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Member Spotlight: Nicole Reed

Nicole Reed
Account Manager
U.S. Department of Energy

Tell us about the company you work for.

I work for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). Currently my work in EERE focuses on residential energy efficiency program management for the Better Buildings Neighborhood Program, a Recovery Act program providing competitive funds to 41 state and local governments to develop innovative and sustainable residential energy efficiency upgrade programs. Our overall goal is to catalyze a building upgrade industry that can be sustained in the private sector. To overcome several key challenges that have prevented the development of a self-sustaining energy efficiency market, these programs use federal funds to attract private sector investments and collaborate with local program partners to ensure that consumers have access to energy professionals that have the training and business skills they need to be successful.

What issues and challenges do you work with on a daily basis? What aspects of this work interest you the most?

I spend my day working directly with our grant recipients and coordinating program activities among the Better Buildings team, with the overall goal of helping our partners develop energy upgrade programs that are successful and sustainable. These programs are spread all across the country, from New York City to Omaha, Nebraska to Bainbridge Island, Washington. They may share a common goal but each program has its own unique challenges and personality, and it’s fascinating to see how this affects local energy policy and program design. For example, an energy campaign that works in Boulder, Colorado may not resonate at all with folks in San Antonio, Texas. We’re trying to make energy efficiency work nationwide but there’s no one-size-fits-all model -- and there’s still a lot to learn.

What’s more, despite all the planning that goes into these programs, results can be drastically different than what the program administrators anticipated when the grant was written. For example, a program’s design might turn out to be too difficult for the customer to navigate, causing homeowners to drop out before completing an upgrade, or a poor economy might make banks reluctant to start up and offer new energy loan products. I enjoy the part of my job that allows me to work with these programs to identify important barriers, sharing promising approaches and lessons learned from what we see happening in other programs across the country, and working through these challenges with dedicated and creative people.

What did you study in college or university? Did your educational background help you find this job? Are there any courses that you wish you had taken while in university?

Three years ago, I completed a master’s degree in Energy and Geo-Environmental Engineering after obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Systems Engineering from the Pennsylvania State University. I feel that the Energy and Geo-Environmental Engineering degree was a perfect match for the position I was hired for at the DOE Geothermal Technologies Program because it required an understanding of subsurface geology, environmental science, and renewable energy generation systems.

My work in geothermal lead to a one-year rotation with the White House Council on Environmental Quality where I coordinated a federal working group on energy efficiency, which led to the position I currently hold with the Better Buildings Program when I returned to DOE. Although I’m not directly using my engineering skills in my current position, having a strong technical background in energy is a tremendous asset and complements my professional goals, while my background in engineering informs the way that I approach and think through problems on a daily basis. I do wish I had taken more courses in finance and am currently evaluating some options for adding this to my skill set.

Why did you join WCEE, and what do you want to achieve by being part of the WCEE community?

I joined WCEE because I wanted to connect to a larger and more diverse community of professionals in the area of energy and sustainability in the metro DC area. Through my membership, I am looking to develop new relationships, gain exposure to new perspectives, and contribute to the broader WCEE network and its mission. Over the next year I would especially love to connect with more professionals in the energy efficiency industry, so if this is you, please let me know!

If you could fundamentally change how we as a society use energy and treat the environment, how would you do it? Does it need to be changed at all?

I would put further emphasis on making our society more energy literate. I feel that we as a society are not familiar with basic energy concepts, and that this lack of familiarity affects everything from the way that we buy and use light bulbs to the way our leaders react to the idea of a national energy policy. I would also love to see opportunities for saving energy become a more accessible and normal part of our lives. My neighbor takes her car in for a regular emissions test and a tune-up but never thinks about tune-ups or maintenance for her home. Furthermore, many people fail to realize how their monthly energy bills can impact overall costs by buying an energy-inefficient house. We’re starting to see things change but we have a long way to go!

What technology, law, or regulation regarding energy or the environment do you want to see created?

It’s wonderful to see people driving more fuel-efficient cars, composting their trash, and turning off their lights. But the changes we need are so large that they stretch beyond the potential of individual activism. I believe that we need collective action in the form of a national energy policy that allows carbon to be properly valued in order to see noticeable and significant change.

Member Spotlight views are the personal views of the WCEE member and do not necessarily represent the views of WCEE.

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