Energy Advisor: What's the Business Case?

Energy Advisor: What's the Business Case?

Shawna HendersonJune 24, 2021

Blue House Energy is inundated w/requests from folks interested in becoming an Energy Advisor. 

We’re not complaining! 

No, no, no, we’re super excited to answer all of your questions. So this is the first in a series on the business of being an EA, reflecting some of the common questions that Carla, our program coordinator is hearing.

Is there really a business opportunity for Energy Advisors? 

Why yes, there is. Many newly announced, or soon to be announced, programs for energy conservation and renewable energy installations are relying on an Energy Advisor’s recommendations and the ERS rating as a requirement for eligibility.

Some of the biggest ones include:

  • The Greener Homes initiative: 700,000 grants of  $5,000 each
  • CMHC is administering the 200,000 Greener Homes no interest loans of $40,000 in 2021-2022
  • Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) Community Energy Financing (CEF) in the millions, the first round of funded community-level residential retrofit programs projects have been awarded, with rolling intake since April 2021.
  • Local/Regional Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing programs
  • Regional/provincial initiatives for retrofits and renewable energy
  • Building code compliance through performance path for new construction - there are over 100,000 new houses built every year in Canada, and the proportion of houses that use ERS rating to prove performance compliance is growing every year (uneven distribution across the provinces and territories)
  • Regional/provincial incentives and rebates for high performance new construction

There’s So. Much. Business. Coming. 

How Do I Compete with Current Energy Advisors?

Right now, there are about 800 EAs active in the country, and they’re pretty busy. The federal government is aiming to put another 2,000 EAs in the field, quickly. 

So, let’s take the first program on the list above, the Greener Homes Initiative $5,000 grant program: up to 700,000 homes in 7 years. An average of 100,000 completed house files a year.

How much effort does it take to complete a house file from setting up the initial visit to the final report and upgrade rating label being shipped to the homeowner. Assume that the Energy Advisor works for a Service Organization that does all of the intake, top level admin, and client billing, but the EA still has to work their schedule to homeowners’ availability, and there is some admin time required for each file. If the EA is a contractor vs. Service Organization staff, they also have to spend time on invoicing, A/P, A/R, and taxes throughout the year. 

How Much Effort in a Completed House File?

Here’s the top-level breakdown of the steps required to complete a house file for a retrofit, with reasonable times for each step (some houses will take longer, some will take less):

  1. Scheduling and admin: 1 day a week not in the field and not actually working on a house file. So the work week is down to 4 days actively visiting/modelling houses, 7.5 hr day x 4 = 30 hr available per week.
  2. Each house needs an as is, or ‘D’ site visit: 2 - 3 hours per house, depending on the size/complexity/age. Let’s say 2.5 hours on average.
  3. Each house needs an as is, or ‘D’ Hot2000 model, report, and label: let’s say a skinny 3.0 hours to model the house, write up the recommendations, generate the reports and the rating label, print and mail each one.
  4. Once the energy upgrade work is done, the EA goes back to the house to verify that the work was done, and does another blower door test. Let’s call that 1 hour
  5. Each house needs an ‘E’ Hot2000 file, report, and label. Let’s say this one, done and dusted, takes 1 hour.
  6. Every house visit is going to have travel associated with it. Urban EAs will have an easier time than suburban/rural EAs. Let’s say there’s a 1 hour round-trip travel associated with each house visit. There are two house visits, so 2 hours

With this breakdown, an average house file for a retrofit can require 9.5 hours, but the effort could easily range from 6 to more than 12 hours. (New house files are shorter, as there’s only 1 house visit).

We have 30 hrs a week for house file work (remember 1 day a week is admin/scheduling). Divide that by 9.5 hours = 3 completed house files a week. Multiply by 48 weeks (not everyone has 4 weeks off/year, but we’ll allow for vacation, stat holidays, sick days, and other bits of life, like caring for kids or other family members, car repairs, dental appointments, etc.). That’s 144 houses/year. Assuming they come in one after another at a measured pace - definitely not how this works in real life! 

Multiply by 800 EAs, that’s 115,200 completed house files annually. (It’s worth noting that at the beginning of June, 20,000 homeowners had already signed up for the grant, and waiting lists for EAs have begun.)

Yay, that’s more than the allotted number/year under the Greener Homes Initiative. 

Now let’s add those 200,000 no-interest loans administered by CMHC. Assuming that there will be one-third overlap between those who get the $5,000 grant and those who take up the no interest loan, we got roughly another 135,000 retrofits to get in the hopper in 2021-22. That’s another full year of work for +800 EAs.
Now the FCM money: $300 million in Community Efficiency Financing (CEF) initiative is rolling out now for municipal-level retrofit programs. There isn’t any specific data about how many houses could be retrofit under this program, but there are already 9 municipalities that have pilot and capital projects underway, and many more applications have been submitted. 

Another program sponsored by FCM and administered by The Atmospheric Fund (TAF) is Low Carbon Cities Canada (LC3). LC3 will help seven city regions to reach their full emissions reduction potential while at the same time unlocking co-benefits for local communities. 

All FCM programs require an Energy Advisor to provide an EnerGuide for Houses rating before and after retrofit upgrades.

But wait, remember those 800 existing EAs? They are already running at capacity. In fact, building code compliance for the Energy Step Code is keeping so many BC EAs so busy, they question why they need to know anything about existing houses at all.

What about any other regional programs for existing houses? 

What about new housing and the performance path outside of BC? 

Canada is looking to get another 2000 EAs in the field, which seems like it might be on the low side as well…but it’s a good target!

If you’re interested in becoming an EA, talk to us!

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published