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Member profile: Dr Michael Milner MEI Chartered Energy Manager

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When did you first become interested in energy?

Living in a shared house as an undergraduate student, I became acutely aware of the effect of the energy demands and costs associated with heating an old, leaky terraced house. I spent £7 on an insulating jacket for the hot water tank, which the landlord kindly refused to pay for, so the insulation left with me when I vacated the property!

Subsequently, as a postgraduate biotechnology student, process engineering and process design required a thorough understanding of energy flows, demands and costs – basic skills and principles which have remained with me throughout my subsequent career.

Tell us a little about your current job

At District Eating I am technical lead on projects intended to recover heat and carbon dioxide, which is currently wasted for use in protected horticulture. This involves assessing the technical, economic and environmental opportunities for heat and CO2 recovery from specific commercial and industrial sites for commercial protected horticulture. This includes heat recovery from large industrial energy consumers, district heating networks, cogeneration sites, anaerobic digestion and geothermal sources.

The most enjoyable aspects of my current role are working with people and systems to challenge current perceptions of protected horticulture in the UK and make them a reality. Day to day my role is highly varied - which is the way I like it! Typically, a working day involves a combination of data analysis, reporting, communicating with existing and potential clients, detailed technical discussions with equipment designers and vendors, report writing, liaison with planning and regulatory authorities, and more.

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

I think energy and environmental management found me! I have always had a keen interest in taking “things” (products, systems and processes) apart and seeing if and how they can be practically put back together in a way that is more efficient and uses resources more wisely.

After leaving academia in the early 2000’s I joined a small start-up company (of two) working with SMEs to encourage them to be more resource efficient. Following this, I moved to Scotland and joined another small resource efficiency consultancy working with companies across the East of Scotland to deliver practical and cost-effective energy and resource management projects with a wide variety of businesses in the food and drink, engineering, construction and waste management sectors.

I have worked and continue to work with many historic and listed buildings that are privately owned/occupied or held in trust to identify, appraise and assist the development of practical energy management and renewable energy projects (e.g. biomass heat network at a rural estate). This presents multiple challenges but is all the more enjoyable for it!  In my opinion, reducing energy consumption in and carbon emissions from the many existing “hard to treat” buildings in the UK have long been overlooked as “too difficult” but is a necessary component of the UK’s response to the Climate Emergency.

I work with a broad range of clients; however, the greatest personal reward is working with companies who adopt a systematic, holistic, and strategic view of energy and carbon management that becomes embedded throughout their operations and external supply chains.

I was inspired to join District Eating by an ongoing awareness from previous work of the availability of significant quantities of available heat and carbon dioxide which are currently unused, representing an economic and environmental loss. Encouraging the development of more local protected horticulture in the UK using heat will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the production and importation of fruit and vegetables from overseas whilst shortening supply chains and increasing supply chain resilience.

How has being a Chartered Energy Manager benefitted you in your career?

Attaining the status of Chartered Energy Manager has provided external verification of the standards, ethics and experience I have gained throughout my career and being able to demonstrate this to colleagues, peers, and clients. The process of application required me to complete a detailed self-appraisal of my career achievements and responsibilities. This was an extremely valuable opportunity to identify areas for change and improvement whilst recognising the progress I had made throughout my career in energy management.

What one piece of advice would you give to an aspiring Chartered Energy Manager?

Have an open, inquisitive mind – find ways to work within the system, for example through partners and champions rather than constantly battling against it. Be persistent and do not be afraid to challenge existing behaviours, working practices and systems. Keep informed.

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

In my spare time, I play alto and baritone saxophone in a jazz/funk quartet, grow fruit and vegetables for the family on 250m2 allotment garden on a wind blasted hill in Scotland, and brew beer, lager and cider of various types using an energy efficient (of course!) brewing rig. I also enjoy baking, reading, and spending time with my family.

And finally… What does your Chartered Energy Manager accreditation truly mean to you?

I am pleased to have achieved an externally recognised level of energy management awareness and competence by challenging perceptions, behaviours and “established” practices. However, this is part of an ongoing process and I continue to learn how to do “things better” and differently with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and hopefully making a small contribution to countering the threat of climate change.

Interested in applying for Chartered Energy Manager? For more information on how to apply, please click here

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