An energy efficiency assessor is an advisor who works with a business or an individual to help them reduce carbon emissions and make cost savings on their energy bills.
One of the largest operating costs for any businesses is energy purchasing i.e. the expense of buying gas, electricity, water, and more recently, paying taxes levied on the production of Co2 (carbon emissions). An energy consultant works with the client, liaising with internal departments, production divisions and executive management to find ways to mitigate the ever increasing cost of buying energy. For example, it is usually more expensive to use energy during the daytime than at night, when off-peak tariffs allow the purchase of power units for around half the price. So in the case of a heavy factory which is burning vast amounts of electricity during the day, it might make sense for the plant to run skeleton production during peak hours, and employ a larger number of shift workers to take the plant to maximum production during the cheaper night time period. The consultant’s job is to assemble a package of efficiency measures such as this, with the objective being to make savings which the client’s company can enjoy year on year. A good consultant will be able to save the company their consultancy fee many, many times over.
The consultant will also offer advice on how the firm may reduce its Co2 output. This will save heavy taxes being apportioned to its production side effects (i.e. the churning out of greenhouse gases), and also provide the company a way to maximise its CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) visibility, improving relations with local media and the public through positive environmental efforts. Energy consultants also work with private homeowners to help them reduce their power costs.
Starting salary for an SAP-qualified domestic energy assessor is £20,000-£22,000 in the West of England/Midlands, rising to £25,000 for the London area. Assessors who choose to work in the public sector (as civil servants) can expect to earn around 5% less than this.
- Analyse a site or portfolio of sites to assemble a breakdown of energy usage
- Analyse invoices and contracts and renegotiate where possible to save on costs
- Put together a plan of action after considering all of the facts
- Conduct thermal imaging scan to identify areas of heat loss
- Make recommendations for overall improvement
- Work with the client on an ongoing basis to ensure changes are implemented
- Complete KPI (Key Performance Indicators) analysis post changes and report on effectiveness
- Continually educate and inform the client on industry changes and legislative shifts in policy
There are several qualifications which can apply to this career. The candidate may consider becoming acquainted with many of the issues surrounding energy efficiency, buildings, renewable energies and the environment, which is possible to acquire with independent study and learning. When considering an academic accreditation, a popular option is to gain an MSc in Architecture, Advanced Environmental and Energy Studies, as it affords the candidate the required skill set and allows possible diversification into a more traditional architecture role. Other options include Domestic Energy Assessor accreditation, BREAM accreditation or industry-standard SAP certified qualifications as these are recognised as Government standard assessment packages.
- Possess strong analytical ability and be able to interpret data quickly
- Understand the complex structure of energy pricing
- Have an (academic-backed) understanding of heat loss and structural engineering
- Posses strong communication skills and be able to present to top level management
- Be well versed in professional reporting software
- Have an understanding of environmental awareness and CSR
The role is largely office based, but initial enquiries from clients or potential clients will usually involve a tour of the ‘plant’; this could be a manufacturing facility, warehouse or distribution hub. Care should be paid to health and safety requirements whilst on site, including wearing a hard hat and high-vis waistcoat where one is provided. The role will put the candidate in close touch with a broad variety of people, from executive directors right down to shop floor workers, so they will have to deal with a broad cross-section of working demographic; the client could potentially be anyone. Some energy assessors also work in the B2C (Business to Consumer) sector, so they will be regularly meeting members of the public in their own homes. Courtesy is required at all times, but the assessor will need to work quickly during busy periods.
Regular exposure to the plant will endow the candidate with a better understanding of the “burn area,” i.e. the site location which consumes the most power, or has the highest relative heat loss. Several years of experience translates to an improved analytical ability, enabling the candidate to work the site quickly, providing valuable recommendations and significant cost savings. Also, completing regular high level business briefings will give the candidate excellent communication and presentation skills, in effect giving them a stronger chance of winning future business by way of better consultancy pitches. The role is quite unique in its marriage of engineering disciplines and corporate business development skills.
With an increasingly intense global spotlight on the mitigation of carbon emissions and the increasing cost of energy in all its forms, energy assessing will become a much bigger sector in the future. Competition is currently high amongst competing firms, with a relatively large number of firms competing for a now-small market; the trend is one of growth, however, and candidates will be able to find suitable placements given dedication, leading to quick progression with a suitable employer. There is, of course, the opportunity of setting up one’s own energy efficiency assessment company in the capacity of being self-employed.
In the UK market, the largest and most recognised organisations include Mitie, EEC, EuroACE, Power Efficiency and the Carbon Trust. Many companies operating in the Business to Consumer sector are much smaller.
Paul Buckingham MSc Arch:AEES is the owner of Sustainable Lifestyles, an energy efficiency consultant based in Abingdon, Oxon. Paul specialises in the Business to Consumer sector, helping his appreciative customers enjoy energy savings and a reduced carbon footprint.
What made you decide or choose to get into this sort of career?
A few years ago, I decided to go back and study for the first time since doing an apprenticeship. I have always had an interest in the environment and energy, and opted to study this with a view to changing careers.
Do you have a standard day or a standard type of `exercise'?
I don’t have a standard day but have spent a lot of time going to various meetings and networking events, and speaking to people about energy efficiency. There is also quite a lot of research to be done on many subjects revolving around energy efficiency, buildings, attitudes, industry trends and so forth.
What is the most common type of problem/call-out/enquiry to which you must attend?
During cold winter spells, enquiries come in for thermal imaging surveys to find heat loss. I also get occasional enquiries to find leaking underfloor heating pipes and leaks in flat roofs. Winter is the time of year when the consumer’s mind turns to reducing costs, which is where my company comes in.
What do you like most about the job?
I enjoy getting involved in community work and feeling that in some small way I am contributing to educating people on energy efficiency and helping to reduce energy consumption.
What do you like least about the job?
It is very difficult and frustrating to find paid work; there is a lot of free energy saving advice out there but not as far reaching as the kind of advice I would offer. People are reluctant to pay for advice that they believe they can get free elsewhere. For example, I do thermal imaging to highlight areas of heat loss in buildings; community groups are now able to borrow cameras and carry out surveys of vast quantities of buildings free of charge. These surveys generally consist of a single image of the front of a building which will show very little of relevance but may generate a general interest in heat loss.
When I carry out a survey, it consists of an hour or more taking images all over the inside and outside of a building followed by an in depth report and advice on how to address the issues identified. This costs around £200 but many people have questioned why it is so expensive when others are doing it free of charge. The eventual cost savings more than make up for it though.
What are the key responsibilities?
Being honest and finding the correct solutions to issues.
What is the starting salary, and how does this increase over time with promotion?
The salaries range from around £17,000 and upwards but many jobs within this field are for business development within energy efficiency rather than energy reduction itself. If you manage to get a position within a company and really know what you are doing, then reliable and fast progression is very likely.
What advice do you have for someone who is looking to get into this as a career?
It is a very difficult business to get into and actually make money from. Most companies are looking for people with qualifications such as Domestic Energy Assessor, BREAM accreditation or SAP certified qualifications because these are the Government standard assessment packages. These cost around £2500 to gain a qualification in, and after having completed an MSc such as the one I have, it becomes very apparent that these standards are far below what is actually needed to achieve the energy reduction targets that have been set by the UK and EU. If you really believe in energy reduction and are prepared to keep pushing for work then it is a good career.
What are the most important qualities an applicant must and should possess?
Honesty and belief in what you are trying to achieve.