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UK businesses need to invest in their energy managers to meet carbon targets, says new research from Inenco

13th September 2017

New research from leading business energy consultancy Inenco has provided insight into how the role of the energy manager will change by 2030, and has highlighted the level of investment needed. The role of the energy manager is predicted to become even more critical in reducing non-domestic carbon emissions, but, with gaps in skills and technology being identified, businesses must start investing in the tools and training required, else UK carbon targets could be put at risk.

Inenco partnered with independent research agency DJS Research to commission primary research among UK businesses, interviewing energy managers across a range of sectors. Inenco then worked with Ricardo Energy & Environment to combine the findings with industry, digital and environmental trends to determine how the role of the energy manager will change in the future.

The research revealed that by 2030, today’s energy manager will have evolved into the future utilities manager – a senior-level, digitally savvy data scientist who will be responsible for making key strategic business decisions. With non-domestic energy still making up around 75 per cent of the UK’s energy consumption, the utilities managers of the future will play a pivotal role in delivering the UK’s low carbon agenda.

In line with this, by 2030, the energy manager will have a broader remit covering all business areas, including transport. One third of energy managers have already gained responsibility for transport during the last five years – and the rising popularity of electric vehicles will see this trend continue.

Inenco’s research also confirmed the role data will continue to play, and how the future utilities manager will need to be a digital expert. Data is already driving decision making and reporting in business energy, with a fifth of respondents commenting on a substantial increase during the past five years, and unanimously agreeing that this trend is set to continue. In readiness for this data-driven future, 14 per cent of today’s energy managers are already investing in better data systems and analysis functions.

While predicting a significant expansion in the scope of the energy manager’s responsibilities, Inenco’s report also highlights a skills and technology gap that must be addressed in order for businesses to future-proof their operations and support the UK’s transition to a low carbon economy.

The growth of artificial intelligence, the introduction of new low carbon technologies and an increasingly decentralised grid mean that the future utilities manager will face major challenges. With at least two new energy compliance schemes forecast to be introduced in the next 13 years, they will also need to be adept at navigating new and complex energy legislation.

Jon Bauer, chief technology officer of Inenco, said: “In the future, energy will be a decision point in all business investment choices. Changes in technology and evolved social behaviours mean the future utilities manger will have access to real-time data and artificial intelligence, allowing them to make strategic decisions that will optimise a business’ own demand, instantly. They will ultimately be responsible for ensuring that the business they work for is aiding the UK’s transition to a low carbon economy.

“However, our research has highlighted a significant risk in terms of developing this key role; to deliver the utility manager of the future there is a need for advancements in technology and training. Unless businesses are effectively supported and are able to embrace best practice and innovation, meeting the UK’s energy targets could be under threat.”

In response to the challenges outlined in the report, Inenco is launching an Innovation Hub. The hub will bring people from various academic institutes and industries together, and will focus on developing solutions through a series of hackathons. Following the Inenco Innovation Hub hackathons, a carefully selected panel of industry experts will judge the solutions, with monetary prizes given out to the winning students. Inenco will then look to invest in developing the ideas further to help today’s energy manager to become tomorrow’s utilities manager.

Visit Inenco’s Innovation Hub where the full Future Utilities Manager report is available to download, along with further details on the upcoming hackathons.