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The U.S. Department of Energy offers a wealth of information about energy and the environment at https://www.energy.gov/science-innovation/energy-sources. Visit this site to get a basic understanding of biofuels, renewable energy, fossil fuels, and other topics. Also, visit the Web sites of energy consulting firms to learn about the services they offer and possible career paths.
Ask your science teacher or counselor to arrange an information interview with an energy consultant. Speaking with an energy consultant will provide you with firsthand information regarding work in the field, training opportunities, and the positives and negatives of energy consulting.
Consultants are experts who help organizations solve problems. Energy consultants apply their expertise in one or more energy areas to help address issues that range from reducing power costs, to studying the feasibility of launching major energy projects (such as construction of pipelines or oil platforms in dangerous deep-water areas of the ocean), to ensuring compliance with laws and regulations. External energy consultants are employed by consulting firms such as Hart Energy, or by management consulting/professional services firms such as Deloitte LLP and Booz Allen Hamilton that have energy consulting practices. They work with clients on a project basis, and clients are billed by the hour for consultants’ services. Internal energy consultants work as salaried employees for companies and other organizations, and they provide advice only to their employer. Other energy consultants are self-employed and run their own consulting firms.
The following are examples of typical energy consulting duties:
- Assessing the feasibility of the construction of the Keystone XL Canada-to-Nebraska oil sands pipeline for the federal government and oil corporations
- Providing advice to environmental groups such as the Sierra Club that are challenging the legality of the construction of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline
- Providing a variety of energy modeling services that range from models of the energy economy—such as the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Modeling System and Aspen Technology’s Aspen Energy Analyzer to statistical supply chain, and financial feasibility analyses
- Helping clients reduce costs by identifying energy conservation opportunities, such as upgrades to lights, air compressors, waste heat recovery, motors, HVAC, refrigeration, or steam/hot water systems, and by incorporating renewable energy sources into their operations
- Helping clients achieve accreditation under ENERGY STAR (a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency voluntary program that helps individuals and businesses save money and protect the climate by improving energy efficiency)
- Collaborating with government agencies such as the U.S. Departments of Defense and Energy and partners throughout the world to ensure that nuclear energy is used only in safe and peaceful ways
- Planning, designing, building, and operating a large hydropower or solar engineering project
- Advising clients on the valuation of existing energy sector businesses and assets, and assessing the economic feasibility of making new investments in the energy sector, including pipelines and distribution systems, gas resources, electric generation and networks, and renewable energy
- Helping clients purchase carbon credits from clean, renewable energy sources to offset greenhouse gas emissions and reduce their carbon footprints (According to ClimateFriendly.com, carbon credits are “certificates that represent a reduction of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Projects that prevent the generation of greenhouse gases earn these credits, which can in turn then be sold to other businesses and individuals to offset the emissions they generate.”)
- Preparing special reports that analyze the impact of proposed legislation on a refinery company’s product lines and outputs
- Providing recommendations to expedite the issuance of local, state, and federal permits for a variety of energy-related projects
- Helping municipalities evaluate the risk of entering into contracts with companies for the provision of energy versus building their own generating facilities
- Providing expert testimony in, and assisting clients who are involved in, complex regulatory and litigation cases before legislative and administrative agencies, state regulatory commissions, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the Federal Trade Commission
- Creating strategies for developing, positioning, and implementing smart-grid technologies.