Guide to Becoming a Renewable Energy Engineer

Travelling around the world, beautiful scenery, worthwhile projects, a genuine feeling that you can make a difference...plus a higher daily rate than permanent employees would earn. Of course it’s not all roses, we are sure some locations will be less exotic and there are risks mainly due to the potentially hazardous environments, as wind turbines blades are quite sharp and the North Sea isn’t exactly the Bahamas.

On a lighter note though, being a Renewable Energy Engineer has huge 'green' rewards, meaning you will be able to pursue you’re lifelong goals of building a better future for generations to come whether you work in bio fuels, hydropower, wind or solar power. Renewable Energy not only pays well, but with the 'green consumer' fad widening and the government putting treaties in place worldwide to lower their carbon emissions, the increase in job demand for contractors in this sector is high and continuing to increase. So, lets start by answering a few basic questions...

How do I become a Renewable Energy Engineer?

An engineering or scientific degree is a must have and a placement year in the Industry is desirable. Remember, contractors must also have ‘green’ values, as you will be working towards a carbon neutral future. It’s preferable that contractors have a few years experience as a permanent employee, as often you will be working on your own and other employees will not be able to aid in training you.

What are employers looking for?

Employers will be interested most importantly in your experience and what you can offer them. This means your CV needs to look as appealing as possible, visit our writing your CV page for more information. 

As you will be working in a ‘green’ industry, it is important to remember you will all be working towards the same goal ‘of making energy carbon neutral’ so your passion and desire must clearly shine through in order to secure a contract.

Consider the following to make you stand out from the crowd:

  • Research papers and submit them to the company to emphasise your passion on this topic.
  • Extra curricular activities (no, not demonstrations) but you could be an active member supporting local green issues.
  • Join LinkedIn and Facebook groups - but nothing that might deter potential clients.
  • Keep track of green issues which you can discuss further in interviews.

How do I find work?

Recruitment sites and niche specific agencies, who specialise in one particular area of renewable energy, are the most obvious ways to find work. By becoming a member of their network you then have a direct source which can send you regular updates on upcoming contracts and news in your sector. Visit useful sites such as International Renewable Energy Agency, Renewable UK and Renewable Energy South West.

Another option is contacting companies direct. Now not all companies will have their information published for all to see, so online community sites such as LinkedIn may allow you to search for a point of contact within the company, again it may be a hunting game in finding their details, however there is no harm in also sending your CV in the post and by email once you have their details, with a covering letter explaining what contract work you are looking for and what you can offer them. 

LinkedIn is not the most obvious source when searching for a new contract, and it is very rare that you will actually find work using LinkedIn, however it is a good way to build up your network, get some strong points of contact within the Renewable Energy sector and a way to make people aware of when you are looking for a new contract. For more information visit LinkedIn for Contractors.  

How much can I earn as a Renewable Energy Engineer?

  • Daily rates start at £300 and can go up to £1,000 per day. Daily rates depend on your experience, the type of project and specialist skills. The good news is some very special renewable energy consultants can earn in excess of £1,000 per day.
  • Daily rates as with any sector are often linked to supply and demand. With the high industry demand, impartially in the wind sector; which saw the industry grow by 91% in 2010 (February 2011) and with the lack of contractors available within this sector, Renewable Energy Engineers can demand higher rates of pay to compensate for the extra work load.

Why Renewable Energy and why contracting?

  • Making a difference - The Renewable Energy sector is unique, as it gives you the chance to make a more sustainable future for generations to come whether you work in bio fuels, hydropower, wind or solar power.
  • Prospects - A large amount of projects are the ‘first‘ of their kind within this sector, giving you the opportunity of gaining invaluable skills that only a handful of, or no other contractor holds.
  • Higher rates of pay - With the demand high and the supply ratio low, contracting within this sector makes you a highly desirable candidate, giving you a greater opportunity to negotiate a higher rate of pay, which is only fair as unlike permanent employees, you do not get holiday or sick pay, giving you a greater chance of a higher rate.
  • Freedom - You can choose which contracts you take on and the length of time you work. You could take a contract in the North Sea followed by a contract in Dubai. The choice is yours!
  • Experience - The more contracts you take on the greater your practical and managerial skills. Giving you a wider choice of projects and the ability to charge higher daily rates.
  • Lower Taxes - Any accountant will tell you that trading through your own Limited Company is the most tax efficient way possible. This is to be expected, after all as a contractor you do not get sick pay, holiday pay, and have to manage your own tax affairs. However any good accountant will be able to remove most of the burden and you shouldn’t need to allow more than 15 – 20 minutes a month for limited company administration.

