BT energy chief: Data scientists are the future of energy management

BT energy & environment head, Scott Balloch
BT energy & environment head, Scott Balloch

BT is looking to hire data scientists in a bid to unlock greater energy efficiency throughout its operations.

Head of energy and environment, Scott Balloch, told delegates at XEnergy in London that the firm had already saved more than £200m a year through energy efficiency investment. Now it seeks further gains and Balloch believes a new breed of energy manager will be required to deliver them.

While there is “still a role” for mechanical engineers and traditional disciplines, Balloch said he sought an “evolution in the types of skill-set that we need from energy managers”. That is, a “much more data-centric approach”.

Hiring data scientists and training them in the fundamentals of energy management, he said, may pay greater dividend than vice versa, “because they have the ability to think about things in a different way and identify sources of efficiency that may not be obvious”.

While attracting such skills is a “critical issue” for energy management, equally important is convincing boards to view energy as a strategic issue, according to Balloch. “I don’t think enough firms do that,” he said. But doing so can unlock significant savings in both the short- and long-term.

“We have taken about £220m of annualised cost out of the business as a result of energy efficiency and the opportunity is there for lots of other firms to do the same,” said Balloch.  “All [our energy efficiency] investments had a two year payback or better.”

BT, said Balloch, consumed about 1% of the UK’s total electricity, “so we have to pay close attention to it”. He added that rising non-commodity costs rather than wholesale prices “keep me awake at night”.

While sustainability benefits as a result of energy efficiency improvements are welcome, Balloch said he “did not get into this to save the planet. Energy is a key commercial risk for businesses.”

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