The pitfalls of the tendering process

In this article, our managing director Damian Baker will use his years of industry expertise to weigh up the best way of purchasing a solar PV installation for your business. We believe that rather than going through the tendering process, businesses can achieve the best results by working with an experienced installer throughout the consultation period and onto installation.

What is a tender?

Here’s an explanation of the tendering process we found on Executive Compass:

“An invitation to tender document is a written request sent to potential suppliers to ask for information required for the buyer to then evaluate and select a preferred supplier. A tender document is the basis of a tendering process which helps a business select qualified and interested suppliers based on certain contract conditions – broadly this is pricing documentation and quality criteria.”

Completing a tender is like a job application: the potential supplier must provide information against a specification set by the client to prove that they’re capable of delivering the job.
Tendering is commonly used for large construction projects, especially when the client is a large corporation or a public sector institution.


Pitfalls of the tendering process

Despite its prevalence, there are several pitfalls of tenders that can lead to the client missing out on the best service and results.

We’ve seen many businesses choosing to proceed with solar PV, without fully knowing what they want at the start. This is of course understandable: unless you’re a renewables expert, you can’t be expected to understand the ins and outs of what’s possible. However, to overcome this knowledge gap, these businesses may turn to a consultant to help them prepare the tender.

The consultant will help their client prepare a criteria or brief for the proposed tender project. Renewables companies (like RenEnergy) that want to win this project must then tender against this brief. The issue is that often, the consultant doesn’t have any hands-on expertise with installing solar. We’ve found many times in tenders that we must work to a brief provided by an individual or firm less experienced than us. This simply doesn’t provide the best results to the client.

Another large pitfall of this process is that there can be significant delays. Engaging a consultant, reviewing the brief, inviting firms to tender, receiving applications, and engaging the successful supplier are all lengthy processes. This means that by the time the supplier is engaged, the specification of the tender may be out of date, with technological advances creating better possible options for the client.

This usually leads to one of two possible outcomes, neither of which are ideal. In some cases, we have found the tendering process inflexible: once the specification of a project has been agreed, the client may be unwilling to adjust, perhaps to due to stakeholder pressures such as grant requirements. Even when the client is willing to adjust the specification, this is not the best outcome. This duplication of work wastes time and money: even if the tender consultant’s advice is useless, they have already been paid by this point.


An alternative solution

Rather than negotiating the potential pitfalls of the tender process, we believe a better option is to engage an experienced supplier at the consultation phase.

Word of mouth is a valuable research tool, so we suggest picking three regional firms that come highly recommended by your business contacts that have already embraced solar PV. Provide each of the potential suppliers with a summary of what you want to achieve, along with data on your half-hourly energy usage and structural drawings of your buildings. Let them come back to you with their suggestions of how to proceed, along with a price.

We then recommend arranging separate interviews with each of the firms, so you can talk through their proposals and price. You can learn a lot by hearing the potential suppliers explain why (or why not) they are proposing certain options. If you feel like you need some assistance, now would be the time to engage a consultant to help.

In our experience, choosing this method of engaging solar PV suppliers can save your business between 5-10% of the total cost of doing a tender. You could then use this saving to choose a larger array or higher-spec components (where appropriate), or even to invest elsewhere into your business. You can also feel more confident in your solar PV project, as you can get more of a sense of your supplier’s technical expertise and their passion for the job.


Why RenEnergy?

It is very much in RenEnergy’s interest to ensure that the client gets exactly what they need from the system we install. Our reputation depends on providing the best possible outcome for our clients, and we have the expertise to deliver.

We have been in renewables since 2003, and have worked on projects all over the world: from the British Antarctic Survey base, to a mine in the middle of the Kalahari Desert, and to many other trusted organisations throughout East Anglia and beyond. We have completed over 3,000 separate installations, and one of the key things we have seen time and again is how we have brought value to the client by working with them in the consultative phase to decide exactly what they want. Because we have worked across many business sectors, we understand the nuances of how different businesses use energy at different times and in different processes.

At RenEnergy we eat, sleep, and dream about solar panels. Our staff are always up to date on the latest training courses and technical advances, and we have close working relationships with the industry’s best suppliers. This knowledge we have accrued goes into every project we install to deliver the best results for our clients.

Want to find out more about our consulting services? Get in touch.