Contracting as a Renewable Energy Engineer puts a whole new spin on the client, employee, relationship. Your role is to come into an organisation as the ‘industry expert’, which is not only a nice position to be in, it also adds to your credibility as an industry professional, widens your experience further and helps increase your daily rate.

Another benefit to contracting is you will pay less tax, then a permanent employee. This is to be expected, after all as a contractor you do not get sick pay, holiday pay, and have to manage your own tax affairs. 

Any accountant will tell you that trading through your own Limited Company is the most tax efficient way possible. However any good accountant will be able to remove most of the burden and you shouldn’t need to allow more than 15 – 20 minutes a month for limited company administration. Visit the following page for a full list of Benefits of having an Accountant

Rates of Pay for Renewable Energy Engineers

Naturally the rate you charge for your services all depends on the experience and specialist skills you have. If you are a new contractor within the Renewable Energy sector, you cannot expect to demand the same daily rate to that of an experienced contractor who has been working for years.

Daily rates as with any sector are often linked to supply and demand. With the high industry demand, impartially the wind sector, which saw the industry grow by 91% in 2010 (February 2011) and with the lack of contractors available within this sector, Renewable Energy Engineers can demand higher rates of pay to compensate for the extra work load.

Negotiating your contract rate is vital as a Renewable Energy Engineer, especially when first starting out – it’s likely that you can increase the standard rate by playing on your skill set. Remember to take the following into consideration when negotiating your daily rate:  

  • Level of experience you have
  • The demand for your specific skills
  • Ability to negotiate (very important and something many find uncomfortable)
  • Keenness for the job

Your first few contracts whilst you build up your skill set will be at a lower daily rate. It is important though to remember as you complete more projects and your experience grows you will be rewarded with higher daily rates. Some very special renewable energy consultants can earn in excess of £1,000 per day!

Below are some examples of contracts you may find. Don't be disheartened that there isn't a £1,000 per day contract, these contracts are usually advertised stating, contract rate negotiable or daily rate available on request, this so they attract the correct skill sets and are not inundated with applicants. 

Senior Environmental Engineer - http://www.oilcareers.com

Required Skills:

  • Experience of all aspects of environmental engineering on oil and gas projects in FEED and EPC, including waste inventories, environmental management, atmospheric pollutants inventory and impact mitigation
  • It is essential that you have Oil and Gas project experience
  • LNG experience preferred
  • Experience of Australian projects would also be an advantage
    Daily Rate: £390

Offshore Senior Authorised Person - http://www.renewablescareers.com

Required Skills: 

  • Working for an EPC company
  • Experience working on high voltage electrical systems up to 132kV
  • H&S and CDM knowledge
  • Experience working on commissioning projects
  • Distribution and generation background
  • Engineering supervision experience
  • Client liaison
  • Offshore experience preferable
  • HND in Electrical Engineering (or equivalent)
  • Must be Authorised to 132kV
  • Candidates must come from a T&D and or Power Generation background
    Daily Rate: £400

Design Management Engineer - http://www.acre-resources.com/green-jobs

Required Skills:

  • Experience with designing offshore structures ideally from a civil engineering background
  • Experience with offshore jacket foundation design
  • Engineering offshore construction advice and solutions
  • Expertise on procurement design and construction of renewable projects
  • Renewable energy projects and new business
  • Budget demonstrating
  • Excellent time management skills
    Daily Rate: £420

If you still have questions about contracting then please contact our New Business team on 01442 275789 or email newbusiness@sjdaccountancy.com.