The following is an interview conducted by Gary Thomas with azocleantech.com.
In a new ‘insights from industry’ interview, Gary Thomas talks to Jay Wrobel, Executive Director of the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance about raising awareness regarding sustainability in the Midwest and how clean technology will shape the future of the United States.
GT: Could you please provide a little background information on the aims and goals of the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance?
JW: MEEA is the Source on Energy Efficiency for the Midwest. As a central source in the region, MEEA raises awareness, facilitates energy efficiency programs and strengthens policy across the Midwest. We are a collaborative network advancing energy efficiency in the Midwest to support sustainable economic development and environmental preservation. Our respected network of members, partners, board and staff, inspires others to create new technologies, new products and new ways of thinking when it comes to energy efficiency.
As of Fiscal Year 2013 our Board of Directors has identified specific goals for the organization which include:
- ● Continuing to strengthen our status as the source on energy efficiency policy and programs in the Midwest through the identification of barriers and promotion of best practices in order to facilitate market transformation
- ● Inspire active participation in the Midwest’s portfolio of energy efficiency programs through public recognition of achievements and promotion of their impacts
- ● Develop and facilitate programs and services that fill gaps in the support and delivery of the regional energy efficiency portfolio, including training and emerging technology programs
- ● Through enhancing and expanding Membership, sustain the positive impact of energy efficiency in the economy, quality of life and energy independence with key stakeholders
GT: How did the MEEA start and when was it founded?
JW: MEEA was founded in 2001 after being incubated at the Environmental Law and Policy Center to bring the Midwest together as a regional energy efficiency alliance similar to the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership and the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance. Founding sponsors included the City of Chicago, Commonwealth Edison, Illinois Department of Economic Opportunity, Xcel Energy, Minnesota Power, Minnesota Department of Commerce, Ohio Department of Development, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Wisconsin Department of Administration. Programs accomplished the first year included multi-state Change a Light, Refrigerator Rebate and Recycling Pilot for Northern Illinois and the Illinois Residential Lighting Program. From that point the number of MEEA’s programs grew steadily and in 2005 we began delving into energy efficiency policy work starting with presenting and commenting on the Illinois Sustainable Energy Plan, coordination with Alliance to Save Energy and American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy to send letters to WI Governor Doyle and key legislative leaders to restore full funding for Wisconsin Focus on Energy programs, and partnering with Michigan Environmental Council and Michigan Community Action Agencies Association to intervene in the litigation between the Michigan Association of Home Builders and Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth. Our program and policy work has expanded in each ensuing year.
GT: You recently organised a workshop in Michigan to discuss the use and environmental benefits of using LED lighting. Could you please tell us a bit more about this meeting?
JW: The meeting was a great success. A group of Michigan building owners and operators, manufacturers, and others from both the public and private sector, met in Detroit on August 21 to learn about using light emitting diodes (LEDs) in lighting projects or building retrofits to achieve energy savings and improve performance.
Attendees at the workshop learned that LEDs and other advanced lighting have an enormous potential to reduce the amount of energy used, and money spent, in lighting Michigan homes, businesses, and factories. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the nation as a whole will reduce the amount of energy used for lighting in 2030 by 46%, relative to 2010, because of the growing adoption of LED lighting.
Participants learned about the way the technology works, how to specify project goals and performance requirements, and the kind of lighting design questions to ask when developing a project. Additionally, many real-world case studies from Michigan and beyond were used to illustrate the technical details and demonstrate best practices.
The workshop was hosted by DTE Energy, organized by the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, and developed in partnership with the Michigan Energy Office, the Michigan Solid-State Lighting Association (MSSLA), Consumers Energy, and NextEnergy. MSSLA’s involvement demonstrates the potential economic impact of advanced lighting technology in Michigan for consumers and industry; the LED industry in Michigan is vibrant, growing with the technology, and a source of job growth.
The workshop was organized with support from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Technical Information Network for Solid-State Lighting.
GT: Do you feel that enough is being done in the Midwest to promote clean technology and energy efficiency?
JW: The Midwest has made major advances in the last 10 years with regard to energy efficiency and clean energy technologies. MEEA estimates that utility funding for efficiency has increased from 200 million 10 years ago to over 1.2 billion today. Several states are just beginning to implement efficiency and others are just starting to realize efficiency so there is increased potential for energy efficiency and clean energy technologies to advance. Furthermore, given the reported expansion of the industrial manufacturing sector, the Midwest has one of the largest regions for industrial customers who could play a prominent role in advancing further efficiency improvement sand clean energy technologies.
