As the TELCA awards loom on the horizon and I get ready to put my judging hat on, it’s a timely question to ask – just how important are energy consultants?
Given the ever-spiralling costs of energy, carbon and pass-through charges, I’d say the services of a good consultant are absolutely essential for everyone with a serious energy bill.
One reason for that? Our current serious skills shortage. In an increasingly complex energy sphere there are simply not enough experienced professionals to go around – either for businesses or home owners.
In-house experts? No chance
Let’s be quite clear: employing your own experts to cover every energy challenge known to man is 1) virtually impossible as you won’t be able to recruit and keep the right people and 2) economically not a good move as they’ll cost the earth. That’s if you can recruit them in the first place…
People joke about consultants all the time, in the same way they do about lawyers, but the key to using any third party agency is how you manage both what they do and the cost of using them.
Be smart with your consultant – not suicidal
Too many companies think that by appointing a consultant they can abdicate responsibility for energy. This is patently a suicidal strategy and virtually guaranteed to end in court, or tears, or both. In reality, it’s better to be an “intelligent client” and understand what they do, even remorselessly challenge what the consultant says. Even at the risk of being seen as awkward.
Part of that is giving consultant accurate information – too many skimp on this or give just plain wrong stats, then blame the consultant for poor results.
Treat them like part of the family
To me, consultants are very much an extension of your own team. They need to be aware of what’s going on in your company. OK, you need a level of trust to do this and it may take time – but the relationship won’t work without it.
The marriage made in heaven comes when you take the time to pick the right consultants for you and to work in partnership with them.
And let’s be quite clear, a good consultant, properly briefed and managed by you, will save or even generate income for your company many times the size of their fee. Consultants sometimes seem horribly expensive when compared to direct staff – but they are far more likely than your internal team to be up-to-date and spread exciting ideas.
Good plumbing calls for a good plumber
Just ask yourself why you employ any specialists – lawyers, dentists, plumbers… they do what you can’t manage yourself. Cost is obviously going to a big concern (no one can ignore the P & L element here) but a small amount of research will flag up who are the best consultants for you.
I speak as a consultant myself with a wide experience of the client side of the fence. Energy is a highly specialist area. And if you’re not convinced, remember this comment recently seen floating about the web: “If you think the cost of a professional is high, wait till you see the cost of employing an amateur…” Totally applies to the energy world.
Mervyn Bowden is the managing director of Intuitive Energy Solutions Ltd, former energy manager for M&S and Chair of Judges for this year’s TELCA award for energy consultants.