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Interview: Steve Schofield, Chief Executive, BPMA

Never mind Brexit - the UK government needs to step up in its enforcement of current directives, says Steve Schofield, Chief Executive of the British Pump Manufacturers Association

Steve Schofield leads the British Pump Manufacturers Association (BPMA)Steve Schofield leads the British Pump Manufacturers Association (BPMA)

-Interview by James Brockett

Despite its name, the British Pump Manufacturers Association (BPMA) and the pump manufacturers it represents have interests far beyond these shores, with the international trade of pumps and European regulation being among its major concerns. So it’s no surprise that Steve Schofield, the BPMA’s director and chief executive, has been working overtime since the Brexit referendum result to work out what it means for pump companies.

A survey of the BPMA’s members in the aftermath of the vote revealed that pump manufacturers’ customer base is split remarkably equally between the three geographical divisions of the UK, Europe and the Rest of the World. While it is not yet clear what trade barriers might be erected between the UK and its continental neighbours, it’s apparent that those companies with cross-border operations will have important decisions to make about the location of their manufacturing bases in the future.

However, one issue that Schofield feels is a priority is that the British Standards Institute (BSI) retains its membership of CEN - the European standards body – ensuring that the standards applied to equipment such as pumps remains consistent. This would appear a reasonable aim since countries such as Switzerland and Norway are CEN members despite not being part of the EU.

“The head of BSI has said that he hopes it will stay within CEN, but he couldn’t 100% guarantee it,” says Schofield. “That’s because although BSI is not linked with the UK government, some other governments around Europe are very much linked with their standards bodies, and one of them might want BSI and the UK to leave CEN for political reasons. That’s a concern for us.

“At the BPMA we are the custodians of pump standards in the UK, and one thing we are definite on is that we need to stay within CEN, to keep consistent standards moving forwards.

“Beyond that, the UK government has got 63,000 pieces of European-based legislation to look at after we’ve left, which it’s got to decide if it’s going to keep, amend or remove. There are 19 European directives that affect our members, so obviously we are most concerned about whether there are going to be any changes to them.”

However, in the case of one of the directives that has proved problematic in recent years - the Energy Related Products (ERP) Directive - it is not so much the content of the legislation that has displeased manufacturers but the UK government’s enforcement of it. Pump companies have gone to great lengths to assess, improve and correctly label the energy efficiency of their products, but have found that imported pumps which make inaccurate claims or do not meet the regulations are slipping through the net and reaching the UK market.

Schofield has been arguing for some years that the UK government’s surveillance of its market is poor compared to other European countries, which is all the more worrying because the pumps which have been so far been subject to the rules have been the small, relatively simple circulator pumps, with the more complicated pump and drive sets (up to 400 kW) set to come within the scope of the directive by 2019/20.

“More and more products are being brought within the legislation, and if they [the government] cannot cope with a circulator, then how on earth are they going to be able to cope with the policing of these other products?” asks Schofield. “We are suffering with poor market surveillance in the UK in a big big way. Is it costing jobs? Yes. Is it costing business? Yes. So it’s very serious for us - we feel that we are doing our bit, but the frustration we feel is that we do not think the UK government is doing its bit, to help our industry.”

Another piece of legislation on which the BPMA has had robust discussions with the UK authorities has been the WEEE2 (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) Directive, which governs the disposal and recycling of large appliances and equipment. A BPMA positioning paper on which pumps need to be subject to compulsory recycling under the directive was recently rejected by Defra and the Environment Agency, but the government is yet to provide an alternative interpretation of the rules, leaving manufacturers in limbo on the issue.

Away from these current legislative battles, the BPMA is also helping to improve energy efficiency among UK pump users through its certified pump system auditor training, which allows the individuals trained to undertake ESOS-compliant energy audits. Schofield says there has been a strong take-up from the water industry and praised the utilities’ energy saving efforts, but said that not enough industrial pump users are taking the energy efficiency of their pumps seriously.

“ESOS (the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme) means that energy audits have got to be carried out, but it’s not compulsory to carry out any energy savings on the back of it. So for many, if they get a tick in the box and they’ve complied with the directive, they are happy.”

Schofield cites one well-known manufacturer where testing revealed they could save £40,000 a year in energy costs by changing a single pump that was oversized. The company even had a suitable replacement already in its stores - yet five years after the recommendation was made, the oversized pump was still being used. The story illustrates how many pump users see their responsibility simply as keeping a process going rather than making financial savings in that process – and why he believes that the legislation should go further and make some action following ESOS audits compulsory.

“The potential energy savings on pumps, as well as compressors and fans, are huge. But there are too many end users out there who just do not see it… as long as the liquid is moving from A to B the customer just doesn’t care,” concludes Schofield.

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