What does an Energy Consultant do?
Energy consulting is a service that works on behalf of clients to identify and secure the best deals on gas, electricity, and other forms of energy production. While the role of an energy consultant has traditionally been identified as a service for businesses, more consultants are now taking on residential customers as well. In both scenarios, there are a few core responsibilities that define the role of an energy consultant.
The typical energy consultant is primarily concerned with helping a customer understand the various energy options that are available, identify the options that will provide the type and volume of energy required, and then help the client secure that energy at the most cost-effective price possible. This often means spending some time with the customer to assess his or her needs, then research energy options, and finally present the recommended options to the client.
As part of the initial energy assessment, the energy consultant will normally take a long look at the way the customer uses various energy sources. This can sometimes involve the introduction of new technology to the client that would allow the operation to make use of more than one energy source. For example, the consultant may find that a given client could benefit from a hybrid electrical system that utilized not only power secured from a utility power grid, but also from a bank of energy captured and stored by a solar energy system. With a little luck, the consultant will not only identify strategies to aid in energy conservation, but also discover ways to cut the energy costs currently incurred by the customer.
However, the role of an energy consultant goes beyond simply researching possible solutions and providing the data to a client. Many consultants of this type also function as energy brokers. In this capacity, the consultant engages the energy vendor in negotiations to secure the best unit price possible for the customer. Depending on the amount of authority granted to the consultant, it might be possible to close the deal with the vendor immediately, or introduce the customer and vendor at the final round of negotiations, pending the establishment of a mutually agreeable service contract.
It is not unusual for the energy consultant to oversee the installation of any new equipment that is involved with the implementation of the new energy services. This makes it possible to guarantee the installation is done in accordance with the contract reached between the vendor and the consultant’s customer, and that adequate training and orientation is provided to those who will actively manage the energy source at the client's end.
I would think that renewable energy consulting would be in high demand in the future. In my opinion, the energy market will become much more specialized than it is now. Not all renewable technologies are appropriate for all regions. Fossil fuels will also play a smaller role than it does currently. This will make energy security an important part of business strategy in the future.
@GiraffeEars- A number of great resources exists for learning how to become an energy consultant, but most important will be education and experience. There is no prescribed curriculum for an energy consulting so you will need to research the field and find where your skill set will be most competitive.
There are generally two main aspects of energy consulting so you should have a background in either resource planning technology and engineering. Ideally, it would be good for you to have both. I would recommend taking courses on the basic sciences (i.e., physics, geology, and chemistry), mathematics, energy basics, energy conservation, energy efficiency, and communication. Some sort of business training will also be very helpful, especially if you are trying to start your own consulting firm.
Besides education, you should try to find a job at an energy consulting firm. This will give you real world consulting experience. If or when you venture off on your own, it might be a good idea to offer some work pro bono (to an NPO or similar) to build references and a network base.
Great article! This sounds like such a cool job. With the way that energy costs have become so insecure, an energy consultant could be the equivalent of a stockbroker in the 1980s. How would someone break into the energy consultancy business? Do you need engineering experience, business experience, or both? I am curious to learn more.
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