Business energy is an area that, with the correct guidance and support, has the potential to minimise overheads. There are several ways this can be achieved, from analysing your energy consumption through tailored reporting to securing an energy contract which is best suited to your business’ energy purchasing strategy.
With their wealth of knowledge and experience, energy consultants manage your energy portfolio, helping to take some of the pressure off you when resources are stretched. But how do they achieve this? And what should you consider before sourcing outside help with your business energy strategy?
In this guide, we get to grips with these questions with one of the energy consultants that Gazprom Energy works with, Zenergi. With the help of company CEO Graham Cooke, we'll take a look at how businesses across the UK can access support in managing their energy consumption.
Formed in 2003, Zenergi was created to help support customers with the procurement and management of energy. With the customer at the heart of the business, Zenergi seeks to offer a tailored, personalised approach to every aspect of its service delivery.
At the core of Zenergi's business values is its motto: Simple. Sustainable. Achievable. Part of this involves taking the complexity out of energy management, a process that Graham says involves "cutting through the confusion and freeing customers from the stresses of managing bills, chasing payments and validating invoices".
As for Zenergi's sustainable element, its CEO says: "We genuinely want to partner with customers for the long term to help them develop low carbon, energy-efficient plans that deliver profound cost savings and safeguard the environment for future generations.”
So, how has Zenergi achieved this? Of its success stories, Graham points to the business’ work helping a large national Multi Academy Trust become carbon neutral by supporting feasibility studies and design of renewable generation across its estate, including switching 41 of its 52 academies to a renewable electricity product.
Of course, this is just one of the many wins that Zenergi has helped its customers achieve. And it's an approach that's led to its outstanding customer retention rate of 97.8%, a number that Graham believes is down to "simply doing what we say are going to do, when we say we will do it”.
An energy consultant can find competitive energy options and help set up new contracts with suppliers. This reduces the amount of admin a business has to deal with when searching for business energy plans.
Thanks to the strong relationships they have with suppliers, energy consultants use their market buying power to collaborate with suppliers, enhancing energy deals in ways that clients and customers may not have previously been privy to. In return, a business energy consultant agrees a small commission with the customer that is often added to the price, or could be a monthly fixed fee retainer.
And there’s more to using business energy consultants than simplified billing. For larger businesses that view energy as a strategic function, they can offer invaluable advice on all aspects of procurement, negotiation and energy planning, as well as the development of low-carbon energy policies.
When running a business, you don't always have the resources to commit to all aspects of day-to-day operations. And when it comes to an area like business energy that requires in-depth knowledge of the energy market, pricing structures and different contract terms, finding the time for something so niche can be tough.
That's where an energy consultant comes in. Through managing your company's business energy, they work alongside energy suppliers, using their respective expertise and knowledge to provide you with a wealth of benefits, which we've listed below.
"The challenges that the majority of our customers face is the ever-increasing costs of energy,” notes Graham. “For many businesses, the main reason for switching energy contracts is to save money. By monitoring the energy market and using the resources at our disposal, we can present customers with options suited to the business' budget.”
When you have other duties to attend to, it's difficult to find the time to research suppliers, compare quotes and negotiate prices. Additionally, tracking the volatile energy market and understanding market trends is key and many don’t have the time or expertise to manage it effectively. Working alongside a consultant, they'll take care of this legwork so you're free to run your business with greater focus.
Confused by the technical jargon related to business energy? With their expert knowledge, energy consultants can answer any questions you might have, providing clear explanations so you fully understand what you're signing up for.
And with a Letter of Authority (LoA) in place, your consultant is able to act on your behalf and discuss any queries you might have with your supplier.
The best consultants are those who strive to create a relationship with you throughout your time together and beyond.
"One of the most important aspects of our service delivery,” says Graham, "is the provision of a dedicated relationship manager who provides the first point of contact, consistency of service, and can ensure that bills are received promptly – all while managing any queries with suppliers to ensure a timely resolution.”
Although the services that energy consultancies offer can vary, the most common services include:
With an energy consultant, you'll have instant access to quotes from different electricity and gas suppliers, without having to contact them yourself. They'll also compile these quotes in a format that makes comparing them a straightforward process.
"We also offer bill validation, saving our customers administrative time, while offering peace of mind that they are only paying for the energy they have used," notes Graham. "Our online portal allows customers to view their energy usage, so they can accurately budget and understand their consumption patterns.”
Energy consultancies will take care of switching energy providers for you, handling any communications between your current supplier and the new energy company you've opted for.
A good energy consultancy will always be working in your best interests and will send you notifications to remind you that your contract is about to expire, a handy service that helps you avoid more expensive out of contract rates. As your contract approaches expiration, your consultancy will provide a list of different contracts for you to consider.
If you're looking to make your business more energy efficient and potentially make further savings on your energy costs, then certain energy consultancies (including Zenergi) can advise on things like consumption reduction and analysis.
On this, Graham says: "We help organisations to achieve their environmental ambitions through energy reduction programmes such as audits, mechanical engineering projects, and carbon management plans. Such programmes can help businesses to achieve Net Zero.”
As well as the above, Zenergi also offers the following services:
While there’s no official regulator of business energy consultancies, there are certain things which can help inform your decision when choosing a trusted consultancy. For instance, reputable consultancies should adhere to a code of practice that includes transparency in how they work, how they are paid and the suppliers they work with.
"As a trusted energy consultant with a focus on integrity,” says Graham, "we carry out multiple tenders for electricity, gas and water that are all OJEU-compliant, ensuring that the best value contract is achieved for each customer.”
However, since this code of practice isn't mandatory, companies must carry out the necessary due diligence before opting to work with an energy consultancy.
To provide greater accountability, Ofgem has announced plans to introduce new rules and responsibilities for energy suppliers. These rules will require energy supply companies to monitor the conduct of energy consultants, as well as ensure clients are informed of commission fees and key contract details on their energy bills.
Plans for a new dispute resolution service will be introduced too, where energy suppliers will mediate between customers and consultants. Essentially, the new proposals will afford business energy the same protection given to domestic energy customers.
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So, what's next for Zenergi? With renewables and sustainability showing no signs of slowing down, the consultancy will be building on its green approach through Energy Freedom.
"Energy Freedom is our vision for a brighter, greener future," says Graham. "A future based on cleaner, more sustainable and more open energy provision.” Through this, Graham says Zenergi's aim is to help customers generate clean, affordable energy – achieving lower energy costs in return.
And because Zenergi's services support its customers' corporate, environmental and social responsibility, the consultancy can help customers identify which renewable technologies are feasible for their organisation, engaging with the right partners to implement them and achieve their sustainability goals.
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