environmental performance. It is hoped that this expected change will enhance the credibility of 14001 and motivate politicians to incorporate it into policy.

Fred Wenke, IEMA Affiliate, is director at NSF-ISR and managing director at NSF Deutschland GmbH, and a German delegate on the 14001 working group.

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