One of the most important parts of developing a corporate energy strategy is examining your current energy expenses. By knowing what costs you incur on a routine basis, you can begin to make adjustments to tailor your energy services or implement plans to reduce your costs altogether. A utility bill audit is a critical first step in this process.
A utility bill audit involves having a professional, often an in-house specialist, an energy consultant, or a bill auditing company, review your utility bill. After they’ve gone over your monthly charges with a fine-toothed comb, they’ll advise you of any unnecessary fees and make suggestions that may help you in reducing your energy expenses. Armed with that information, they can assist with negotiation refunds or future bill credits or make changes to the way that you purchase energy if there are options that are better suited for you.
Although both a utility bill audit and an energy audit are means to the same end, they should not be confused. An energy audit will ultimately yield recommendations for you to reduce your monthly utility bill by strategically consuming less energy.
Additional Read: Why Do You Need An Energy Bill Audit?
Both utility bills and energy audits are vital to ensuring that companies maximize their energy savings, but their findings dictate different courses of action. Minor discrepancies on your utility bill can snowball into thousands of wasted dollars for large or multi-site users if they are not caught.
The utility bill auditing procedure is simple and straightforward. Choosing an outsider to perform the audit, however, may initially prove daunting. Read on to find a list of questions to vet your auditing company to make sure you obtain the answers that you need.
What Is a Utility Bill Audit?
A utility bill audit is a thorough review of a company’s utility invoices. The primary goal is to uncover billing errors and make sure that your energy needs are being met in the most cost-effective manner. Larger companies may have an in-house team charged with reviewing each invoice as it is received. Smaller companies are often better served by hiring an outside auditor to conduct a monthly bill audit.
The team who audits the utility invoice will examine it thoroughly for any billing errors. These may include unwarranted late fees, open/close fees, or being billed for the wrong rate plan. Utility audits can be performed on all types of utilities, including natural gas, electric, water/sewer, waste.
Nearly 17% of all invoices received contain an error, and more than 80% of organizations are routinely overcharged on their utility bills. With utilities, these small errors, like a meter reading being off by a digit, can translate into staggering unnecessary costs. Taking the time to verify these charges on each utility bill—and for multi-site businesses, at each site—can yield some significant savings.
Importance Of a Utility Bill Audit
The goal of a utility bill audit is to save you money. The audit itself can uncover charges that can be disputed, either for a refund or credit towards a future bill. It is also possible to review previous utility bills and, if necessary, seek restitution from utility companies for them, too.
An energy bill audit will uncover erroneous charges, but it may also discover tax rebates or other refunds that you may be entitled to. In addition, the review will analyze your rates to see if you can obtain a better rate by making some minor adjustments, referred to as rate optimization. If, for example, tying into a different grid or switching your rate plan will save significant amounts of money, it may be worth the effort to investigate alternatives based on what your audit uncovers.
Finally, a utility bill audit is a small step that can translate into significant savings, especially for companies that use substantial quantities of energy. Small missteps add up quickly, and an energy audit is a quick, affordable way to make sure that you don’t waste money on charges that you shouldn’t pay for, and that you are getting the best value for what you spend on energy right now and in the future.
Who Conducts an Energy Bill Audit?
Larger companies may dedicate an individual or a team to review each utility bill, uncover any errors or discrepancies, and recover those fees. The scale of the company and the quantity of energy used will justify the expense of maintaining this department.
Smaller firms, however, may elect to hire an outside consultant to audit their utility bills. By delegating the task to a skilled professional, you save human resources and achieve more effective results. An energy audit can be conducted by a reputable energy management company or by an energy bill auditor (or contractor).
Selecting the right utility bill audit company
Now that you’ve decided on an energy audit choosing the right utility bill auditor is the next important step. There are a variety of factors to consider.
- Assess your auditor’s knowledge of the industry. For an energy bill audit, make sure that the person has substantial experience with your local energy market.
- Look for professionals who have worked with companies like yours.
- Check out some of their savings reports to see how much they’ve saved their other clients to see how much they might be able to save you.
- Hire a dedicated auditor who specializes in reviewing the utility bills that you need to be analyzed.
- Choose a seasoned auditing company that has shown a long-term commitment to the business. Avoid new, inexperienced auditors.
Additionally, you’ll want to discuss how your auditor will be paid. There are three main fee structures in the industry.
- Fixed: Your auditor will consider how much work auditing your utility bill will require and quote you a fixed, flat fee to perform the service. There won’t be any additional charges.
- Hourly: Your auditor will bill you for each hour spent auditing your utility bill.
- Contingency: Your auditor will only be paid if they uncover any savings or obtain a refund on your behalf. Then, they’ll receive a percentage of the savings or refunds that they’ve secured as payment.
Additional Read: How To Switch Electricity Providers?
Important Questions To Consider Before Choosing Your Bill Audit Company
To determine which auditor or company is the best fit for your needs, run through these questions with them:
- What is their specialty? Which utility bills do you audit?
- Do they work on recovering funds and savings on past and future bills?
- What is their track record for utilities within your industry? How much have they been able to save similar clients?
- Are they experienced in working with your utility providers? Are they familiar with their rate structure?
- Are they well acquainted with local tax and other incentives?
- Do they just recommend how to seek remedies or better rates, or will they also work to obtain those credits and savings for you?
- How sophisticated are their methods of analysis?
- How does it work?
- Will they conduct forensic audits on the work of previous auditors, or trailing audits?
- Is the service risk-free? What guarantees are offered?
Answers to these questions will help you decide who to choose to perform your energy bill audit and help to shape your energy management strategy.
Navigate Power’s Energy Services
Hiring a utility bill contractor requires a bit of effort, but the payoff, thanks to the sheer volume of errors and significant potential savings, generally merits the attention. If your goal is to reduce your energy costs, an energy bill audit is your first step in coordinating an effective energy management strategy. It is a simple way to potentially save quite a bit of money on your monthly energy expenses.
As you consider your best options, make sure that Navigate Power is on your shortlist. As an expert in energy savings, efficiency, management, and procurement, we are well suited to helping you uncover past and future savings through bill audits. Thanks to our distinctive position and years of experience in this field, we are also uniquely qualified to offer you a turn-key set of solutions to your ongoing energy needs.
An energy audit may uncover tens of thousands of dollars in erroneous charges to be recovered or point to even more substantial savings with the selection of a well-suited rate plan. With the information from your audit, we can help you find and retrieve real dollars that can positively impact your bottom line.
Thanks to Navigate Power’s procurement platform, if additional savings are to be found in the future, we know how to help you secure them. We are also equipped to help you use the information from your utility bill audit to help you formulate an energy management strategy to reduce your energy footprint and compound your savings immediately and in the long-term.
Please reach out to one of our experienced energy consultants with any questions you may have as you pursue a utility audit and work to maximize your energy savings.
Additional Read: Improving Energy Efficiency In Buildings
About Navigate Power
Navigate Power is a leading electricity and natural gas consulting firm, headquartered in Chicago, IL. Ranked no. 550 on the 2017 and no. 856 on the 2018 Inc. 5000 list as one of the fastest-growing companies in the nation, Navigate Power continues to expand into new markets nationwide and currently manages over 30,000 commercial energy accounts and over one billion dollars in energy budgets.