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Pulling together for change

Three years in, ICOM Energy Association is at the forefront of helping the industry to face up to its environmental responsibilities. Director general Peter McCree, right, reports
The council members of the British Construction Equipment Manufacturers Association set out a vision to modernise the way it represented the industrial and commercial heating industry in the UK in 2004, which heralded a major change.

It altered how the industry's voice would be heard, and the ways that it would set about safeguarding and promoting the industry's future.
Previously the organisation had evolved through a series of name changes, technical challenges and government requirements of trade associations. But, representing the whole industrial and commercial heating industry, it had a wider vision. Hence the Industrial and Commercial (ICOM) Energy Association was created.

Like the rest of UK manufacturing, the industrial and commercial heating sector was under increasing global competition. In addition, it was rightly coming under pressure to increase energy efficiency and assist in improving building performance to minimise emissions. And it also faced considerable challenges from the rapidly evolving energy sector.

To meet these challenges, ICOM Energy Association has formed stronger links with the EU through the Association of European Heating Industries. This is a link with both the domestic heating side of the industry through the Hot Water and Heating Industries Council and the supply side by co-locating with the Society of British Gas Industries at Leamington Spa.

This has enabled us to approach government with one voice for the heating industry wherever possible, and the opportunity to sit around the table with other non-governmental organisations and discuss concerns over proposed legislation hopefully to have a common stance.

An example of this new approach was the work of the association on the last revision of the building regulations, working very closely with ODPM and more recently the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG).

ICOM Energy was crucially involved in the development of regulations, injecting a practical understanding of the implications of the goals of the legislation on the sector. As a result, a booklet entitled A Guide for Businesses has been produced by the CLG with the aim of reducing the energy usage and carbon emissions from the heating and hot-water systems in non-domestic premises.

This booklet will encourage readers to opt for assessment of their heating systems, act on the findings and thus comply with the requirements of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD).
Looking forward, the association is addressing the key issues of the environment and training.

Closely allied to the EPBD is another EU initiative entitled the Energy using Products Directive in which the association has assisted in all of the development stages.This work is looking at all energy-using products, and boilers and water heaters are within the first tranche.
The research and consultation process is nearing an end, and substantial reductions in energy usage will be required to meet future

Heating-system labelling will in due course be used in conjunction with Energy Performance Certificates and the EPBD to achieve the staged reduction in the use of fossil fuels, leading eventually to the goal of a 60% reduction by 2050.

Our manufacturers and importers are all embracing the fact that climate changes mean we in the UK are experiencing warmer weather. And fossil fuel supplies, which have been fairly abundant and often close to home, are dramatically reducing year by year.
Heating systems need to be considered in an holistic way. And naturally the supply chain is demanding companies be in a position to recommend whole-building heating solutions which include renewables.

The issue of new fuels is also high in our minds as biomass and liquid biofuel solutions are being offered and the regulations around them evolved. Research is under way to produce a stable, reliable bio-kerosene, which will allow current users of heating oil to switch to a sustainable source.

ICOM Energy Association has begun a training initiative which enables servicing, installing and commissioning engineers to gain a qualification created by the industry for the industry.
All sectors are aware that the average age of their qualified engineers continues to rise and with the loss of apprenticeships the same in-depth knowledge has not been acquired by younger employees.
The industry has suffered badly from competence creep. Technicians learn the basics on domestic equipment, and then see opportunities to earn more on commercial or industrial work - without sufficient training to work safely and effectively.

The training programme sets out to overcome this problem and ensure the development of safe, well trained engineers for the future across the whole sector.

Other recent developments include the appointment of a new technical director, David Hughes, who has the industry background to engage with members and know the issues.

The recent Gas Safety Review and proposed changes throughout Europe on gas quality are a couple of issues that the association has become involved in to safeguard the future of the industry.

Work also never stops on standards both here in the UK and at a European level. Fortunately, ICOM's member companies support the association by providing staff to attend meetings both here in the UK and Europe where those important decisions are taken on the future of the industry.

With representation of the UK industrial and commercial heating industry about to enter its 75th year, the industry is on the front line of the global environmental issue. And, with legislative, training and technical issues changing fast, the success of ICOM Energy Association is key to the success of the whole sector.
1 December 2007


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