This interview introduces Mok Kam Meng, a freelance energy manager and consultant who trains other energy managers. I met him at the 2023 iGEM Expo in Kuala Lumpur, where we were introduced by my university friend who was exhibiting in the electric mobility section. At the moment, Mok is helping him transform his company business strategy from marine engineering in the oil & gas industry, towards future industries like solar and electric vehicle (EV) charging. 

Mok is based in Malaysia. 

What is this interview series about?

The 21st century will inevitably be a century of change. The excesses of systems we invented throughout the Industrial Age to solve the problems of the past, amplified in the 20th century. This resulted in instability of the Earth’s climate systems, as well as of the living systems of the planet through biodiversity loss, which are known as the Climate Crisis and the Biodiversity Crisis.

Reversing these planetary crises requires changing those systems to become sustainable, ideally without reviving the pre-industrial age problems that spurred its unchecked growth to begin with, such as lower food production & availability, limited access to healthcare, and reduced quality of life due to the poverty trap. In order to do so, we need to understand which jobs must be created, and which ones must change.

This interview is intended to give some insight to people looking for employment in the landscape of the future sustainable world. It is not meant to be career advice; not all jobs explored in this series are common today, or in your location. Rather, it is to expand your mindset on new job possibilities on the horizon, and what livelihood can mean in the future. For a more detailed description of this interview series, go to the Jobs on the Horizon archive.

I asked Mok about what energy management is, and why it is now a career. Here’s what he said about how energy efficiency is foundational for businesses in the era of energy transition.

Why are energy managers important to the energy transition?

An energy manager is important because they directly impact a company’s bottom line. Because energy is one of the biggest costs of businesses. Energy managers help businesses reduce this cost by becoming more energy efficient. Energy efficiency is also the first step if the business wants to invest in renewable energy, since it can reduce the scale of investment needed. 

What problems / which SDGs does an energy manager solve?

There are a few:

  • SDG7 – because it is related to equal access to energy, affordability of energy, and renewable energy
  • SDG11 – because energy efficiency is part of enabling sustainable cities and communities
  • SDG13 – climate action
  • If applied in the field of ISO: 50001 certification, possibly SDG17 as well

What do you do as an energy manager? What does a typical [day/week/month] look like?

Apparently it depends on the role the energy manager is playing – Mok has done them all!

In-house energy manager for an organisation

If I’m acting as an in-house energy manager for an organisation, I’d be gathering energy data, doing analysis, coming up with suggestions and action plans to reduce it. If those are implemented, the day to day work will be around monitoring it, familiarising myself with energy-using processes, technology in the market. To see how it can further improve. 

Work can become routine in the monitoring phase. At the same time, it is challenging due to needing to keep up-to-date. An energy manager requires a more complex combination of skills. Even if your foundation is electrical [note: engineering], you need to understand mechanical functions. And vice versa, to understand how electricity flows, how chemical reactions work. If civil engineering, you’re in early stage material selection that affects the building’s energy use. You also need to know IT. 

Energy management consultant

If I’m acting as a consultant doing the set up and then leaving it to the energy manager, I have to know the rules & regulations and the legal side of things. I have to know about different programs that can benefit the corporation. From how it impacts the company financially, as well as incentives and non-engineering benefits that can be brought to the client organisation to deliver the most financial benefit.

There are more leadership qualities required in how to form a team and get it to work together, to set up an energy management system that can run continuously. More skillsets are required than engineering.

Energy-related auditing

If I’m acting as a certification body, I’m checking companies. An energy manager could be acting on behalf of financial bodies or the government, for example to disburse incentives etc. In the current business environment, there are people who want to get benefits without doing the real work. This is greenwashing, there are scams and hoaxes. I help the user to get the intended benefit. I help managers understand whether the outcome reported by the engineer and energy manager is correct.

Best thing about being an energy manager

I enjoy energy management consulting. I like making sure the right things are implemented from a multi-disciplinary approach for the organisation. 

Worst thing about being an energy manager

It’s not getting full collaboration from the client. Dealing with a lot of engineers, sometimes you’re working with those who can’t accept that other expertise also brings value, and aren’t open to new approaches. When you face unwillingness to get out of the box of academic qualifications. 

How much can someone earn as an energy manager?

It depends on the organisation. In the manufacturing sector, it is equivalent to an operations manager. In Malaysia it’s about RM7-10k per month on average. 

As an auditor, it depends on the certification body. The ballpark amount is the same, but possibly more. Some bodies have an in-house team, so then it’s a salaried job. Some bodies rely on external consultant auditors. Then it’s on a per-job basis, so possibly a higher amount but it’s less secure. 

Consultant energy management – it depends on scope of the job, the value you’re bringing in, and required commitment level. Some consultants work on performance based fees, some charge scope-based.

What are the future career prospects for energy managers?

Very good, as we’re going into an era of sustainability and green energy. And people may not have realised it, but when you become an energy manager, you will become the person who knows everything about an organisation. It prepares you to become a plant manager, even a GM. 

How did you get into energy management? 

As a mechanical engineer. I started as a sales person; a sales engineer doing international sales. I wanted to find angles in marketing a product, to sell to your targeted customer, and find a niche. 

At the time, a hot topic in the market was the Kyoto Protocol. Everyone started to talk about energy management and carbon trading. Products or services that can help the client to move towards that. There was also the rising price of crude oil. Energy became a hot topic. From marketing, it led to learning certifications. 

I am a bit of a busybody. Aside from making sales, I like to see that what I do makes an impact. I started to see how I can bring more value aside from just one product. I have a curiosity in making better things for clients. This became energy management consultancy. Instead of focusing on products, it’s focusing on systems, and then management. 

Then I ventured into solar systems as green energy generation. Then I started to train people. I enjoy training.

What kind of person is best suited to be an energy manager?

Aside from solid technical knowledge, they must have commerciality.

Someone who likes challenges, more than what a routine job gives.

You need an engineering background – it doesn’t matter which kind of engineering. Because energy cannot be destroyed, all of them deal with energy. I have had civil, mechanical, electrical, mechatronics students. A foundation in energy, and applied knowledge in management – because we are managing energy.

Suggested further reading / learning for an aspiring energy manager:

Aside from an engineering degree to start with, these are suggested certification resources:

Interested in exploring the career path of an energy manager? Pin for your job inspiration. If you would like to share your Job of the Future, contact me here.

US style corporate management promotes senior managers who see staff in terms of their job grade, like parts in a machine. So if two people happen to be in the same job grade, therefore they must be interchangeable.

As a kind of LOTR fan, I have to nitpick the phrasing and clarify that the reason why the One Ring was the least dangerous with a hobbit, is because hobbits just want to live life and get along, ie hobbits aren’t tempted to “rule them all”.

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