Each year, MEEA is proud to provide scholarship support to dedicated students interested in attending our annual Midwest Energy Solutions Conference. With support from ComEd, we welcomed six students to last year's conference. These students had the opportunity to network with over 800 innovators and decision-makers from utilities, businesses, the public sector and nonprofits in attendance and learn about the energy efficiency industry. Many felt like they could finally see real world applications of material learned in their classes. They loved connecting with so many people working towards the same goal of energy efficiency. One even described the conference as “a crash course in the energy efficiency industry in the Midwest.”
Below are some quotes from our 2023 scholarship winners.
What was your overall impression of the Midwest Energy Solutions Conference?
The conference was an amazing chance to learn about what is up and coming in the industry. It brought so many professionals and industry leaders together offering great opportunities to expand my network. The speakers and breakout rooms were educational and demonstrated the broad number of ways the energy efficiency sector is innovating, growing and addressing pressing issues.
What was your favorite part of the conference?
My favorite part of the conference was meeting the other attendees. Everyone brought their own perspective and expertise depending on their job and background. They all had great advice for young professionals and students and were very encouraging. My favorite breakout room was the one on incorporating indigenous communities into energy efficiency projects because it offered perspectives and ideas often left out of discussions on energy upgrades, but that are needed going forward.
Did you learn anything there that surprised you?
I was surprised by the many ways energy efficiency can be incorporated into different industries and buildings. It was interesting to see the ecosystem of implementers, utilities and other organizations that often partner with each other and occasionally experience tensions in achieving their objectives. We've come a long way in energy efficiency projects but there's still a lot to do and a lot of opportunity especially now with federal funds. The size of the investments the government is making in the industry was also surprising and it seems like a great time to get involved.
How did the conference complement your education and/or career goals?
I got an idea of the areas we need to focus more on regarding energy efficiency, decarbonization and renewables. The conference highlighted much of what I study in my major of Environmental Policy. The discussions on funding from the federal government and the industry's response put the concepts I have learned into a real-world context. I was able to meet with people working in the industry in jobs I am interested in pursuing. Their advice on beginning my career was incredibly helpful and allowed me to make great connections. I definitely would not have gotten the level of understanding that I gained from talking to people and attending sessions from my classes or online research.
Please share any advice you would give to future recipients.
I would definitely recommend attending such conferences, especially during the start of one's career. It gives you an idea of what can be achieved and what people are working on that might spark your interest. People are almost always happy to share their experiences and perspectives with students, so don't be afraid to ask lots of questions! Also follow up by email or LinkedIn whenever possible - I have had several follow-up conversations with people I met. Everyone will be happy to give you advice and insights.
MEEA and ComEd are excited to continue supporting student attendance at MES and the development of future workers in this industry. The scholarship application period for the 2024 Midwest Energy Solutions Conference is now open. Applications are due by Friday, November 17, 2023. For more information about scholarships for the 2024 Midwest Energy Solutions Conference, click here.