This blog was written by SACE’s Communications Intern, Kailie Melchior. It is the first post in a series that interviews former SACE employees or partners and highlights where they are now in their careers. To follow this series and read other interviews, click here.
What was your position at SACE? What did that entail?
I was Development Associate in SACE’s Asheville office and my primary task was writing. I wrote all kinds of different things for all types of audiences. Most of my time was spent writing grant proposals and reports, producing content for the website, social media sites, and the blog. I also authored the monthly e-newsletter, Wired In, and I worked on other outreach materials like fact sheets, media advisories, and reports. I proofread and copyedited most of the things that went out the door.
What is your current position? What are a few things that you work on?
Today I am a Senior Research Analyst at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) where I conduct research, analysis, and provide technical assistance on energy efficiency policies and programs impacting the industrial sector. The industrial sector consumes more energy than any other end-use sector, so it represents a really big savings opportunity. A lot of my research is focused on how industrial energy efficiency and combined heat and power (CHP) save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which can be important strategies for complying with air regulations and climate change policies like EPA’s Clean Power Plan. I also contribute to some of ACEEE’s more well-known publications like the annual State Energy Efficiency Scorecard and the biannual International Energy Efficiency Scorecard (not sure if I’m allowed to say this, but the new 2016 international scorecard will be released later this month).
How does your role at SACE relate to what you are doing in your current position?
When I was at SACE, I really came to appreciate the way we produce and consume energy in this country and how important that is for addressing climate change. I always cared deeply about protecting the environment, but after my time at SACE, I was far more committed to learning the science behind climate change and gaining more skills I could use to help solve it.
My colleagues may not remember, but one of the most intriguing and rewarding experiences I had at SACE was the opportunity to work on a small, side-project to research the potential for cultivating algae at coal-fired power plants as a carbon reduction strategy. It didn’t really fit within my job description, but SACE was supportive of my interest in doing more research-based analysis and gave me my first real energy/climate research project. It was a great experience that I’ll never forget. Some of my research was the basis for a blog post Steve and I worked on together back in 2009.
What do the next five years hold for environmental policy?
My biggest hope is that EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) survives and, in five years, states are taking big steps to reduce carbon dioxide from power plants. The CPP is an important part of our commitment to deliver the emission reductions we committed to in the Paris Agreement and I’m optimistic that the US, along with countries around the world, will make progress implementing the agreement and help limit global warming below 2°C. I don’t like to worry about the future, so regardless of who becomes our next president, I can envision all kinds of smart people continuing to work together and build on the momentum for addressing climate change that we already have today.
How have you integrated energy savings into your everyday life?
I try to do lots of little things to keep my carbon footprint low and kind of cross my fingers that they’re all adding up. I don’t own my home, so I focus on the kinds of things I can control like my thermostat settings, the temperature on my water heater, turning off power strips, etc. I follow my utility’s recommendations to keep my thermostat at 68 in the winter and 78 in the summer and I pay close attention to the Home Energy Reports that my utility sends. They come every month or two and give me good-looking graphs and other data on how much energy I use compared to my neighbors and how much cost savings I’ve achieved. I also take the metro to work and ride my bike as often as I can. And I hate buying things that have lots of plastic or unnecessary packaging, so I try to avoid that stuff.
What is your favorite energy saving tip?
My favorite energy saving tip is to install CHP! It’s not a tip for the average person or homeowner, but CHP systems can help large energy users (think things like big factories, small and medium manufacturing plants, universities, hospitals, and some other commercial buildings like casinos and hotels) become more energy-efficient, reduce their emissions, and help improve the resiliency of communities around them. Read more here or here.
I also recently got a few Solar Helix lamps as a gift from my mom and I think they’re very cool. It’s basically a little solar panel with a battery and an LED light, inside an inflatable cube. They’re made out of recycled materials and the company that makes them has a program to give back and help donate solar lamps to people in countries that really need them.