Energy consulting is a fast-growing and challenging profession that allows you to help others while making a positive global impact. In this article, we explain what exactly an energy consultant is, explore some of the primary responsibilities associated with this role, detail the steps you should take to become an energy consultant, review the average salary and list the skills needed to build a successful career as an energy consultant.
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What is an energy consultant?
An energy consultant, sometimes referred to as a renewable energy consultant, is a relatively new position that helps their clients evaluate, understand and implement systems that reduce the organization's carbon footprint and overall energy use. As a result, clients can:
- Earn green certifications
- Increase energy efficiency
- Reduce energy costs
- Minimize their impact on the environment
These professionals can specialize in their field by working with commercial, industrial or residential clients. Energy consultants that advance in their career can work to become a senior energy modeler or an energy engineer.
What does an energy consultant do?
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
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 consultant salary
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.
Skills for an energy consultant
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.