It’s an exciting time for the renewable energy industry. According to a report by the National Resources Defense Council, the United States has far surpassed its ten-year forecasts for the adoption of renewable energy. The industry continues to surge as concerns about climate change grow and companies seek cost-effective strategies to manage their energy costs.
Are you wondering how to become a renewable energy consultant? There is no set path, but we’ll break down everything you need to know — what a renewable energy consultant does, what education you need, the salary you can expect, and tips on building a successful career.
What Does a Renewable Energy Consultant Do?
Renewable energy consultants work with clients to investigate, understand and oversee the installation of renewable energy systems. Their goal is to increase efficiency and reduce cost while mitigating environmental impact. For example, a consultant might study the energy sources used across a client’s facilities and evaluate whether alternative energy, such as wind or solar power, would be a better option.
A renewable energy consultant’s responsibilities typically include:
- Performing on-site building assessments to determine energy consumption
- Analyzing data to compare current and historical usage rates
- Generating energy usage audit reports understandable to the client for decision-making
- Reviewing forecasting reports and information on trends
- Researching renewable energy saving alternatives appropriate for the client’s needs
- Assessing alternative energy companies
- Developing recommendations that describe both cost and implementation
- Presenting recommendations to client and addressing their concerns
- Requesting proposals from renewable energy vendors, contractors and equipment providers
- Overseeing the installation or upgrade of client’s energy systems
- Tracking energy, budgets, and consumption to ensure performance indicators are met
- Updating client’s policies and procedures related to energy systems
- Maintaining up-to-date knowledge about emerging technologies, government regulations, and federal grants to advise clients
What Skills Does a Renewable Energy Consultant Need?
The top three practical skills you need to develop are:
As you can see from the job description, renewable energy consultants need a broad set of communication skills. You’ll be writing reports summarizing results, presenting your findings to clients, and developing proposals for vendors. Everglades University ensures that you get the foundation you need, with requirements in English, Speech, and Communications.
Renewable Energy Consultants must know how to analyze and evaluate alternative energy technologies from a wide range of data sources to extract patterns and trends for decision-making. You’ll likely work with large data sets using database software (such as Excel or SQL) to produce reports and present findings to various stakeholders. Be sure you have a good understanding of statistics and accounting principles.
Renewable Energy Knowledge
Naturally, a good consultant needs to have a broad-based understanding of the field. You’ll need a solid education on all renewable energy sources, their practical applications, and unique challenges and advantages. Not only that, but you need to understand how federal, state, and local laws can impact a company’s chosen energy solution and if there are monetary advantages (grants) to encourage the adoption of a particular technology. Clients are looking to you as the expert, so your pursuit of knowledge must be ongoing.
What Education Does a Renewable Energy Consultant Need?
If you ask someone in the field how to become a renewable energy consultant, you’d probably get many different answers. It’s a rapidly growing industry with numerous entry points. We’ve summarized the higher education options with some guidance on the variables that may affect your decision on what to pursue.
A bachelor’s degree in Renewable Energy Management is the ideal starting point for an aspiring renewable energy consultant. Building upon a necessary foundation of communication, critical analysis, math and science, this type of program has a particular emphasis on renewable resource technologies. Specific classes in the various types of alternative energies provide technical instruction. For example, at Everglades University, students receive a comprehensive overview of all renewable energy sources such as solar energy and photovoltaics, nuclear energy, wind energy, propane and natural gas, hydroelectric energy, geothermal energy, and biomass.
Master’s or Doctoral Degree
There is undoubtedly value in pursuing a master’s degree for a renewable energy consultant. You can gain advanced education in the best practices of renewable energy management, better understand environmental law and regulations, pursue a specialization to make yourself more marketable to a particular segment of the industry, or work toward a teaching career in the field.
The decision to pursue advanced training will depend on your career and earning goals. Do you want to work for a government program, large corporation, mid-sized business, or build your own consulting firm? Each will have different expectations for higher education and on-the-job training.
Online Degree Programs
The advancement of new technologies makes online degree programs much more feasible. With a hybrid on-campus and online program, Everglades University is one of a few accredited schools to offer a top renewable energy management degree online.
There are many certification programs for energy professionals. These two are specifically focused on renewable energy and can be very well received by prospective employers or clients, as they show a third-party stamp of approval on your skills.
- The Renewable Energy Professional (REP™) certification is designed to recognize the expertise and experience of professionals involved in the specification and application of renewable and alternative energy technologies, assessment of renewable energy projects, and development of achievable low-carbon and sustainability goals for organizations.
- The LEED Green Associate demonstrates your proficiency in sustainable design, construction, and operations. At Everglades University, our program will prepare you to sit for this exam upon graduation, giving an immediate edge.
If you plan to specialize in a particular energy type or a component of the consulting process, you may want to explore certifications in those areas. For example, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has developed a Building Energy Assessment Professional Certification. The purpose of this program is to certify your ability to audit and analyze residential, commercial, and industrial buildings.
What Are My Salary and Job Prospects as a Renewable Energy Consultant?
According to the US Department of Energy, 6.4 million Americans work in the energy sector, with 300,000 jobs added last year. A vast percentage of these new jobs are in renewable energy and efficiency. They also noted that the position of Sustainability Professional is one of the five fasting growing careers.
Your salary potential will depend on the size of your organization, specialty, sector, and location. However, the most significant variable in your salary is whether you decide to work for an organization or build your own consulting business. If you have on-the-job experience and an entrepreneurial mindset, you may want to pursue the latter. However, your income will significantly depend on the type of clients you target, your specialties, and if you offer services locally, regionally, or nationally.
We’ve gathered data from several sources to provide an accurate picture of the potential salary and job outlook for renewable energy consultants.
- The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has calculated a job growth of 14% for all management analysts between 2014 and 2024, which is much faster than average.
- The national average salary estimate for Energy Consultant was $63,567. This number is estimated from over 4,422 employees, users past and present job advertisements from Indeed.com.
- According to Glassdoor data, the average starting salary for an energy consultant is $46,360.
Renewable energy consultants will continue to be in high demand as our country and the world move toward these sustainable energy sources. Contact Everglades University to learn more about how to become a renewable energy consultant. Get started on a career that will be both rewarding and financially stable.