What is an Energy Consultant?

In many companies the position "Energy Manager" does not exist, and where it does the duties and qualifications vary greatly. At Independent Energy Consultants of Aurora, Ohio, we offer the following observations of how you would benefit by retaining an energy consultant and what characteristics to look for.

  • Engaging an Energy Consultant allows you to retain a professional without putting him/her on your payroll
  • There is no need for training
  • He/she is monitoring the markets on a full-time basis
  • The job is not being done internally, or is a part-time responsibility for someone
  • Unlike employees, it is easy to link an Energy Consultant's compensation to your success.

With the position of Energy Manager absent in most organizations, many people do not understand the value of retaining an experienced Energy Consultant.  In addition to avoiding "soft-costs" and needless man-hours, an Energy Consultant can achieve more savings on energy bill contracts than a company's internal efforts.  Read our newsletter, "The High Cost of Going It Alone", to see what kind of impact an experienced consultant can have on your bottom line.

As with any professional field, education is vitally important and the learning process never ends. Most, but not all Energy Consultants, come from engineering disciplines and have the management experience needed to make and implement wise decisions. While education is essential, a good energy consultant will also possess the experience needed to apply that theory in real world applications. Ideally, look for someone who can identify problems in the boiler room and explain solutions in the boardroom.

The Public Service Commissions/Public Utilities Commissions in some states provide a certification process for marketers, brokers, and aggregators of natural gas and electric. If your Energy Consultant is certified or licensed by state regulators, you can rest assured that he or she has the managerial, technical and financial wherewithal to provide energy consulting and energy procurement services. Your Energy Consultant would also benefit from a relationship with industry groups such as the Association of Energy Engineers and access to federal programs such as Energy Star.

After retaining an Energy Consultant, his/her review process should begin with an analysis of no-cost and low-cost energy alternatives. Usually that starts by looking at your energy supply arrangements and seeking lower-cost contracts in deregulated markets. Even when energy savings may not be available (compared to your local utility rates), you should still consider beneficial terms and conditions not available from regulated utilities. A good Energy Consultant knows where the energy markets have been trading and where they are likely to go. A good understanding of market fundamentals and technical analysis will help with the latter. Armed with this information, your energy data, and a good understanding of contracts, your Energy Consultant will develop and administer the Request for Proposal (RFP) process. The RFP should seek various price options and terms that are appropriate for the prevailing market conditions and are consistent with your company's risk tolerance.

Once you know you have taken advantage of your supply opportunities, it is time to make sure you are monitoring your energy costs and consumption. Like any process, effective management requires that you capture, trend, budget and forecast your utilities. If you are not capturing your utility data and converting it into decision-quality information, it is most likely managing you. Utility tariffs are used to determine your billing amount and these tariffs are complex and change frequently. A good Energy Consultant will know how to find, understand, and explain your utility company's tariffs. Often a commercial or industrial customer is eligible to receive service under several rate schedules. An Energy Consultant should be able to prove to you which rate schedule provides the least cost to you. Because the tariffs are complex, it is not uncommon for billing mistakes to occur. A competent Energy Consultant will be able to identify errors through a systematic audit process.

Now that you have examined your supply contracts and gotten a handle on your cost and usage, it is time to move on to ways in which you could reduce your consumption. A multi-faceted consultant can help here, because energy conservation measures come in many mechanical and electrical systems. A good Energy Consultant will be comfortable working with an electrical diagram, steam table, or psychometric chart. You will want someone who can help you identify and save on energy use in the major systems in a typical commercial or industrial facility. Frequently that involves an analysis of lighting, compressed air, HVAC, steam, electrical systems, and the building envelope itself. After identifying cost-saving projects, an Energy Consultant should be able to perform a life-cycle analysis that considers up-front capital costs, maintenance costs, tax implications, energy savings, and future salvage value. As part of the financial analysis, your Energy Consultant should point out opportunities to obtain low-cost loans, grants and financing alternatives.

The energy field is broad in scope, complex and constantly on the move. When engaging an Energy Consultant, you want someone who appreciates that fact and is always looking to stay abreast of the latest changes. Those changes may be in the form of new technology, regulations, tax laws or market opportunities. You also want someone who knows when and where to look for additional support, if needed. Just like your consultant needs to know his/her limitations, they also need to understand the client's limitations. This is particularly important when it comes to the transfer of technologies. A good Energy Consultant will take the time to get a feel for the client's maintenance staff capabilities. With many companies continuing to downsize, maintenance has become an easy target for cuts. Therefore, the latest technology may not be a good fit for companies lacking the staff or training budget needed to maintain high-tech energy management systems.

