Over the course of the past year, I have been working as a URI Energy Fellow on the Rhode Island Public Energy Partnership (RIPEP) Team, an initiative funded by the Rhode Island Department of Energy (DOE). As energy efficiency became a focal point for RI’s state and municipal heads, the RIPEP Team played a crucial role in determining if energy efficiency retrofits are a success, and if buildings are performing efficiently.
We accomplished this by establishing a baseline of energy consumption for over 80% of RI’s school facilities, using an online energy management tool called Portfolio Manager (PM). This baseline report allows decision makers to look at how much energy their district consumed, by building, from 2008 to 2014. The data was displayed as monthly values and grouped by energy type (electricity, natural gas, etc.). This accessible and comprehensive baseline was the first of its kind in RI, and is an invaluable accomplishment for energy efficiency in the state of Rhode Island. Now that energy efficiency has been measured in the state, it is possible for public decision makers to manage their own consumption.
Many school and municipal departments had very little knowledge of their own energy consumption. The process of evaluating energy bills is often overlooked, and the bills are simply paid for by the state without careful consideration. The RIPEP Team helped schools and municipalities make important energy decisions by:
- Establishing a baseline for their buildings energy consumption,
- Identifying poorly operating facilities, and
- Providing measurable changes in energy consumption after retrofits.
After the baseline was established, the RIPEP Team also gave school districts and municipalities the means to continue their own energy management through the use of the same, user friendly and free online tool, Portfolio Manager.
Having an experiential learning experience such as the one I received as an Energy Fellow at the URI Outreach Center was instrumental to developing a well-rounded repertoire of professional and social skills. Throughout my time on the RIPEP Team, I grew and developed in many ways I would not have within a classroom. When I first came in to the program I was disorganized, a poor communicator and unfamiliar with working in the professional office environment. Working on a supportive team encouraged me to take on new responsibilities, which led to improvement of my professional skills. Some of my many tasks included taking notes at seminars regarding current energy issues, leading small group meetings, and conducting community service. I also had opportunities to work with professionals in the field to accomplish common goals. Taking on diverse and challenging responsibilities developed my ability to synthesize ideas, bolstered my public speaking, and overall improved my professional demeanor.
Building upon my weaknesses has given me a sense of confidence I would not have found within a classroom. It has given me a clear head and reassurance to follow my passion to improve the environment. I hope to find a career in either the environmental or energy field where I can have a direct effect on environmental issues such as renewable energy or diminishing natural resources. I finally feel like I am ready to begin my career. I owe a great deal of my preparedness and confidence to my experiential learning as a URI Energy Fellow.
by: Connor Fiske ’15
Environmental & Natural Resource Economics Major
December 18th, 2015