The Future of Energy Efficiency

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Lily Osborne shares her experiences at the 2018 Midwest Energy Solutions Conference

Leading up to Valentine’s Day I learned a fun fact from Stacey Paradis, Executive Director of the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (MEEA), that at  $2 billion in annual investment the Midwest energy efficiency industry is as large as the online dating industry – a surprising comparison to me!

Moreover, 86 percent of Minnesotans working in the clean energy sector have jobs in energy efficiency.

The scale of the industry was one big reason I was excited to participate in MEEA’s annual Midwest Energy Solutions Conference in February. The three-day event drew attendees from thirteen states in our region with many participants from companies as well as utilities, government, and nonprofit organizations.

For me, this conference was all about where energy efficiency is headed, including growing the workforce and focusing on equity in order to attract talent. This interest was clearly displayed by the huge attendance at the workshop on Diversity Opportunities in Energy Efficiency.

Many speakers, including a representative from Nest, highlighted technological advances like smarter computing and voice controls that will lead to continued reduction in energy costs and reduced usage of electricity and natural gas.

One of my favorite sessions was a workshop where small group discussions enabled participants to breakdown market barriers to intelligent efficiency. Topics included: the lack of dynamic pricing, obstacles to communication between utility and product manufacturers, data security and privacy concerns, and “the Chasm of Pilots” or that slow piloting and testing measures can delay deployment and market adoption of technology that is rapidly advancing.

Other great highlights were seeing colleagues from Minnesota. Jamie Fitzke from the Center for Energy and the Environment participated on a panel addressing the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA)’s Impact on Lighting, and Eric Flower and Hahn Pham from The Weidt Group networked from their booth in the Exhibit Hall, while Anthony Fryer from Minnesota Department of Commerce discussed Integrated Resource Planning (IRP) and Demand Side Management (DSM).

A surprise addition to the agenda included a Fireside Chat between Stacey and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel who among his comments affirmed that strong social and sustainability policies were among the reasons that Chicago is a top city (#5 in the U.S.) for companies looking to relocate their businesses.

The opportunity to be in Chicago also allowed time to visit CEEM member Invenergy, a global wind, solar and storage company working to bring low-cost energy to Minnesota and the Midwest. Their latest project is the Freeborn Wind Farm, which will support Xcel’s continued expansion of their renewable portfolio.

It is an exciting time witnessing the transformation of our energy sector, and this year’s Midwest Energy Solutions Conference affirmed to me that the talented people and companies working in this industry will continue to advance compelling and cost-saving changes.

At CEEM we look forward to supporting further collaboration and building partnerships that will drive progress even further. 

– Authored by Lily Osborne, Manager of Business Development and Programs