ISO 50001: Frequently Asked Questions

What is ISO 50001? 

ISO 50001 is the Energy Management System Standard that focuses on sustained energy performance.  It’s the first management system standard that integrates performance requirements into the standard.

What is SEP?

SEP is Superior Energy Performance, a U.S. Department of Energy sponsored program that supports and recognizes continual improvement of energy performance.  It adds additional management system requirements and performance verification to ISO 50001.

Why Should I go for ISO 50001/SEP?  How does it benefit me?image-7

ISO 50001/SEP provides a systematic approach to identifying and exploiting energy

performance improvement opportunities and the structure to sustain them.

  • Energy Management Benefits:  Companies have seen 10-15% savings from non-capital projects and an additional 10-15% from capital projects
  • Certification Benefits:  Third-party oversight that assures the system remains effective by providing routine performance evaluation, expert insight, and accountability.
  • Financial Benefits:  Many have realized incentives from government and utilities and their system provides protection against rising energy costs
  • Marketing Benefits:  The ability to reduce your environmental footprint and international recognition from a standard that is being adopted around the globe.

Early adopters have experienced significant (and sometimes surprising) performance improvements!  These savings have often come with little or no capital investment.

I already have ISO 14001.  Isn’t that good enough?

A robust ISO 14001 could also encompass areas of energy usage.  However, ISO 50001 is based on a more detailed review, planning, measurement, and analysis specific only to energy performance that isn’t covered within the fundamentals of ISO 14001.

In ISO 14001 consumption reductions would be an incidental result of pollution prevention. This doesn’t happen often with 14001, since pollution prevention is the key, which often results in increased energy consumption.

For example, when a thermal reactor is required for VOC control, but without heat recovery designed in, the pollution solution can actually degrade energy performance.

When considered as a consistent pair, the two standards are very complementary and can result in leveraged benefits, ensuring that the two objectives (pollution reduction and energy performance improvement), are in synch.  This is detailed more in the next question.

We are considering ISO 50001/SEP.  What can we do to get ready?

Read through the ISO 50001 standard
You’ll notice that in structure, it’s very similar to ISO 14001.  However, there is one very big difference in that 50001 requires actual energy performance improvements in addition to management system process improvements. This provides an extra challenge, but it also results in tangible energy performance improvement (i.e., reduced costs).

iso-5001-2Get a handle on how you use energy (your Significant Energy Uses or SEU) and their associated Energy Performance Indicators (EnPIs)

EnPIs are defined by you to give you a clear picture of how your organization is improving energy performance (such as kWh per widget or Btus per operating hour). An EnPI can be a simple ratio, a correlation, or even just a number. The key question is, Will the EnPIs I selected tell me what I need to know so that my energy performance targets will be met?”

Understand Baselines and Normalizingiso-5001-3

Assume you found an opportunity for energy performance improvement and you proposed a project to upgrade your cooling water circulating system by installing VFDs (variable frequency drives) on the pumps. You expect that you could save $100 in pumping costs. This saving would be based upon your measure of energy consumption of the fixed speed drives over a reasonable period. This measurement of energy consumption would be your baseline.

Now, if this pumping energy consumption was significantly impacted by weather or production, then it would be necessary to understand the impact of these “relevant variables” on your results. You would want to compare performance at similar weather effects and production levels to be sure that the improvements were real compared to other influences. This would be considered normalizing.

Understand ISO

Being certified to, or at least having implemented, another ISO standardshould help shorten the time, cost, and learning curve for ISO 50001.  As mentioned previously, the structure is similar to ISO 14001 and other similar management systems standards.  Many sections of ISO 50001 are very similar and often the same processes can be either adapted or used as-is.


If your organization is not certified to another standard, explore whether you have any ISO skills in-house or if you should hire a consultant.

Reach out for experience

Talk to others in your industries who are leading the way in energy improvement.  What were their experiences with ISO 50001, and energy improvement projects in general?  There are some new concepts for management systems that take time to sink in, and ISO 50001 is a little more data driven than other management system standards.


Build your team

A good 50001 implementation team might include members at the plant and senior management levels, along with your ISO resource.  It’s also very important to include a facilities person who is responsible for, and knowledgeable of, the energy-consuming systems in the organization, including maintenance and monitoring issues.

Build your relationships

Company culture is often resistant to change, and it will be hard to implement energy improvement projects if your organization historically hasn’t seen energy consumption as a significant overhead cost. You’ll want to make sure that your team has access to all the relevant energy reports, utility bills, and related, so the accounting department will be important.

We think we’re ready.  How do we know for sure?

Get a pre-assessment. Pre-assessments can make your team feel more comfortable about moving on to an actual harbec-1audit.  Think of pre-assessments as a “dress rehearsal”.

Pre-assessments is a tool for the company’s benefit. While we typically see pre-audits range from 2 to 6 days based on what we feel the best use of time would be, the company can adjust to fit their needs and comfort level.

The pre-assessment can also help to ensure the chosen scope and boundaries are manageable for an audit. It’s also OK to start with one plant and add to the scope in subsequent years.

When pre-assessment is performed by the certification body, it can create a good working relationship between the organization and the auditors.

How do we choose a Certification Body (CB)?

Ask the right questions.  Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions early on.  Your CB should be willing to put you in iso-5001-5touch with an actual certified auditor for any detailed technical questions.

