As the energy marketplace gets more complex, wouldn't it be great to find a resource specifically designed for commercial and industrial (C/I) energy users, and the contractors that serve them? Look no further: www.energybuyer.org may be just the site for you! The response by readers to a previous "Energy Wiz" column in Engineered Systems (on a technique for 3-D visualization of interval energy data) indicated a desire for other tips on handling retail energy issues. Such tips and other resources may be found at energybuyer.org.

Who Needs Another WebSite?

Due to a variety of factors, including deregulation of natural gas and electricity, the retail energy marketplace has become more complex. These changes have made more difficult the jobs of both energy users and consultants. Efforts by public utility commissions and utilities to simplify those changes typically focused on the needs of residential and small commercial energy users because they make up over 90% of all utility customers. In general, mid- and large-sized C/I customers have been left to fend for themselves.

While many energy marketers and equipment vendors offer advice on their websites, most of it is quite general and is often merely copied from energy-related documents available from government energy agencies. Very little of it reflects actual enduser experience, and even less of it is updated to remain current with changes in the marketplace.

While the largest customers can afford in-house energy managers dedicated to keeping current on energy issues, most firms find it necessary to instead expand the duties of a facility manager who's already handling a range of duties, many unrelated to energy. For those customers, a helping hand is often just the ticket to getting a grip on tasks such as finding a qualified consultant, contracting for energy, or merely understanding market-related lingo. Based on that experience, energybuyer.org was created in late 1999.

Initially started to assist the formation of energy user groups, energybuyer.org has been expanded to include tips, links, and other information for C/I retail energy customers and consultants. As many retail customers in states with deregulated utilities have learned, there is strength in both numbers and communication. Just like the early days of personal computers, user groups were often the first point of contact between those with some knowledge and those seeking it. Such enduser organizations and resources were also often more trustworthy than a vendor, whose main goal was to sell a particular widget or service, even if an alternative might be better.

What Will I Find At energybuyer.org?

Now celebrating the start of its third year on the Internet, the site does not contain (and will not accept) commercial advertising. Instead, an expanding list of resources is available, all chosen based on requests and queries from retail energy customers. Many of the techniques that are described have been developed and/or improved by Energywiz, Inc., the energy consulting firm (of which I am president) that maintains the site. Here's a list of items presently available at energybuyer.org:

  • A directory of energy aggregation and activist groups by state (updated as new groups appear) - over 300 are listed;
  • "A Guide to Forming an Energy Users Group" which details how to set up such an organization, and an extensive Glossary of Energy Market Terms, updated as new terms appear;
  • Over two dozen Tips Of The Month, covering a wide variety of energy procurement and efficiency techniques (all based on experience in the United States and abroad);
  • A list of all Certified Energy Procurement Professionals (CEP) who have taken and passed the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) certification test on energy purchasing issues and techniques - over 700 are listed with contact information in the site's May 2000 Tip Of The Month, which is updated annually; and
  • Links to other energy information sources, including four free magazines (one of which is, of course, Engineered Systems) covering retail energy use and procurement issues.

To receive notifications when new tips or other resources are added to the site, send an e-mail with the words "mailing list" in the subject line to energybuyer@aol.com. ES