The energy management field is evolving, expanding, and exciting. Do you want to join this exciting industry?
This month, I want to explain some of the most common job types I’ve encountered in seminars I teach throughout North America. For each job, it is important to understand the primary tasks it entails, as well as its pros and cons. Although my perception is based on discussions with attendees, hopefully it represents the overall happenings and opportunities in industry.
There are an endless number of “hybrid” positions available – jobs that are spawned to meet new and different demands. Most of these opportunities are related to specific buildings and assets, so there is little chance of the positions being outsourced to another country.
Traditional energy management skills can be applied in many different jobs at energy-consuming organizations, research operations, or energy service companies (ESCOs). These areas include:
- Facility or Energy Management
- Consulting Engineering or Project Development
- Clean-Tech Industries
Facility or Energy Management
The primary task is taking responsibility for energy consumption and costs in a facility and trying to optimize or reduce it. Skills required are benchmarking, finding wasteful processes, managing improvement projects, and validating their performance. These positions must also keep abreast of the new solutions available. Continuous improvement is required, but if the job is done well, you will be valued in the organization.
If your organization is large and consumes vast amounts of energy, the energy manager may be responsible for purchasing energy. In that case, understanding the various fuel purchasing options – and switching when appropriate – is a risky but rewarding responsibility.
As with many managerial jobs, the energy manager may oversee the work of several direct reports (energy purchasing, maintenance, engineering, etc.), but the energy manager typically reports to the operations manager.
Sometimes, your skills may seem undervalued because energy consumption is seen as a necessary evil, and your improvement projects can be viewed as discretionary or secondary to other needs – even if your projects have a higher return on investment. Politics can be a part of the job. For example, in large organizations, the energy manager may have to fight for attention within the various sectors of the business just to get simple projects approved. Teamwork and selling your projects are key skills for success.
Salaries are in the $50,000-120,000 range and travel requirements are small for this type of position.
Consulting Engineering or Project Development
If you don’t mind travel, there are lucrative jobs within the consulting and ESCO industries. These positions usually exist within a third-party organization that is separate from the one where the energy is being consumed. The primary task for these professionals is to help clients reduce expenses. All of the skills of the energy manager are useful, while sales and presentation skills are even more important. You may have to continually prove your value to the client.
Sometimes these job titles are labeled account executive or sales engineer. The tasks involve hunting for opportunities, qualifying the clients, and preparing proposals. If a performance contract is involved, the account manager must also understand the various legal and financial arrangements that pertain to different types of clients. A new course that offers the best practices of this industry can be found at www.aeeprograms.com.
A high level of both technical and social skills is required to sell a performance contract, and the sales cycle can last over a year. But the position can be rewarded well with compensation over $150,000 per year.
Generally, the consulting engineer is a position that requires a professional engineer (PE) distinction. But in general, as a consultant, you are being paid for your ideas, so you must keep current on the latest technologies and methods.
If you are a project developer, you may have more of a sales role that entails meeting with clients, performing energy audits, and coordinating the ESCO’s resources to develop and present a project proposal.
Once a project is sold and moves to the execution phase, there are many jobs involved with installation. As a project manager, your role is to oversee projects through completion. You are accountable for timelines and budgets. A project manager position can be high-pressure at times, but the job is relatively stable.
When a person has real world experience running facilities or projects, they are also valuable as equipment salespeople. As an energy equipment vendor, you would attend many expositions and shows to explain your products and services. Similar to the consultant or developer, the job involves a fair amount of rejection, but with new technologies emerging, there are a lot of great solutions you can offer clients.
Another ESCO-related job is the measurement and verification (M&V) professional, who is typically a third party as well. These M&V skills are valuable in the commissioning arena because commissioning agents have a thought process of beginning with the end in mind. Both positions seek to correct problems early and save energy. This job involves making sure that energy savings meet projections after the project is installed. It appeals to analytical and problem-solving types and may require travel as you accommodate clients wherever they are located.
A final third-party job is the utility representative who makes sure the client is happy with their power purchases. This position helps clients implement demand side management projects and programs that are a win-win for both parties. It involves strong customer service skills as well as patience because you will likely be dealing with large organizations that may act slowly.
The discussion of expanding energy job opportunities would not be complete without mentioning the sustainability market, which offers jobs requiring various skill sets. From being a solar panel installer to doing research on bio-fuels for vehicles, there are several avenues available.
In 2012, new wind energy installations exceeded new fossil fuel installations in many countries, including the U.S., and solar panel prices are dropping. There will be many openings for electricians, mechanics, and other skilled labor to install and manage this equipment. On the research front, the DOE is investing in the development of these technologies for commercialization. There are additional positions sprouting up and you can track these opportunities by being on the DOE’s email list or visiting www.energy.gov.
According to the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), the 2013 budget is $350 million (up 27% from 2012). It is used to enable “transformational energy technologies” such as the development of biofuels for commercial application. The U.S. military has also made significant investments in biofuels because it offers strategic interest and reduces dependency on foreign oil. Considering the sheer size of these investments, jobs are being created at a steady pace.
There are also opportunities that involve capturing energy and water from waste streams. There are numerous new carbon projects that reuse it to generate power or heat. As mentioned in the CRM course, I have seen nearly “closed-loop” energy recovery systems at manufacturers because using waste heat is an energy benefit and a sustainability benefit, which offers the client some strong marketing material to improve their green image.
There are a lot of opportunities in the energy field and because energy is getting more expensive on a price per kWh basis, there is more attention to it than in previous years. These jobs are less traditional than others described, but they offer incredible upside.
Many job descriptions can be found online, with examples including: www.Indeed.com or www.EnergyVortex.com. Although somewhat generalized, salary descriptions can also be found here.
If you want to connect to headhunters, you are welcome to peruse to my LinkedIn network and reach out to them. I wish you prosperity in your search. Happy hunting!