A tough and rapidly expanding industry, energy consulting enables you to help others while having a good impact on the world. In this article, we define what an energy consultant is specifically, go over some of the main duties related to this position, go into detail about how to become an energy consultant, examine the typical salary, and list the skills required to develop a successful career as an energy consultant.
An energy consultant helps businesses or homeowners to develop a plan for reducing energy consumption in their buildings. Though the title is a consultant, you may also be a salesperson. Depending on your employer, your responsibilities may revolve around pitching specific products and brands designed to reduce consumption.
Regardless of your role, your duties begin with getting a baseline on the current usage, known as an energy audit. You detect and identify trouble spots and areas for improvement, often working with a team of specialists to recommend specific changes to build a customized solution. Your work will include a presentation of these recommendations along with answering any concerns. Again depending on your employer, this presentation may be sales-focused or strategy focused.
An energy consultant’s daily tasks can vary depending on their specialty, employer, client and project they’re working on. Some of an energy consultant’s primary responsibilities include:
- Determining a client’s energy consumption by conducting building assessments
- Identifying opportunities for the client to reduce their energy consumption
- Comparing the historical and current usage rates of a client
- Creating easy-to-understand energy usage audit reports for the client
- Evaluating trends and forecasting reports
- Researching energy-saving systems that could benefit the client
- Generating recommendations that address the implementation and cost of a system
- Addressing questions about the recommendations
- Obtaining proposals from contractors and renewable energy vendors
- Overseeing the implementation of new energy systems
- Ensuring the success of the new systems by tracking consumption, budgets and energy
- Updating the client’s relevant procedures and policies
- Keeping up-to-date on the latest federal grants, government regulations and emerging technologies
- Helping organizations obtain green certifications
Here are seven things you should know about working as an energy consultant, advising clients on how to utilize their energy more ethically and efficiently.
1. You need to be a talented influencer
Energy consultants monitor the energy consumption of an organization. Based on your findings and research, you’ll be expected to advise managers on how to improve energy efficiency and sustainability, reduce utility bills and meet environmental regulations, as well as develop strategies to put your ideas into practice.
This means you’ll need to develop a range of skills. The job involves gathering and analyzing data using technical modeling software, and keeping accurate records, so you’ll need to be highly numerate. Energy consultants often come from an engineering background, so consider the role of an energy engineer and the overlap with the engineering and manufacturing sector.
You must also be a talented writer, able to compile detailed reports outlining your recommendations, as well as willing to present to an audience.
It’s essential that you’re able to use the information you’ve collected to create arguments that will convince colleagues or clients to make changes, potentially at a cost to the business. If you’re confident you can influence others and justify your conclusions, then this may be the job for you.
2. You can be employed or go freelance
There are three main ways you can build a career as an energy consultant. One is to be employed directly by a large organization in the public or private sector as an energy manager. You’ll be tasked with developing a long-term energy policy that improves efficiency and cuts costs.
Alternatively, you could work for a consultancy firm as an energy specialist. You’ll be assigned to several clients at a time, providing each one with reports and advice on how they can better manage their energy usage. For this, you’ll need to be adept at juggling several projects at once.
It’s also possible to work on a freelance basis. You’ll usually need lots of experience and have developed a strong reputation in the field before starting out on your own, as you’ll have to attract clients by yourself.
3. It’s about ‘going green’ as well as cutting costs
You may assume that the primary goal of a large organization (whether you’re employed by them, or they’re a client) will always be to reduce their financial costs, even at the expense of environmental concerns.
However, this isn’t necessarily the case. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is taking a more prominent role in business decision-making, and a smaller carbon footprint is one way to improve brand image. In fact, energy consultants are often brought in to advise companies on how they can make their energy consumption greener.
You might, for example, be asked to report on how the business can use less energy, take advantage of renewable energy sources, or achieve a particular ‘green’ accreditation. Therefore, energy consulting can be the ideal choice if you’re interested in environmental issues. Explore the environment sector for other career ideas.
4. A relevant degree will help you get started
Energy consultants need to have knowledge of the industry and an interest in the challenges the sector faces. The best way to demonstrate this is by studying for an undergraduate degree in a related subject. For many energy consultant jobs, this is a minimum entry requirement.
For example, your degree could be in:
- energy engineering
- energy management
- environmental management
- renewable energy
- sustainable development.
Other relevant courses include more general engineering degrees, architecture and surveying – read more by exploring the property and construction sector.
If your first degree is in an unrelated subject, you may want to consider postgraduate study. For instance, the MSc Energy Management at Robert Gordon University (RGU) is accredited by the Energy Institute (EI) and is open to graduates with a 2:2 or above in any discipline. The Master from RGU also provides access to an optional 48-week work placement. As with all graduate jobs, gaining relevant work experience will help you to get your foot in the door.
