What Is The ERP Exam? What To Expect, And How To Prepare For It

The Energy Risk Professional (ERP) is a new professional designation from GARP aimed at risk professionals working in the physical and financial fields of energy. I was actually studying for the CAIA (Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst) and the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) when I became interested in energy risk management. It was intuitive to me to use energy financial instruments for risk management and hedging, but the physical aspects of the energy risk professional designation were not entirely clear to me. Still, I took the plunge and registered for the November exam in summer of 2010.

Little did I know what I had signed up for: The ERP curriculum stretched over nearly two thousand pages, consisted of over 100 readings different and academic papers, some of them very lengthy. Next to a 60 hour work week, the study material was a mountain of work. Organizing the material, summarizing it, reviewing and practicing for the exam were made even more difficult by the lack of study material and preparation resources, as only one (!) practice exam was available at the time.

The curriculum stretches from physical aspects of petroleum (hydrocarbon genesis, refining, transport with tankers, pipelines) over coal and natural gas, to alternative energy such as solar, hydro, wind, and biomass. There is also a segment of nuclear energy, financial trading instruments, valuation of energy transactions, financial disclosure, and laws and regulations. A large part of the material is electricity. The finance part was easy for me, as it covered mainly options, futures, forwards, swaps and little structured derivatives. Energy futures was a different bag altogether, but not too remote from what I already knew.

The physical aspects were much more interesting, as they contained ideas and concepts that were new to me. Even simple truths like the fact that electricity is not storable and what this means for trading electricity derivatives seem trite at first, but when you get into it further, it opens up a whole new universe.

My main challenge was reviewing and learning the study material. I had made a ton of summaries of the original readings, but how should I pack that into my head for the exam? I used a spaced repetition with my summaries in question and answer format, and that was quite effective (but not very efficient, as it ate a lot of time). In retrospect, I spent about 200 hours preparing for the exam, and passed. If this sounds like a lot, it was. There were simply no tools available at the time that I could have used for a shortcut.

If you work in the energy industry, and are involved with risk management, I encourage you to look into the Energy Risk Professional (ERP) from GARP. This designation is new, but I believe it will grow tremendously in importance over the next few years, and has the potential to help you in your career. I wish you all the best for your exam preparation!