Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

MEEA Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Statement

MEEA is committed to cultivating a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion within our organization, supporting our members as they pursue similar goals and providing a platform to elevate policies, programs and resources that encourage the diversification of the larger energy efficiency industry as a whole to increase access to clean energy for all.

In 2019, MEEA adopted a new strategic action plan for 2020-2025. Within this plan, we committed to developing, supporting and promoting innovative and impactful policies and actions to strengthen the energy efficiency industry by prioritizing equity, inclusion, access and diversity. Under this goal, MEEA is working to:

  • Promote and develop equitable and inclusive energy efficiency policy and industry best practices
  • Collect a database of diverse suppliers, guidance on how to get certified and identify certification challenges
  • Research and share successful policies and programs reaching underserved communities, while also
  • Identify additional programs and trainings that could be adapted to reach underserved communities
  • Explore pathways to reduce energy burden in the Midwest

MEEA’s strategic action plan is a driving force for our organization and this goal is an important pillar of our work. 

This organizational work is supported by a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Steering Committee made up of MEEA members and board members, serving as a sounding board and resource for MEEA’s efforts.


Organizational Initiatives

MEEA felt it is important as an organization to encourage a diverse set individuals to join the energy efficiency industry and promote all the career opportunities in EE. In November 2019, MEEA joined the Environmental Leadership Program to host a RAY Clean Energy Fellow.

The RAY (Roger Airliner Young) Diversity Fellowship recognizes that diversity is a value important to the conservation and clean energy sectors and that we have not always made the progress we strive to make, we seek to work together to help rectify this shortcoming by striving for greater diversity, equity and inclusion in conservation and clean energy. The Fellowship focuses on increasing opportunities for people of color to learn about, engage with and enter the conservation and clean energy NGO sectors. The Fellowship is designed to support and attract recent college graduates of color with exceptional promise and demonstrated accomplishment who seek to be leaders in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. MEEA was the first organization in Chicago to partner with the RAY Diversity Fellowship and our first RAY Clean Energy Fellow started in July 2020.  

MEEA is proud to partner with the Environmental Leadership Program to host a RAY Clean Energy Fellow and do our part in fostering a more diverse workforce in the energy efficiency- and larger clean energy- industry. With MEEA’s participation in this program, we’re proud to demonstrate our commitment and responsibility to make our own organization a more diverse and inclusive space.


MEEA supports Energy Efficiency For All, coalitions of affordable housing, health, energy, environmental and community leaders drive changes in policy and practice to ensure that all renters live in homes that are affordable and healthy. As a regional partner in IL, MI, MN and MO, MEEA serves as an expert, facilitator and resource to the coalitions and states in order to increase programming and coordination in affordable multi-family housing.

Additionally, in collaboration with state energy offices, public service commissions and local stakeholders, MEEA serves as a contributor, facilitator and organizer of collaboratives around income-qualified programs across the Midwest. 


MES Expertise

At the heart of it all, MEEA is a convener. We bring people together to facilitate conversations around making the energy efficiency industry a more diverse and inclusive space. MEEA has also hosted conversations about how energy efficiency programs can be more inclusive, reaching more participants. Over the past few years, we have presented a platform for these conversations to take place.

2021

Keynote 

Keynote Discussion: Understanding the Importance of Equity & Environmental Justice

Decisions made decades ago laid the groundwork for a system of environmental racism. During this conversation, we will discuss the impact these decisions had, why it is important to address these wrongs and what our industry can do now and in the future to create a more equitable environmental landscape for all.

  • Regina Strong, State of Michigan
  • E'Lois Thomas, Ph.D., SEEL, LLC

Workshops

Empowering Women in Energy Efficiency

We know that diverse and inclusive organizations are stronger and perform better in the long-term. Hear experiences of women in energy efficiency in a discussion facilitated by female leaders in the industry. Come to learn and discuss intersectional approaches to organizational policies that create inclusive workplaces and help women succeed.