GT: Has the recent drought in the Midwest changed opinions in the area on sustainability, or is it largely seen as a separate issue?
JW: While MEEA is not actively engaged in water efficiency or policy , we believe the drought could have economic implications on consumers, but, to date, we have not seen much discussion around the drought impacting energy efficiency in the region.
GT: What resources does MEEA provide for people who want to know more about energy efficiency?
JW: As the Source on Energy Efficiency we offer a number of resources on the programs and policy side to let businesses, and through certain programs, consumers learn more about energy efficiency.
On the policy side we provide information in our 13 Midwestern states for policymakers at all levels including governors, state legislators, state agencies and boards, regulatory commissions, county and municipal executives, and municipal councils and agencies about the benefits of energy efficiency. We also strive to provide critical information and analysis to our members and advocacy allies to enlist them in the energy efficiency cause.
From a program perspective, we provide training, resources and general education for a variety of initiatives including but not limited to:
Illinois Home Performance
Illinois Home Performance provides an online or call-in energy audit for homeowners in Illinois to easily find out exactly where they can save energy in their homes, including potential savings. Homeowners are then provided resources for contractors certified through the program who can perform the energy efficient projects. Homeowners and the contractor are then awarded a certificate of recognition from IHP. Low cost financing options, when available, are also provided. The online tool is available at www.illinoishomeperformance.com
Building Operator Certification
Building Operator Certification (BOC) is a competency-based training and certification for building operators offering improved job skills. Operators earn certification by attending training classes on a variety of topics, including facility electrical and lighting systems, HVAC, indoor air quality, sustainability, and energy conservation. Classroom instruction is combined with hands-on projects using the students’ own facilities so that experience is relevant and practical. Recently we have initialized a pilot Veterans Program specifically geared to provide free training for unemployed or underemployed returning veterans. More information can be found at www.boccentral.org
The Lights for Learning™ program motivates students to accept responsibility for energy efficiency, stimulates awareness of energy conservation methods, and educates students to become the next generation of ecologically-minded citizens through the sale of compact fluorescent light bulbs and other energy-saving products. Visit www.lights4learning.org for more
Starting in 2002, MEEA’s Refrigerator Rebate and Recycling Program solves the problem of inefficient refrigeration through a proven program model that has delivered substantial energy savings for utilities nationwide. Firstly, we offer a bounty to consumers to turn in their old refrigerators, giving them a financial incentive to get old, energy-intensive fridges off the electrical grid permanently. Furthermore, the refrigerators are picked up and taken away by program field staff. This is done at the customer’s convenience, and at no charge. These appliances are then taken to a recycling facility, where their components and materials are recycled, and hazardous substances are disposed of according to EPA guidelines. Since 2002 over 11,000 refrigerators have been recycled.
HVAC System Adjustment & Verified Efficiency (HVAC SAVE)
The SAVE program is a regional HVAC contractor training and certification initiative based on National Comfort Institute (NCI) principles. This training teaches the skills necessary to determine actual effective efficiency of any functioning HVAC system and includes hands on demonstrations on how to perform critical HVAC diagnostics. Students who successfully pass the exam will receive the SAVE certification indicating their competency in HVAC performance and verification testing.
Midwest Industrial Initiative
We are also launching the Midwest Industrial Initiative which is a resource to connect industrials with local and national energy efficiency information and contacts. In order to help assist manufacturing competitiveness, MEEA has launched the Midwest Industrial Initiative (MI2) as a resource to connect industrials with local and national energy efficiency information and contacts. MI2, acting as a gateway for Federal industrial initiatives, will be a regional network for state, local and utility efficiency programs and professionals creating a one-stop shop that links industrials with policy and program best practices to make more informed decisions about the advantages of installing energy efficient technologies and processes.
GT: In your opinion can the United States become self-sufficient in terms of energy supplies?
JW: MEEA does not look into the transportation sector, so we cannot comment on oil with regard to vehicles, but with regard to electric and natural gas use, MEEA believes that is conceivable that the United States as part of North America with supply from Canada could be self-sufficient.
GT: Do you think that environmental issues will play a significant role in the upcoming presidential elections?