Energy costs continue to rise, and deregulation is shifting risks away from suppliers and onto end-users. Contact Independent Energy Consultants to discuss how we can help you turn these challenges into opportunities.

 

Testimonials
  • "The City of Munroe Falls has benefitted from its long and close relationship with Independent Energy Consultants (IEC).  Their knowledge and recommendations have saved the residents and small businesses of Munroe Falls millions of dollars through our Governmental Aggregation Programs.  The employees at IEC are very proactive in relieving me and my staff of  the administrative burdens of keeping our programs in compliance with the Ohio Public Utilities Commission.

    They have also been an invaluable resource in resolving any issues that have come up, whether they are questions from residents or problems with a supplier. IEC continues to find our residents low rates for their electricity and natural gas and I value them as a trusted partner. In the past we have had other consultants but they could not compare with the quality service we receive from IEC."
    Frank Larson,
    Mayor, City of Munroe Falls
  • "Mr. Burns brings 22 years of experience and expertise in the fields of natural gas and electricity to governmental aggregation programs. His knowledge and experience, coupled with his awareness of and sensitivity to residential energy customers' preferences, makes it easy for a City to present a well-organized and cost-beneficial aggregation program to City residents.

    Mr. Burns is always ready to personally assist the individual resident in joining or leaving an aggregate group. He is always willing to explain the program to those residents that may have questions. He understands that governmental energy aggregates are made of people, not numbers.

    Mr. Burns watches the market trends and advises a governmental aggregator when to strike a price for an energy program. He tracks activity before the Public Utilities Commission and advises of issues that will impact municipalities so that we may address those issues. His advice and attention to our municipality has made my job much easier, and has resulted in professionally-run aggregate programs."
    Phyllis Vento de Crespo
    Former Assistant Director of Law
    City of Euclid, OH
  • "Thanks for all your hard work and perseverance. This program has been a huge positive in otherwise gloomy economic times."
    Township Administrator
  • "Most people turn to a quality atlas or a reputable consumer magazine when they need help planning a trip through unfamiliar territory or making an important purchase. I turned to Mark Burns, the founder of Independent Energy Consultants.

    Mark calmly, politely and successfully guided our city through every phase of our opt-in and opt-out natural gas aggregation programs. He also helped taxpayers, our city, and our council of local governments achieve significant savings on residential, small business and public building heating bills.

    Mark Burns is the consummate professional, knowledgeable, certified, neophyte-friendly, always available to answer questions, and always planning ahead. I give him thumbs up, way up."
    Joe Martuccio
    Law Director, City of Canton
  • "Thanks for the good job you are doing. I know the residents of the township appreciate the savings particularly in these difficult economic times."
    Township Trustee
  • "It has been my pleasure to work with Mark Burns in developing Green's electric and gas aggregation programs. Green was one of the first municipalities to initiate an aggregation program, and Mr. Burns' knowledge and drive were instrumental in getting this accomplished in a timely and cost efficient manner.

    The city of Green has saved its residents literally millions of dollars in reduced costs for both power and natural gas. Given Mr. Burns' extensive knowledge and customer responsiveness, I would recommend him unconditionally to coordinate any utility based study."
    Dan Croghan
    Former Mayor
    City of Green, OH
  • "Mark,  I will send this out today - as is.  Thank you for your hard work, this program has been wonderful."
    Township Administrator
  • " Silver Lake has experienced no serious problems with IEC, or our chosen aggregator.  On occasion, an issue has arisen; mainly concerning resident questions about the program, or an issue dealing with how the chosen energy company has corresponded with our residents.  All that was needed to address and remedy such situations was handled in a quick and timely fashion after just one call to Mr. Burns.  His attention to our concerns has always been as professional and as satisfactory as is his advice on the aggregation procedure; namely outstanding.  While I know IEC has many clients, the care and advice we get from IEC often makes us feel that we are its only and its primary client."
    Bernie Hovey,
    Mayor, Village of Silver Lake