5. You must be a good communicator
Some elements of an energy consultant’s job can be relatively solitary. You’ll spend a lot of time working with data, carrying out research and putting together reports. However, a vital part of the role is communicating your findings and offering advice to your employer or client.
This includes being able to write your reports in a clear and concise way that delivers complex information in a way that’s understandable for non-experts. It also means delivering presentations of your findings and being able to respond to tough questioning – for example, if you’re proposing a solution that will cost money. To prepare for this aspect of the role, practice delivering presentations while still at university.
Even before you reach this stage, when you’re doing research you’ll need to be comfortable with asking colleagues (or employees of your client) about current policies to build a full picture of the company’s existing energy consumption.
6. Keeping up to date with legislation is essential
Regulations around energy, harmful emissions, and environmental policy are constantly changing, particularly as governments attempt to respond to warnings about the impact of climate change. It’s no good producing a report for a client if your suggestions don’t comply with the latest legislation.
To become a trusted expert in the field, you need to keep your knowledge up to date. A key part of your job will be to respond to rule changes and advise your employer or client as to what action they need to take, if any, in the most cost-effective way. You need to have a strong eye for detail, be able to understand complex documents to apply the information to your own work, and communicate your findings to non-experts.
7. Not all energy consultant roles are the same
When you’re scanning adverts for energy consultancy roles, you’ll notice that the job title is used to mean different things by employers. Always read vacancies carefully to ensure the role is right for you.
Be aware that at the non-graduate entry-level, an energy consultant can often refer to a junior sales position. Paid between £16,000 and £22,000, you’ll spend your time on the phone, cold calling businesses to try to sell them your company’s services (such as brokering cheaper deals on utility bills).
For this, you don’t need previous knowledge of the energy industry and some telesales experience is usually the only qualification required. However, this isn’t typically a stepping stone to the graduate energy consultant role, for which you’ll need a degree in a relevant subject. According to Reed, the average salary of an energy consultant in the UK is £40,138.
How to Become an Energy Consultant
Though the steps you should take when starting an energy consulting career can vary depending on the employer, here is a look at the most common path:
1. Earn your high school diploma or GED
A high school diploma, or the global equivalent, is typically the minimum requirement to become an energy consultant.
2. Pursue a bachelor’s degree
Though there are some employers that only require an associate’s degree, a majority of organizations are looking for applicants with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Many begin their energy consulting career by studying renewable energy management, physics or engineering.
3. Complete a certification program
Whether you only have a high school diploma or you’ve graduated with a bachelor’s degree, a certification can be an impressive addition to your energy consulting resume. There are a number of certifications for energy professions, including the:
- Renewable Energy Professional (REP) certification: The Association of Energy Engineers
- (AEE) offers the REP. This certification proves your experience and expertise when it comes to creating sustainable, low-carbon goals, evaluating renewable energy projects and implementing alternative and renewable energy technologies.
- LEED Green Associate certification: You can earn the LEED Green Associate credential from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). This certification recognizes your skills in sustainable operations, design and construction.
Those who specialize in specific aspects of this field, like in a certain type of energy, could also benefit from a certification in that area. For example, you could pursue a Building Energy Assessment Professional Certification from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). This program certifies your ability to analyze and audit commercial, industrial and residential buildings.
4. Consider a master’s degree
A master’s degree is rarely a required credential for an energy consultant, but earning one can increase your earning potential, allow you to advance your career and make you a more marketable candidate. This is also a great option if you hope to pursue a teaching career in this field.
Energy consulting requires several hard and soft skills, such as:
- Communication skills: Because energy consultants work with individuals from virtually every industry, most with a limited understanding of the renewable energy industry, you need a wide range of communication skills. For example, energy consultants present solutions to their clients and negotiate with vendors. Aside from needing to communicate with a wide range of people, you must be able to create reports that simplify and clearly address the results of your analysis.
- Project management: In this role, you must be able to lead multiple parties and coordinate their efforts. This ensures that you can complete your primary goal of developing and implementing new energy systems.
- Understanding of renewable energy: In order to be successful as an energy consultant, you need to have an intimate knowledge of the energy industry and relevant government regulations. You must also remain vigilant throughout your career so that you can remain current on the latest trends and technologies.
- Analysis skills: This career deals with large amounts of data, so it’s imperative that you have advanced analysis skills. As an energy consultant, you use a variety of data sources so that you can assess alternative energy technologies and identify trends or patterns. You also rely on database software to create audit reports for key stakeholders.
- Detail oriented: Energy consultants rely on their ability to identify key areas where their clients can improve their energy efficiency. You accomplish this by performing on-site assessments and analyzing data sets, both of which require attention to detail.
Energy consultants have a national average salary of $109,440 per year. Aside from their base salary, these professionals make an average commission of $26,400 per year.