7 energy engineer responsibilities (With useful soft skills)

Updated 10 March 2023

Energy engineering is a broad branch of engineering that deals with energy efficiency and sustainability. Energy engineers design, develop and promote new ways of extracting and using energy that reduce carbon emissions and help individuals and organisations consume scarce natural resources more efficiently. If you are interested in science, mathematics, technology and environmental issues, energy engineering could be an ideal career choice. In this article, we list seven fundamental energy engineer responsibilities and explain how to get a job in this evolving area.

What is an energy engineer?

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An energy engineer is a type of engineer who improves the way people and organisations use energy. They work on various kinds of energy-related projects. Some energy engineers work with traditional energy sources such as oil, natural gas and coal. They look for ways to use these fossil fuels as efficiently as possible and reduce the pollution they emit. Other energy engineers work with cleaner, more sustainable energy sources, such as wind, solar and tidal power, and invent and implement new technologies and systems to harness and exploit these alternative power sources.

Energy engineers also work in education and conduct research. They may research new methods for reducing greenhouse gases, lighting and heating homes and commercial premises or improving a building's air quality and ventilation system. In addition, these engineers work in manufacturing and industry, where they test machinery and ensure boilers, generators, turbines, engines and other equipment operate efficiently and have a minimal environmental impact.

Read more: What does an energy engineer do? (With skills and tasks)

7 core energy engineer responsibilities

Energy engineering is a multidimensional profession, so energy engineer responsibilities can vary greatly. The exact duties that these skilled engineers perform depend on their specific role, level of seniority and the industry they work in, but their core responsibilities may include some or all of the following:

1. Conduct energy audits

One core energy engineer activity is conducting energy audits. This involves analysing power systems in homes, buildings and commercial premises and determining how efficiently they operate and how much energy they consume. During an audit, an energy engineer is likely to examine energy-consumption patterns, insulation levels and heating and cooling systems and identify the appliances and machinery that use the most energy. They usually compile their findings into a report outlining the actions people can take to save energy and their estimated cost and impact.

Related: What is an internal audit? (With definition and benefits)

2. Collect energy data

During the course of their work, energy engineers can collect and analyse a wide range of energy-related data. They gather this data through energy surveys, research and on-site observations. After ensuring the data is clean and accurate, they make energy-related forecasts and recommendations. These can help organisations operate more efficiently and meet environmental objectives such as reducing their carbon footprint or the amount of waste they generate. Energy engineers often use digital tools to analyse large data sets and develop valuable, actionable insights.

Related: What is data? (Types, uses and top jobs that use it)

3. Implement energy-saving solutions

Energy engineers use their expertise to identify and implement a wide range of energy-saving solutions for clients and customers. They can recommend the most energy-efficient equipment and processes and provide practical advice on upgrading existing systems, from installing modern pumps and radiators to fitting smart vents and thermostats. Energy engineers can also help to update the infrastructure of old buildings, making them more comfortable to live and work in and ensuring they perform better from an environmental perspective.

Related: What does an environmental scientist do? (Skills and tasks)

4. Design new energy systems and technologies

Some engineers are responsible for designing and testing new energy systems and technologies. They look for inventive ways of using wind, solar, geothermal, wave and biofuel energies and other untapped renewable power sources to meet long-term energy sustainably. Their workload could include creating solar-powered modes of public transport or other innovations such as rechargeable tyres and bladeless wind turbines. These engineers help shape the energy sector's future and are accountable for many of its emerging trends.

Related: What does a design engineer do? (Role and responsibilities)

5. Create graphical representations of energy data

Energy engineers frequently use specialised engineering software to create graphical representations of energy data. This can help them communicate key energy-related information to clients, stakeholders and senior executives, such as whether energy consumption is likely to fall or rise over a certain timeframe or the potential impact of various energy-saving measures on an annual budget. By representing facts, figures and statistics in a visual format, it's easier to understand, interpret and analyse the data, and people are more likely to make better decisions.

Related: 5 different types of graphic designs and their uses

6. Manage energy projects

Some energy engineers manage all aspects of energy projects, from initial design and planning to implementation and completion. They create the necessary documents, outline the scope and cost and determine the required resources. As part of their duties, they may manage project deadlines and budgets, coordinate with suppliers and contractors and ensure the work meets design specifications.

Related: Management skills: examples and how to improve them

7. Ensure compliance with industry standards and regulations

A fundamental responsibility of energy engineers is to help clients comply with environmental legislation and quality standards. This is particularly important in the case of organisations that engage in large-scale industrial processes such as extraction, refining or manufacturing. Energy engineers can ensure these organisations have the necessary permits in place and that their activities meet or exceed carbon emission targets and have a minimal environmental impact. Regulations and laws in this area can change frequently, so it's important for engineers to keep up to date with legal developments.

Related: Regulatory affairs interview questions (With sample answers)

Tips for becoming an energy engineer

Most energy engineers have an undergraduate degree in engineering or a science-related field. Some students may opt for a specialist degree in energy engineering, while others undertake courses in environmental science and climate sustainability. Upon graduation, getting an entry-level position as a junior energy engineer is possible, where you can gain real-world experience and enhance your knowledge and skills. If you wish to apply for a senior position in the industry or undertake research, you usually require a postgraduate qualification. Qualified energy engineers can apply for chartered status through the profession's representative body, Engineers Ireland.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Related: 13 diverse science postgraduate courses (Choosing one)

Where do energy engineers work?

Depending on their specific energy engineer responsibilities and duties, sustainability experts might work in an office, laboratory or on-site at a manufacturing facility or industrial plant. Some work for big energy companies in the oil and gas industries or multinational organisations, while others are self-employed and operate as consultants. Although many energy engineers work standard office hours, those who work in 24-hour production plants may carry out shift work regularly. It's often necessary for employees of multinationals to travel internationally to complete their work.

Related: Different types of work shifts (With tips for managing)

Top soft skills for energy engineers

Energy engineers require extensive engineering expertise and in-depth scientific knowledge to perform their roles. In addition to hard technical skills, the following soft skills are useful in this profession:

  • Interpersonal skills: in their duties, energy engineers often work closely with clients and professionals from different fields. To succeed in the role, it's important that they can collaborate effectively with others and get along with the people around them.

  • Communication skills: communication skills are important in most professions, including energy engineering. The most effective energy engineers can clearly and coherently explain the results of site inspections and audits and outline why taking a particular course of action is important.

  • Management skills: energy engineers who can demonstrate management skills are often sought after by employers. The role can involve managing deadlines and milestones, supervising different teams of contractors and overseeing significant budgets.

  • Problem-solving skills: experienced energy engineers use their problem-solving skills to identify energy challenges and to brainstorm, analyse and implement the most effective solutions. They can examine issues from all angles and think creatively about the best way forward.

  • Organisational skills: to flourish as an energy engineer, it helps if you are highly organised and methodical by nature. The position may involve prioritising different tasks, issuing step-by-step guidelines and recommendations, redesigning existing processes and procedures and using your time and resources as efficiently as possible.

  • Presentation skills: finally, energy engineers often communicate the results of their research or on-site observations to decision-makers by making formal presentations. These engineers require solid presentation skills to keep their audiences engaged and interested throughout the session and to persuade them to take their desired course of action afterwards.

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