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Member profile: Ian Byrne CEnv MEI

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"The CEnv accreditation shows that I am not just narrowly focused on energy, but can bring a wider appreciation of environmental issues to bear on problems that I will work with clients to solve."

When did you first become interested in environmental issues?

At secondary school, I realised that there could be “limits to growth” which was underlined by the effects of the oil crisis when the Government’s three-day week showed how dependent we were on one commodity.

Tell us a little about your current job

Currently, I work as a self-employed consultant working in energy and carbon management, that involves trying to explain ways of limiting the risks of climate change in straightforward language as well as offering practical, cost-effective solutions.

Although I’m currently a partner in a couple of Innovate UK-funded applied research projects, I do my best to focus on working with smaller organisations or not-for-profits along with dedicating time to pro-bono work. For example, I was Treasurer of the Society for the Environment (SocEnv) for 9 years and more recently, I was appointed to a similar voluntary role at the Institution of Environmental Sciences.

The most enjoyable work is often helping develop international standards as part of a diverse multi-national team. This included the time I led a team that brought together significant expertise around energy, GHG management and accounting to publish ISO 50047 on Energy Savings Calculations in Organizations.

What inspired you to pursue this career, and what path did you take to get there?

After studying Maths at university, I trained as a Chartered Accountant and, post-qualification, worked for a few years in the City of London in financial management roles at international banks. As soon as I was able to afford to, I left the City as I didn’t feel that its ethos matched mine, where I set up the finance and administration for a new charity promoting energy efficiency. I only expected to stay there for a few years, but I became passionately involved with the development of sustainable energy solutions – both efficiency and renewables – and ended up staying there for over 28 years!  

I think the greatest accomplishment was setting up the network of Energy Efficiency Advice Centres in partnership with the Energy Saving Trust from 1993 until the mid-2000s. This network gave regular householders and small businesses free and impartial advice on saving energy. Unfortunately, the network didn’t survive the change in political climate after 2010, but by then much of its work had been done in raising awareness among the general public of the need to use energy more wisely.

How has being a CEnv benefitted you in your career?

As an accountant with a clear enthusiasm for sustainable energy but no relevant qualifications, it was sometimes difficult to convince people that I wasn’t just a “gifted amateur” but was able to bring environmental rigour to my work as well. Gaining CEnv helped to add credibility for my mid-career swerve away from counting £ to counting kWh or tCO2e.

What one piece of advice would you give to an aspiring CEnv?

Don’t rush into making an application! Wait until you have developed a good body of knowledge and range of experience that’s not just narrowly focused but that also demonstrates some of the underlying environmental dilemmas. A lot of the time there isn’t a single simple solution; it may need careful consideration to find the one that has fewest drawbacks.

Away from work, what do you like to do in your spare time?

I like to travel, although I’m conscious of my carbon footprint.  So increasingly I try to avoid flying, and to add leisure time to necessary business travel – in 2017 I attended a meeting in Beijing, travelling out by train and sightseeing in Moscow on the way. 

I am also an avid orienteer, a ParkRunner (clocking my 100th run two weeks before lockdown) and cyclist – in the 18 months since I went freelance, I have only once driven to my office when I was transferring over lots of files. Somehow, I’m also attempting to fit in a part-time PhD into the history of twentieth century commercial cartography, with a focus on road maps issued by petrol and oil companies. And finally, I relax by listening to music – mainly classical or jazz.

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