An Interview with Eddie Kerr, Specialist Engineering and Energy Manager, South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust (SEHSCT)
Eddie sat down with a couple of our team members to answer their questions about his position within the Trust. Talking about the various challenges he has faced, strategies that have been a success and the future of sustainability, Eddie gives an insight into his role:
Q1) Could you give us a quick overview of your day to day role within the Trust?
I work within Estates Specialist Services as the Specialist Engineering and Energy Manager, alongside the Estates Operations, Projects, Contracts, Decon & Compliance Teams.
A major focus of my role surrounds the fiscal management of the Trusts utilities. Day-to-day, this management requires a very precise overview of expenditure. I use multiple software programmes to monitor our Building Management System (BMS) and fiscal meters. This helps us to understand and solve various issues such as why buildings may be overheating or costing more than similar sites. One of my main responsibilities involves reviewing costs which requires constant oversight. At one stage we had hundreds of separate bills coming in each month but now we have managed to condense it down to one group bill. Currently, our projected end of year is £8.4million. If our expenditure is then £9million, we would need to find £600,000 from other directorates which would incur a lot of additional pressure on other services. However, if we end on £8million having made savings, that allows £400,000 to be transferred to other directorates. That’s why the public sometimes hear good news stories about additional funding becoming available for new equipment for example. Estates specialist services works regularly with our other teams to deliver new builds and refurbishment projects. In addition, I’m also involved in elements of maintenance of our installed renewables and legal compliance (Borehole with NIEA, ROCs for PV and CRC). Overall, it’s an extremely varied and a genuinely interesting role.
Q2) Is there anything specific that has influenced you to work in the sector you are in?
My background is in Architecture and I have a Masters in Renewable Energy. In 2009 this role came up and having sat on the Environmental Committee in various practices and advised on green construction techniques, I felt it was a natural fit. The varied nature of the job and constantly evolving scope is why I have stayed over 10 years and continue to enjoy working with new renewable technologies as they mature or come to market. For instance Health Trusts were wary of using Light-emitting diode (LED) lighting initially due to cost and skin tone colouring but now LED is widely specified and used in our new builds, refurbishment projects and maintenance regimes. The socially conscious aspect to my role is an integral part of our governance and within healthcare, equally as important as reducing emissions. I wanted to be able to influence change and realised that through the scope of my job, I can have a positive social and environmental impact across a large area of the South East.
Q3) Do you have any advice for someone who is interested in getting into your line of work?
My background in Architecture has been vital for knowledge of infrastructure and design, but in terms of working within estates management, a base degree in building services is ideal and then a postgraduate specialism, be it in the renewable or environmental sector. After that, it’s just having the drive to maintain focus on annual targets and always preparing a year ahead for business cases and funding. Often, you are setting targets in some cases that are decades ahead. For instance, knowing that I have a projected carbon reduction graph until 2050 - I’m not going to be around to see the end of it, but I’m still committed to maintaining a cumulative target towards that focus of 2050.
Q4) Can you give us an example of any past challenges in your role?
About 5 – 6 years ago, our team initiated an Energy Awareness scheme where all the Trusts combined efforts (including the Fire, Rescue and Ambulance services). We set out our goals, who we wanted to bring on board (All major utilities and stakeholders) and what we hoped to achieve by the end of it. We operated this scheme for a week, highlighting various good news stories of renewables in practice, case studies on environmental social schemes, short email communications to all staff and established information desks for the public coming into our main hospital sites. The challenge was in preparation of this material and securing the means to reach out to as many people as possible, because in terms of our trust alone, we have over 10,000 staff, who provide services for over a quarter million people – so there was a tremendous opportunity. It was a very challenging month but one that in the end was very successful.
Q4b) Where do you think the future challenges lie for you in this role?
The immediate challenge in terms of specifics surrounds the completion of the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) this year and the consequential change of taxation to an increase in the Climate Change Levy (CCL). Policy wise this will influence us to secure CCL exemptions where we can and introduce more Combined Heat and Power units (CHP) subject to funding (CCL reduction through CHPQA). The difficulty here as ever, is funding, we must spend money to save money.
Also, the ROCs being closed for a lot of renewables is proving a massive barrier in terms of business cases. Our existing PV stock from 2014 installation is accruing money from ROCs trading but for us to introduce additional PV or wind, will prove difficult. It can be different for us as a Health Trust as you can be looking at carbon emission reductions or environmental emissions as more of a target and if our focus shifts more solely to this then 3-5 year paybacks may not be necessary.
Q5) Keeping with strategy, can you give us an example of any strategies that you have implemented during your time at the Trust?
I’m part of the ISO14001 management team, which is the Health Trusts main environmental management tool. It has been active now for about 20+ years (Only a few buildings at first) and is a strategy that I helped to roll out to now cover the entire Trust Estate. In terms of an actual strategy document, I have developed our carbon management and energy policy which is a document that is constantly evolving to reflect changes in regional policy focus and current legislation.
Q6) Looking forward to 2020, what do you think the biggest sustainability challenges are for the trust and do you think Brexit might influence them?
In terms of sustainability, I think Northern Ireland is doing extremely well in greening the grid. Recent reports were suggesting that our regional power requirements were being met with 40 – 48% wind, which is well above the UK average. However, I do think that this may have peaked with the age of our infrastructure. So, I do think there is a lot of network investment needed to continue the drive for sustainability. Brexit as we have been led to understand, upon consultation with our utility suppliers, is not going to impact us, hopefully!
Funding as always for sustainable projects will always prove difficult and we continue to source funding for renewables where we can.
Q7) We read up online how the Trust uses a tool called ‘social partnering’ to achieve your overall strategies. Could you give us an example of a partnership with a local organisation that has been successful or has helped you towards achieving your overall goals?
First and foremost, something that has been a tremendous success is the corporate social responsibility component of our regional energy supply strategy. We partnered with SSE Airtricity as our main electricity and gas supplier to provide added contract value above just unit cost. They have social sustainability clauses included in their supply contract whereby through their involvement with the SSE Arena, our Cared for Children’s Directorate were able to avail of the SSE corporate box for events and receive stadium tickets for shows. This allows families who are fostering, access to events and experiences they may not have had the opportunity to before. We also have a yearly ticket allocation for W5 which we pass out to our children’s homes. Airtricity has also supplied money to use for a student environmental bursary where we are able to provide funding or part funding for staff. The company has also provided x5 EV 22kw rapid charge points which we installed and electric vans for other Trusts, but these are only a few examples of what they have done. Something we have not availed of just yet, but we are in talks about - liaising with the Woodlands Trust for some tree planting, along with SSE volunteering days to help. It’s a partnership that has operated now for several years and has been very successful and beneficial, especially in allowing some of the fostered children to go to the Odyssey and different events. It’s something that has been well received and appreciated, something that all involved can be very proud of.
Q8) Is there a goal that the Trust has met that you are most proud of?
In short, I am proud of everything. However, going back to the SSE Airtricity partnership example; it’s a good news story where I can sit as an Energy manager largely focused on technical issues and infrastructure, but then also be able to provide assistance to the services looking after our cared for children. We will always endeavour to improve our societal impacts as much as our environmental.