What is an Energy Consultant?

An Experienced Energy Consultant can achieve more savings on energy bill contracts than a company's internal efforts. In addition, an Energy Consultant knows how to avoid soft-costs and needless man-hours.

ESSENTIAL READ: "The High Cost of Going It Alone" dives into the impact an experienced consultant can have on your bottom line.

A majority of Energy Consultants come from engineering disciplines and own the management experience necessary to make and implement wise decisions. The learning process never ends and a solid energy consultant possesses the experience needed to apply theory to real-world applications. The ideal candidate as your Energy Consultant is someone who can identify problems in the boiler room and explain solutions in the boardroom.

The Public Service Commission/Public Utilities Commission certifies marketers, brokers, and aggregators of natural gas and electric in some states. If your Energy Consultant is certified or licensed by your state regulators, you can rest assured he/she has the managerial, technical and financial acumen to provide energy consulting and energy procurement services.

Additionally, active participation in industry networks such as the Association of Energy Engineers and access to federal programs such as Energy Star provide Energy Consultants with data and resources to factor into their analysis.

An Energy Consultant begins his/her review with an analysis of no-cost and low-cost energy alternatives. Compare your current energy source to lower-cost options while giving consideration to the 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 in the future. Your Consultant’s understanding of market fundamentals, technical analysis, your energy data, and knowledge of contracts are essential to develop and administer the Request for Proposal (RFP). The objective: To identify options in price and terms suited to the prevailing market conditions and aligned with your company's risk tolerance.

Once you’ve identified an attractive opportunity, it’s time to assess your energy costs and consumption. Effective oversight requires capturing data, identifying trends, followed by budgeting and forecasting your utilities. Don’t let your utility manage you. Instead, gather the data and convert it into decision-quality information. Complex and constantly changing utility tariffs determine your billing amount. The right Energy Consultant knows how to find, understand, and explain those tariffs. Often a commercial or industrial customer is eligible to receive service under several rate schedules. Your Consultant should be able to demonstrate to you which rate schedule is your best option at the least cost. As well, it’s not uncommon for utilities to make billing errors. A competent Energy Consultant can identify errors through a systematic audit process.

After examining your supply contracts and get a handle on your cost and usage, it is time to tackle your consumption. Energy conservation can be achieved by modifying many mechanical and electrical systems. A good Energy Consultant is comfortable working with an electrical diagram, steam table, or psychrometric chart to identify and save on energy use in the major systems. In a commercial or industrial facility, that can involve analysis of lighting, compressed air, HVAC, steam, electrical systems, and the building envelope itself. After identifying cost-saving areas, a Consultant should be able to perform a life-cycle analysis that considers upfront capital costs, maintenance costs, tax implications, energy savings, and future salvage value. As part of the financial analysis, your 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 is abreast of the latest changes in new technology, regulations, tax laws and market opportunities. You 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 understand the client's maintenance staff capabilities. Maintenance has become an easy target for cuts in a downsizing culture. Inserting the latest technology into operations, in that case, 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.

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