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Problems with Energy Consultants

10 Things an Energy Consultant Won't Tell You

July 28, 2016 / by Max Dworkin

If someone asked you to pitch at a baseball game, chances are you wouldn’t know where to start. But if you wanted to learn how to do it, you would probably turn to someone who had coached pitching before.

Energy consultants bill themselves as a kind of coach for energy and cost saving initiatives. These consultants typically have experience working in the energy industry in some capacity and have struck out on their own as independent consultants or as part of a small firm. And while they can have a lot of expertise to impart, hiring an energy consultant is not always the most effective choice for a company who wants to make substantive changes to their energy policies and bills, especially if you haven’t considered some of the things we are about to share.

Keep reading to find out what your energy consultant won’t tell you and decide for yourself if hiring one is the right choice for you.

1. The Price of an Audit

An energy efficiency audit is often the first step an energy consultant will suggest when they come on board. While this type of audit can have its merits, in a lot of cases the cost can outweigh the tangible benefits. If you have multiple sites, a complex building, or don’t have a plan, then you might not find out how much that energy audit costs you until you get the bill.

2. What You’re Doing Right

Like any consultant, an energy consultant needs to prove her value. Realistically, this means that when assessing your current energy situation, she will find a lot that is wrong with what you’re currently doing, under the auspices of helping you correct it. What an energy consultant won’t do is tell you what you’re already doing right. Maybe you think you don’t need someone to tell you what you’re doing right, but how are you supposed to make a comprehensive energy management plan if you don’t know what to keep?

3. How to Execute on Their Suggestions

Energy consultants and energy efficiency consulting firms can be very skilled at providing suggestions as to changes you can make to save money and improve the energy efficiency of your facility. Unfortunately, not many efficient energy consultants include implementation or project management in their fee structure. While they may or may not have the expertise necessary to coach you through actually implementing needed changes, generally they leave this critical part for you to figure out. What good is a list of changes to make if you don’t have the support to actually follow through?

4. The Most Cost Effective Way to Implement Changes

Energy consultants get paid upfront, long before you know what kind of savings they will actually earn for you. This gives the consultants little incentive to find the biggest savings or to outline the best, most cost effective ways to find those savings.  Additionally, a consultant may not be able to run or support the procurement of services that are recommended.  This could be because their model is not concerned with your long term success (see #10), they don't have the proper network of service providers to engage, or they don't have the necessary experience in running and organizing efficient purchasing efforts for energy projects.

5. How to Finance Improvements

As energy options and technology have progressed, so have the possibilities to pay for them. Financing for energy management projects is easier than ever. Unfortunately, energy saving consultants who have been in the business for years may not know about these new opportunities and therefore be unable or unwilling to present them to your company.

6. What Riskier Options are Available That Could Pay Off

Energy consultants are unlikely to take any performance risks. In most cases, their performance model may not be aligned with your business goals. Because an energy consultant gets paid regardless of how much they save you, there is no incentive for them to suggest riskier solutions that may end up paying off big. As long as they are able to make small changes, they can justify their rate.

7. What the Whole Picture Looks Like 

Energy consultants are indeed experts. But the breadth of energy information and options that are available in the current market go far beyond what any one person could be an expert in. This means any suggestion coming from an energy expert will inherently be biased towards what he knows. There is a whole universe of new technology and behavioral energy solutions that help buildings run more efficiently and it is important to see this part of the equation.

8. The Right Energy Solutions for National (or International) Companies

While some energy policies and tax incentives come from the federal government, there are just as many instances where energy is a highly local issue. Energy consultants may focus on a single state or a single region and that knowledge may be enough for some instances, but many companies have offices across the country or even around the world. There is no way that a single energy consultant can keep abreast of energy trends in every area of the world, which can be a major drawback for organizations with multiple offices.

9. A Truly Custom Analysis of Your Situation

It is fairly easy for energy consultants to reuse data and tactics from their prior clients for every assessment. While this can still provide some helpful insight, it can also be a hurdle to getting a really accurate picture of your energy situation. A completely custom analysis is the best choice for getting a handle where you stand in terms of energy.

10. The Long Term Implications of Your Energy Choices

An energy consultant is simply not in it for the long haul. While they may make good suggestions, they will not be around the find out whether those suggestions pan out and you actually meet your corporate energy goals. On the other hand, a Correlate Energy Management as a Service engagement is a minimum of three years long. That means Correlate will be there to see positive changes happen -- and to make adjustments when needed.

Fortunately, energy saving consultants are not your only options. The Correlate energy platform gives organizations energy assessments and suggestions from experts around the world. Then, Correlate can offer the support necessary to actually make those changes that make sense, leading to a comprehensive energy management plan and huge potential savings.

For a taste of what you won’t get when you hire an energy consultant, try our Energy Audit Calculator below.

Energy Audit Cost Calculator

Topics: energy experts, energy consumers

Max Dworkin

Written by Max Dworkin

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