Energy management as a career
Energy managers come from a variety of backgrounds and require both technical and managerial skills. There are resources available to help get started as an energy manager and to continue professional development throughout a career in energy management.
Who can be an energy manager?
Energy management is a diverse field suitable for people from a range of backgrounds. It is multidisciplinary, involving elements of engineering, management, accountancy, marketing, psychology and other disciplines.
An energy manager may have direct responsibility for energy use, modifying activities to improve energy performance. In larger organisations, the energy manager has a more indirect, advisory capacity: identifying the actions or investments that could improve energy efficiency or reduce demand, and informing the relevant operational manager about them.
The scope of the role is commensurate with the scale and structure of an organisation. For large, complex or energy intensive organisations, energy management is a full time technical position with an engineering focus. In smaller organisations, energy management may be an additional or part-time responsibility given to someone in another role, such as environmental management, logistics, facilities management, operations management, or health, safety and quality management.
Skills and competencies
Energy managers’ skills vary widely depending on their organisation and responsibilities, but these can be grouped broadly as technical and managerial. Technical abilities are essential for those in roles with direct responsibility for energy management, as opposed to those who are coordinating consultants or in-house teams who deal with the more technical aspects. Managerial skills are indispensable for any energy manager.
A sound knowledge of both physics and engineering principles is useful for interpreting energy data as well as for putting energy efficiency measures into practice. Ideally this skillset would be supplemented by knowledge of mathematics and statistics to allow for a more in-depth understanding of energy data.
In practice, energy managers may need to consult specialists to resolve questions regarding fields outside their experience. These specialists could include internal employees who work directly with the process in question, or may be external consultants.
Working knowledge of systems and processes are often vital to understanding a large and complex organisation’s energy use. For example, understanding technical issues would be necessary to carry out energy performance measurement and verification and assess the effectiveness of energy conservation measures.
Managerial competencies and skills
Energy managers should be seen as leaders and collaborators within their organisations, setting the energy agenda, getting buy-in at all levels, and identifying and managing those who can influence energy use. An energy manager’s people skills and ability to influence decisions are as important as specialist technical knowledge.
Energy managers inform, engage, and motivate others to share their interest and plans for energy efficiency improvement. They must also engage customers, colleagues, senior management and external service providers, and involve them in the process of energy management.
Energy management requires an understanding of financial processes. Energy managers must be able to assemble and manage budgets for energy efficiency schemes as well as assess relative scheme benefits. Procurement of energy efficiency technologies as well as supply contracts is a key area of energy management that directly impacts financial outcomes. Procurement considerations include return on investment for new equipment, market rates for electricity or gas, and the energy credentials of outsourced products and services in the supply chain.
In organisations with more sophisticated procurement strategies, energy managers may also need to understand market volatility and manage risks when purchasing energy. They will need to clearly set out the potential impacts of such price volatility, providing a basis for strategic energy procurement.
A detailed understanding of an organisation’s operations is fundamental to controlling energy consumption. It will enable the energy manager to prioritise available time and resource on the areas that have the most potential for efficiency improvements within buildings, industrial processes, or staff activities and behaviours such as transport and business travel. Time management is essential to scope the multitude of tasks and activities and provide a structure for implementation, reporting, and complying with regulation and legislation.
Basic training and information resources are available for those just starting out in energy management or those handling it alongside another job role. Good places to start are the numerous exhibitions and conferences in the energy demand sector, along with self-directed study such as reading articles or attending webinars. To transition into energy management from a non-technical field, there are a number of formal training avenues at certificate and degree level. Some of these are listed in the Additional information section.
Full time energy managers, or those in energy-intensive organisations, often have a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in an energy engineering discipline. They may demonstrate their professional status and qualifications through membership of a professional engineering institution, or institutions that deal with surveying, management and other disciplines. Additionally, they may achieve Chartered Energy Manager or Chartered Energy Engineer status; for those building a career in energy management, chartership can be a rewarding way of demonstrating and maintaining professionalism.
Continued professional development
As with any other profession, energy managers should reflect upon their learning needs and plan their professional development each year. This should not merely consist of counting hours of accredited CPD courses or other points-based approaches, but should focus on the desired learning outcomes and areas for improvement. CPD can involve, but is not limited to, the following activities:
- Attending events such as courses, conferences, seminars or lectures
- In-house training
- Self-directed private study – reading articles
- Informal ‘on the job’ training
- Distance and E-learning
- Secondment and special projects
- Disseminating your own knowledge, for example through written articles, presentations, blogs or social media.
Career support from the EI
The EI’s three-level energy management training framework supports professionals in developing their knowledge and skills at every stage of their career. Professionals can start at any level depending on their experience.
Level 1: A 5-day introductory course providing a comprehensive, practical overview of the fundamentals of energy management. This course provides the essential knowledge and skills needed to save energy, reduce operational costs and carbon emissions, comply with legislation and meet an organisation’s environmental goals. Offered as a 5-day classroom course or a 60-hour online course.
Level 2: A 15-module (200-hour) online course that provides a comprehensive overview of the essential technical theory of energy use, as well as in-depth understanding of the managerial and commercial aspects of an energy management role. This course can be started at any time and completed at your own pace. Expert tutors are available to answer any questions and provide guidance as you work through the course.
Level 3: A 12-day course designed as a comprehensive technical overview of energy management. Participants will learn how to effectively develop energy saving projects, illustrate their return on investment to management, evaluate and monitor financial savings, and understand and use a comprehensive set of energy management technologies and principles.
The EI, along with other engineering and professional institutions, offers seminars at exhibitions, conferences, bespoke training events and branch meetings along with assessed CPD journal articles, many of which cover energy management or related themes.