IPlantE News

Solid foundations give E.ON space to flourish

5th Jun 2018

John Baxter is the Asset Governance Manager at E.ON Business Heat and Power Solutions, fellow of SOE, IPlantE and is a Chartered Engineer (CEng), Chartered Member of IOSH (CMIOSH) and Chartered Environmentalist (CEnv).

Joining E.ON as an Asset Standards Engineer in 2007, after five years with Bureau Veritas, John quickly became involved in the implementation of management systems, bringing together the processes of previously independent power stations into one unit.

“I was brought in to make sure we had a system that hit all the best practice elements, but also to make sure we don’t miss anything,” said John.

“We had to integrate the environmental and safety system into the asset management system, to make it an IMS (Integrated Management System). When you have 28 power stations that are used to operating as their own little empires and suddenly they are thrown together as a fleet, it creates difficulties. It was quite a job to strike up relationships and convince people to make the necessary changes,” he added.

CPD

Given the broad transformation of the energy sector over the last ten years, John has seen great value in professional development, which has enabled him to remain a prominent figure at E.ON.

“I started on the health and safety side, did my diploma, became a chartered member of IOSH, which was what I needed to do to make sure our systems worked together. I couldn’t influence people if I didn’t understand the environmental side. I implemented ISO 14001 in the automotive sector back in 1997. The standard ISO 14001 is quite different in a factory compared to a fleet of power stations, so I had to do a lot of studying in my own time. Now, I’m constantly getting my competencies topped up. I do CPD quite religiously now; I record it all. I do CPD for engineering, safety and the environment. Much of it is reading news reports and legislation updates, but also going on training courses and seminars. There’s plenty of in-house learning too,” said John.

Being registered with the engineering council at CEng and the Society for the Environment at CEnv level has enabled John to work across several departments, providing help and guidance wherever it is needed.

“It’s almost ten years ago now since we created an Integrated Management System (IMS), which tells you to do things on an integrated basis, and because I am CEng, CMIOSH and CEnv, it allows me to oversee the system as a whole,” he added.

Environmental legislation

Unsurprisingly, the energy sector is heavy with legislation, including many laws and regulations aimed at protecting the environment. But, John says, although it is a challenge to remain well-versed in the current and impending laws, it is a necessary requirement.

“The key driver for us was the large combustion plant directive, which was superseded by the industrial emissions directive. There is the green-house gas legislation as well. Environmental permitting regulations are very important, too - they need these simply to gain a licence to generate power.

“E.ON has turned into more of a solutions business, where we provide decentralised solutions and services such as large scale heat and power, ground source heat pumps, biomass CHPs and district heating; it’s a whole different provision that we’re giving to customers now. There are only three sites that we solely feed directly to the National Grid now, which used to be the majority of our work ten years ago,” he said.

Certification

“We’re an asset-based business. We’re certificated to ISO 55001, which is asset management, but also ISO 14001, environmental management. Because we are now on this new management standard, the structure is very much the same, but the standard is now focused on risk and opportunity. We will soon be changing our certification for health and safety management from OHSAS 18001 to ISO 45001, which will enable us to be even more integrated.

“It’s a lot to take on, but we’ve now transitioned to the newest version of ISO 14001, and I’m helping a sister company do the same too, as well as transitioning to the new version of ISO 9001 for quality management. We didn’t have to do much more to comply, because what we had been doing was nearly enough,” added John.

E.ON split its large fossil fuel assets into a separate company called Uniper, a German energy company based in Dusseldorf, Germany, in January 2016. This restructuring meant many of the processes previously in place had to be modified to meet the demands of smaller entities.

“We had to make ourselves fit for purpose, because our previous set-up was once a fleet of 28 power stations (up to 2000MW). We’ve created two separate companies now; E.ON has spun off its conventional power stations into another company called Uniper. Now the biggest power station we have is 130MW electrical plus 400MW thermal. The IMS and our EMS needs to be smaller to help those power stations comply, because they don’t have the resources, and economically the energy industry is so competitive that we have to be lean with what we do. Because I learned my environmental trade in the motor industry - as an automotive engineer - I know all about lean, so that’s the journey we’re on now. Much of our processes at E.ON have had various stages taken out – having streamlined processes that don’t over burden the users is hugely beneficial,” John added.

World Environment Day

World Environment Day, which takes place on June 5, is an event designed to raise awareness of what can be done to protect our environment – as individuals or collectively – and what action can be taken at a local, national or global level. Plastic pollution is the theme of the event this year.

“We’ve already started our single-use plastics initiative – polystyrene boxes, tea cups, salad bowls, sandwich boxes, cutlery - they’re already been changed to recyclable, plant-based materials, so we’re moving it forward very quickly. Also, we’ve been able to reduce our landfill to zero, which has been a long-term target; it has been very difficult to do. So, we either recover it for energy or recycle it for other purposes.”

The group has some big emissions proposals, too; it is targeting a 30% reduction of CO2 emissions (based on 2016 values) by 2030 and a 50% reduction of CO2 intensity per customer by 2030. A further commitment to be carbon-neutral by 2050 is also a target.

“We are already well under way to achieve this – partly due to our Uniper operation owning the largest emitters. We have so much more than a conventional operation now; it means we are better placed to meet these targets. Many of our competitors that are still operating large conventional generation will have more difficulties in meeting these targets. Because we’ve got the new industrial emissions directive, and the new standards/BAT (best available techniques), the guidelines that the Environmental Agency are making us follow (Environmental Permitting Regulations) means that over time the emission limits will reduce anyway. It will mean that older, less-efficient generation will have to be phased out. It just won’t be cost effective to retrofit everything up to the same efficiency levels,” concluded John.

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