Considering a career as an energy consultant? Here are seven things you need to know about this specialist role
1. You need to be a talented influencer
Energy consultants monitor the energy consumption of an organisation. 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, and develop strategies to put your ideas into practice.
This means you'll need a range of different skills. The job involves gathering and analysing data using technical modelling software, and keeping accurate records, so you'll need to be highly numerate. Energy consultants often come from an engineering background.
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 organisation 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 be freelance. 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. Discover more about becoming a freelancer.
3. It's about 'going green' as well as cutting costs
You may assume that the primary goal of a large organisation (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 background 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 management, energy engineering, sustainable development or environmental management. Other relevant courses include more general engineering degrees, architecture and surveying.
If your first degree is in an unrelated subject, you may want to consider postgraduate study. Search for postgraduate courses in energy management. As with all graduate jobs, relevant work experience will also 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, practise giving presentations at any opportunity 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 in order to build a full picture of the company's existing energy consumption.
6. Staying 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 consultant 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 non-graduate entry level, '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.