Seeking Equity and Inclusion in Our Industry

This open forum will be a platform for EE professionals and organizations rooted in Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) leadership and communities of color to share their stories of entry into—and their experience in—the industry. Reflecting on those stories, participants will be prompted to consider potential pathways to build the capacity of organizations and dismantle white supremacy, expanding workforce opportunities within BIPOC communities. Panelists will facilitate small group discussion to encourage honest conversation sharing challenges faced and supportive strategies to nurture open, non-hostile work environments.

  • Denise Abdul-Rahman, NAACP
  • Justin Idleburg, Idleburg Consultants
  • Holly Spears, SEEL, LLC
  • Carla Walker-Miller, Walker-Miller Energy Services

Help Needed: Equity-Focused Workforce Development

The energy efficiency industry produces more new jobs than any other part of the energy sector and is crucial to the revitalization of the clean energy workforce. But our growing industry can provide greater opportunities for equity-focused workforce development programs and policies. Join this interactive discussion to identify innovative workforce development opportunities that diversify the energy efficiency industry by attracting youth, veterans and members of BIPOC communities.

Breakout

The Systemic Problem of Energy Affordability

Energy affordability is a long-term, systemic problem, particularly for low to moderate income communities, and this issue is currently being further exacerbated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the state of energy affordability across the Midwest and potential strategies being looked at to lesson this deep-rooted problem.

2020

Plenary

Community Perspectives on Energy Efficiency

The Midwest includes a diverse range of customers spread across MEEA’s 13-state region. What are the opportunities and challenges in program design and how do we engage stakeholders and develop partnerships in communities throughout the region? Learn from several local organizations on their energy efficiency needs, community barriers and opportunities and how utility programs, administrators and contractors can tailor offerings to meet local needs.

  • James Carlton, People for Community Recovery
  • Theresa Collins, Senior Services Plus, Inc.
  • Naomi Davis, Blacks in Green
  • Dana Gray, Tower Grove Neighborhoods Community Development Corp.
  • Mary Ellen Guest, Chicago Bungalow Association
  • Moderator: Theodora "Theo" Okiro, Future Energy Enterprises

Breakout

Increasing Access to EE through Partnerships

Under-resourced communities are an underserved sector, yet given their disproportionately high energy burden, these communities have the greatest need for energy efficiency. This panel focuses on partnerships that have successfully designed unique programs and implementation strategies in the low-income housing sector.

2019

Keynote 

Dr. Tony Reames, Achieving Energy Justice: The Importance of Place and a Community-based Approach [presentation]

Workshops

How to Create an Industry that Reflects & Serves Diverse Communities [recap]

The energy efficiency sector has been grappling with fostering a more diverse and inclusive industry, but the workforce remains largely homogenous. Diversity and inclusion efforts are on the rise as businesses and organizations re-examine workforce development, supplier diversity and how to better serve traditionally underserved communities. This small group, interactive workshop will focus on sharing best practices and tips to increase diversity that participants can bring back to their organizations.

Sharing the Load: Best Practices in Energy Equity

By and large, the low-income customers who would benefit most from energy bill savings are not being reached by energy efficiency programs. While the EE industry has made notable strides, we are still a long way from fully meeting the needs of low-income communities. In this roundtable workshop, participants will swap ideas, observations and best practices while identifying gaps and innovative solutions to ease the energy burden.

2018

Workshop

Diversity Opportunities within Energy Efficiency

From executives of energy efficiency companies to contractors working directly with customers, there is a lot that can be done internally to foster a more diverse and inclusive industry and ensure that the goods and services offered by energy efficiency providers reach all customers. This workshop will discuss workforce diversity, designing and implementing programs that serve all customers, and fostering increased diversity in utility energy efficiency supply chains. This interactive workshop will encourage participants to share experiences and brainstorm together what MEEA can do to promote increased diversity and inclusion in our industry.

2017

Plenary Discussion

Our Industry is an Economic Generator: How Can We Use This Advantage to Support Diversity?

Energy efficiency is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Midwest that is supporting thousands of jobs and creating new businesses. Panelists will discuss their experience in our industry and the potential opportunities to promote diversity and economic expansion.

  • Darade Collins, Nicor Gas
  • Tammy Rempfer, Group O
  • Georgia Marsh, Women’s Business Development Center
  • Moderator: Danisha Hall, Illinois Commerce Commission