  • Are objectives, targets and action plans for energy performance improvement required for all SEU’s? (Answer: No, only the opportunities you choose to pursue.)
  • What would you want to see as my monitoring and measurement plan?
  • What are the legal requirements you perceive to be part of the standard? Which ones will you review?
  • How do you interpret a part of the standard I still have questions about?
  • Do your auditors know our industry? Are they sector-qualified? (note: RABQSA and IEnMP in their personnel certification programs define industry sectors for qualification purposes.)
  • What are the qualifications and accreditations of your audit team? Can you send us their resumes?
  • How many 50001 audits have you done?

Credentials are also important. Investigate not only the CB’s credentials (accreditation), but also the requirements for Auditor/Performance Verifier credentials.

The US as part of the Superior Energy Performance Program has established the first benchmark requirements for Auditor and Energy Performance Verifier qualification and certification, with more rigorous requirements that also will result in more consistency in Auditors and Verifiers.

RABQSA accredits auditors for ISO 50001:

IEnMP accredits auditors for SEP:

We’re implementing ISO 50001 and have our CB lined up.  How do we prepare for the audit?

The Certification Body will help you by performing a “Stage 1” readiness review, which is part of the standard, to see if your organization is ready for a full audit. This step makes sure that the auditors can be most efficient and that the time allotted is appropriate.

With DEKRA, you have the choice of a virtual (“desk”) audit or an on-site audit for Stage 1. The virtual Stage 1 audit will save travel costs. However, a virtual audit may not always be preferable if there are a number of confidential documents which would be better kept onsite. Also, it’s usually easier to interact in-person.

iso-5001-6An on-site Stage 1 audit also provides a personal connection to the Audit Team Leader who will be back for the Stage 2 audit, so there is a chance for your staff to gain comfort with the Audit Team.

During the Stage 1, your auditor will review the documents which describe the different portions of the ISO 50001 system:


  • Scope and Boundaries
  • Energy Planning/ SEUs
  • Action Plans
  • Internal Audits and Management Review

DEKRA tries to minimize disruption to your staff during Stage 1 by limiting our requests for documents.  We only need to gauge the completeness/readiness of your system, not your performance.

If your organization is pursuing SEP, DEKRA will review the calculation approach and the statistical model to be used for calculating the SEnPI.

The auditor may also ask to perform limited interviews of your key facilities, operations, and management staff at Stage I to follow up on questions identified in the document review. Also, additional supporting documents may be requested for review as a follow-up. Any specific requests for interviews will be communicated as part of the Stage 1 planning.

What will happen during the audit?iso-5001-7

The on-site visit, known as a Stage 2 audit, is conducted by one or two sector-qualified, credentialed, and experienced DEKRA auditors, who will audit your key processes to confirm that the ISO 50001/SEP requirements have been satisfied.

  • Opening Meeting with your team.At the Opening Meeting we will discuss our agenda for the audit and go over any issues from Stage I or any other lingering questions.
  • Plant Tour with your team to get a sense of where things are and how your production process works, to see where your significant energy uses (SEUs) are.
  • Review energy consumption data for your SEUs and records relating to operation/ maintenance such as PMs.
  • Review your data collection systemsfor energy monitoring.
  • Confirm that energy performance improvement has been achieved. (If you’re pursuing SEP, we follow the SEP Measurement and Verification Protocol).
  • “Sanity-check” your overall energy consumption resultsagainst the sum of your action plans, and check to see if the results make sense when you consider such things as weather or production changes.
  • Perform interviews of key people: SEU operators, Facilities and Maintenance staff,  ISO coordinator, Environmental/ Sustainability manager, Senior management, and others.
  • Closing Meeting with your team to review the results of the audit (we also discuss results as we find them at each daily briefing). If we found any issues not in conformance with the standard, we’ll discuss them together, and together agree on a plan to correct them.

In the following weeks, we will ask you to send us evidence that you have made the corrections and work with you remotely via email to confirm. Rarely, we will need to make a quick visit back to the site to confirm. If so, we will agree on a date with you.

Once all corrective actions are completed, we endorse your certification and send you an official DEKRA certificate confirming your registration to the ISO 50001 standard.

How long does the audit take?

Audit duration is dependent on the number of energy sources, energy consumption, organization complexity, and the number of Significant Energy Uses. Audit duration could range from 3 days for a small, low complexity plant (or building) up to 12 days for a large, complex facility. This is still influx as currently ISO 50001 audit day requirements are being defined by local Accreditation Bodies. Standardized audit day requirements for ISO 50001 will be defined in ISO/DIS 50003 which will be published in 2013 and will define requirements for audit days for ISO 50001.

iso-5001-8How much does certification cost?

Certification costs vary as there are a number of factors that go into the calculations to meet accreditation requirements.  Costs typically range from $8,000for the smallest organizations to $30,000 for the largest.  We encourage you to get a quote for a formal idea of costs as every company is unique.

get a quote

Costs for implementation vary as well.  Often times it’s best to have a pre-assessment from DEKRA or a gap analysis from an Energy Management Consultant early on to get a clearer picture of where you are and where you need to be.  This provides a better idea of the time and resources needed.

Our experience thus far has shown companies that are already certified to a management system such as ISO 9001 or ISO 14001 have significantly less implementation costs.  This is due to:

  • basic requirements of a management system already in place
  • common processes can be easily integrated
  • ISO 50001 has a much narrower focus and scope
  • ISO 50001 has involves fewer people and components of the organization.

As mentioned in the benefits section, the ROI which typically ranges from 10-15% reduction in both capital and non-capital projects, so the costs are usually recouped within the first year.

For additional questions or to get started, please contact us at 1-800-768-5362