Energy efficiency holds great potential to deliver the benefits of a clean energy transition to marginalized Black and Brown communities. However, it is imperative that programs and policies be developed by centering the perspectives of members within those communities and their representative organizations. In doing so, we can move more effectively toward energy equity.
Midwest Energy Solutions Conference
The 2022 Midwest Energy Solutions Conference brought numerous conversations on a variety of topics in and out of the sessions. A trending topic for many attendees was workforce development. The energy industry is no stranger to these discussions, as it becomes increasingly present in state policies like Illinois’ Climate and Equitable Jobs Act and on a federal level through funding allocated by the Biden-Harris Administration.
During the 2022 Midwest Energy Solutions Conference, MEEA welcomed 11 students from across the Midwest to join more than 400 industry professionals in Chicago. The scholarship, generously sponsored by ComEd, covered registration, hotel and travel costs for each student to attend the conference. The scholarship was open to college, graduate and trade students from our 13-state footprint.
For the second year, MEEA offered scholarships to students across the Midwest to attend the 2021 Midwest Energy Solutions Conference. The scholarship, generously sponsored by Nexant, allowed 10 students to attend the virtual conference at no cost. The opportunity was open to college, graduate and trade students throughout the Midwest.
More than 60 attendees at the 2020 Midwest Energy Solutions Conference attended a workshop focused on engaging industrial customers through energy efficiency. MEEA staff tasked them with a bit of role-play, presenting two policy scenarios constructed to reflect an amalgamation of the industrial energy efficiency landscape in the Midwest. The first scenario featured a mandate for energy savings but some form of industrial opt-out or exemption that removed a substantial number of customers from participation, thus reducing the budget for industrial sector EE programs. The second scenario was a voluntary EE state with limited overall portfolios that also has low industrial program funding.
For the first time, the 2020 Midwest Energy Solutions Conference offered a scholarship for students to attend with all or most expenses covered, to join more than 700 industry professionals for three days of learning and networking.
The scholarship, sponsored by Nexant, covered the cost of registration, travel and housing for recipients. The opportunity was open to college, graduate and trade students throughout the Midwest.
In order to create the best possible experience for customers, utilities must take their perspectives into consideration. Energy efficiency programs are often designed to maximize energy savings and fail to account for the specific needs and preferences of the customers they are targeting. At the Midwest Energy Solutions Conference this past February, attendees had the opportunity to brainstorm ways to best engage their customers by putting themselves in their shoes. “Walk a Mile in Your Customer’s Shoes” encouraged attendees to put aside their program perspectives and think through program design from a customer’s point of view.
Contractors – those who install energy efficiency upgrades in buildings – are the backbone of the EE industry. However, despite being crucial market actors to ensuring upgrades are properly installed, programs are sometimes designed or updated without consulting contractors to understand how their businesses may be impacted. Contractors are also grappling with labor shortages and an aging workforce, even though they often offer high wages and on-the-job training.
The year 2007 was an unforgettable year for multiple reasons. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows (the final book of the series) was released, Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on Climate Change, and it sparked the start of the subprime mortgage crisis which sent America into the greatest recession since the great depression. But, perhaps more influential than anything else was when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone to the world. The iPhone took the world by storm, completely changing the way society interacts with technology and the way technology interacts with society.
This year's Midwest Energy Solutions Conference (MES) incorporated interactive workshops into its agenda for the first time ever, and one of the three workshops focused on Net Zero Energy (NZE) in the Midwest. MEEA staff wanted attendees to consider what Net Zero Energy means for energy efficiency (EE) in the Midwest specifically. (For the purposes of the workshop, “NZE” was referring to any building, development or community that does not use more energy than it produces. See DOE’s NZE definitions).