In this eleventh and final step of the energy services project delivery process, the electrical contractor (EC) follows up with the customer to verify that the project continues to perform as planned and helps the customer correct any warranty, guarantee or performance issues discovered since project closeout. This step is vital to marketing performance-verification services.
Most energy services project agreements require the EC to provide a standard one-year warranty for the installation. As a result, customers do not expect the electrical contractor to check the performance of the energy services project after project closeout. However, from a business development standpoint, the EC needs to ensure the customer is satisfied with the work and is willing to provide a recommendation to other potential customers if asked.
Without following up with the customer and verifying that the installed equipment and systems are performing as expected, there is no way for the EC to know if the customer is satisfied with the installation. The energy services project could be working, but it may not be working as well as planned; the customer may not be happy with it. In this case, the EC needs to know the customer’s concerns and work to resolve them and ensure repeat business and good recommendations.
Similarly, customers undertake most energy services projects based on the planned annual energy savings. However, there is no way of knowing if the actual installation is producing savings without verification. This is especially true where installation performance varies throughout the year as in the case of a photovoltaic system or daylighting control system.
Energy performance verification can include analyzing the customer’s monthly utility bills, looking at building management system (BMS) data, setting up temporary monitoring equipment, or a combination of methods. If system performance deviates substantially from planned performance and can’t be explained by changes in weather patterns or facility occupancy and use, the EC can help identify the performance issues and develop a plan for correcting them. It could be as simple as the customer’s personnel not understanding how to operate the system, not maintaining the system as required, or unknowingly modifying the system.
A followup review of the installed system can also help the EC learn and improve its future energy services. Talking to the customer’s personnel that operate and maintain the installed equipment and systems will net valuable information as to what works and does not work for future projects. Information obtained from the customer can include equipment and system operational and maintenance idiosyncrasies; distributor and manufacturer responsiveness; equipment or system options that should have been included or excluded; installation methods and details that could have been better; and other things. Listening to the customer about the project’s performance will not only help the EC improve its services, but the EC will also cement its relationship with this customer by better understanding what this customer wants next time.
Marketing performance verification services
There are a variety of ways that the EC can package and market energy services’ project performance verification services to the customer. The best method is to include the verification services and their associated cost as part of the electrical contractor’s original project scope of work. If the customer is competitively bidding the energy services project, the EC can include the verification process in its bid proposal as a voluntary alternate and not part of the base bid.
In this way, the EC will not be penalized for including this additional service in its proposal, and it can educate the customer about the advantages of project performance verification during contract negotiations if it is the successful bidder. Other options include offering periodic system inspections and performance verifications as part of an ongoing service contract or as a regular service call.
The author thanks ELECTRI International Inc. for sponsoring the project, “Energy Roadmap: Electrical Contractor’s Guide for Expanding Into the Emerging Energy Market,” on which this article is based.