JW: We believe constituents will focus on issues such as the economy and healthcare, however, given the new-found domestic energy supplies and the resulting impact on state economies and jobs, energy and environmental issues could play a prominent role in election dialogues.
GT: Could you tell us a little about MEEA’s ‘10 years of impact’? What are the key accomplishments from this?
JW: As we celebrated our 10th year in 2011 we compiled the results of 10 years of energy efficiency in the Midwest and MEEA’s role as the Source on Energy Efficiency. Key highlights include:
Training and Certificates Offered By MEEA
- ● Participating Energy Efficiency Contractor (PEEC) Network = 257 contractors
- ● Building Operator Certifications (BOC) = 1,731 operators, 15,805 days of training
- ● Energy Efficiency Contractor Database = 1,900 contractors
- ● Midwest Building Solutions = 329 builders
Energy Efficient Products and Appliances Distributed By MEEA
- ● Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) = 7,678,141
- ● Refrigerators = 8,187
- ● Washers = 6,419
- ● Water Heaters = 584
- ● Boilers = 117
- ● Fluorescent Fixtures = 5,015
Impact of MEEA’s Programming
Combined Environmental Impact
- ● 3,184,618,771 (kWh)/Equivalent to annual greenhouse gas emissions from 437,300 passenger vehicles
- ● 65,278,123 (therms)/Equivalent to annual greenhouse gas emissions from 62,407 passenger vehicles
Building Operator Certifications
- ● Lifetime Savings/Electric: 259,650,000 (kWh)
- ● Lifetime Savings/Gas: 64,062,295 (therms)
Change a Light, Change the World
- ● Lifetime Savings/Electric: 1,480,924,470 (kWh)
National Double Your Savings with ENERGY STAR® Clothes Washer Campaign
- ● Lifetime Savings/Electric: 23,571,996 (kWh)
- ● Lifetime Savings/Gas: 1,215,828 (therms)
Illinois Residential Lighting
- ● Lifetime Savings/Electric: 73,954,274 (kWh)
Lights for Learning
- ● Lifetime Savings/Electric: 35,171,542 (kWh)
Northern Illinois Energy Project
- ● Lifetime Savings/Electric: 1,255,936,924 (kWh)
Room Air Conditioner Turn-In
- ● Lifetime Savings/Electric: 3,884,935 (kWh)
Refrigerator Recycling Program
- ● Lifetime Savings/Electric: 51,524,630 (kWh)
Networking and Education Opportunities
- ● Midwest Energy Solutions conferences = 8
- ● Annual Inspiring Efficiency Awards = 6 years
- ● Inspiring Efficiency Award Recipients = 45
- ● Thought Leadership Roundtables = 6
- ● Energy Expos = 5
- ● Tax Incentive Workshops = 3
GT: How can people get involved with MEEA? What are the benefits of doing so?
JW: Joining MEEA’s collaborative network means a brighter future for everyone. From utilities to non-profits to government to energy professionals, MEEA is where all stakeholders find a common ground to balance interests, and to raise the level of energy efficiency in the region through education and awareness, programs and policies.
Being active in MEEA means meeting critical players and leaders in the industry, working collaboratively with government and policymakers, having a seat at the table on the future of energy efficiency and being at the forefront of technology advancements.
Through MEEA, the public and private sectors join forces and are inspired to create new technologies, new products and new ways of thinking about energy efficiency. MEEA fosters mutually rewarding partnerships and win-win relationships, creating a vital network.
Furthermore, MEEA is a politically neutral organization staffed by professionals and energy efficiency specialists. Although MEEA does not participate in any lobbying efforts, we do serve our members by facilitating or coordinating programs, policy initiatives, education and outreach campaigns, workshops, training, and research studies. As a network of members MEEA forges new opportunities for collaboration and discussion.
MEEA members identify the following benefits as among the most important to them:
- ● Supporting a regional approach to shaping local energy policy
- ● Learning about emerging technologies and best practices
- ● Regional energy efficiency program coordination and new ways to collaborate to meet your goals
- ● Access to training and education programs to advance energy efficiency
- ● Increasing visibility for their organization’s commitment to energy efficiency and the environment
- ● Networking and collaborating with knowledgeable peers
- ● Connecting with expert energy efficiency resources
- ● Discounts to attend the region’s largest energy efficiency event, the Midwest Energy Solutions Conference
- ● Attendance at invitation-only events, including the Annual Meeting of the Membership, Energy Expos and Thought Leadership Roundtables