Climate Change


For my internship, I worked with Conservation Services Group (CSG) located in Westborough, Massachusetts, which is a non-profit, energy efficiency company that operates throughout the country. It works in collaboration with state agencies and various utility companies (including NSTAR and National Grid) by helping them  design and implement energy efficiency programs, and giving suggestions and recommendations for them to meet their energy saving goals. The utility companies then use these energy efficiency programs and have home energy specialists or auditors go into residential households and corporate buildings to give them suggestions on how to make their home/building more energy efficient  (known as a home energy assessment or audit). CSG is the top energy efficiency company in the United States of America and I felt very fortunate to have the opportunity to intern for such a prestigious and well know organization.

During my time as an intern at CSG, I worked on various projects and case studies in the marketing department of their organization. I worked on several case studies related to customer engagements and the contact center. The purpose of these case studies was mainly to try and figure out ways to make the customer engagements smoother and as timely as possible, and determine anything that might be inconvenient to the customer. I went to the contact centers and actually witnessed the process of signing a customer up for an audit or home energy assessment and what it looks like from both ends (the employee and the customer). I was also able to go on an actual home energy assessment with the auditor (or energy specialist), who was an employee of Mass Save (a partner of CSG). This gave me a perspective on what actually happens in the home energy assessments that CSG helps the utility companies design and implement. Additionally, I got to go to Boston and see the governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, speak about his organization called Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. They are dedicated to “accelerating the success of clean energy technologies, companies and projects in Massachusetts—while creating high-quality jobs and long-term economic growth for the people of Massachusetts.”. This was a very enjoyable experience for me and made me feel good to know that my MA governor cares so much about helping to promote clean energies.

An environmental issue that CSG is attempting to mitigate is the rapidly growing rate of climate change. By promoting energy efficient practices and technologies, CSG is helping to reduce the amount of energy that our country is consuming. Since large amounts of energy in the US are created from fossil fuels, we consume less fossil fuels when we use less energy and emit fewer damaging greenhouse gases (GHG) into our atmosphere. Not only is CSG helping to reduce climate change but they are also saving people money in the process because by using energy efficient technologies and practices in your home you also save money on your electricity bills, potentially saving thousands of dollars each year.

My internship experience was made so much more memorable and enjoyable because of the wonderful and caring employees at CSG who made me feel that they cared about me as a person and wanted to help me succeed. They made me feel comfortable working at CSG on a daily basis which spurred me to work harder and do the best job possible in whatever was asked of me.

By Trevor MacDonald  ‘15

Environmental and Natural Resource Economics Major + Business Minor

Estimating the Effect of Climate Change on Rhode Island Agriculture (the $97 million question)

Pretty much everyone knows about climate change and many have some idea what the changes will be. But it’s unclear what the costs of climate change will be to Rhode Island. During the spring 2014 semester, I studied the economics of climate change in Dr. Corey Lang’s EEC 355 class. A major component of this course was a semester-long project working to monetize the impacts of climate change in Rhode Island. My group examined RI agriculture, while other groups studied topics such as fisheries and maritime transportation.

The first of four parts of the project involved researching the background of the sector. For agriculture, this entailed its worth to the state in terms of number of jobs, percentage of annual revenue along with the appropriate figures, and the prevalence of the industry in the state including its market base and variety of cultivated goods. Research into past data from the Rhode Island Census Bureau and the USDA agricultural cash receipts revealed that agriculture in Rhode Island makes up 0.5% of Rhode Island’s industry ($17.6 million), and 2,396 people rely on agriculture in Rhode Island to make a living.

The second task was to research the basic science of climate change in order to examine which impacts would most affect the state and sector in question. We found that the biggest threats to Rhode Island’s agriculture were not in simple temperature change alone, but in that and the changing weather patterns that could potentially change the state’s growing season averages.

The third part of the project was the most involved. The impacts were examined and monetized to determine the overall impacts to the state caused by climate change. We chose a number of impacts that form the majority of the sector’s worth: greenhouses, nurseries and turf (64.5% of Rhode Island’s agricultural revenue), corn (5.8%), dairy products (2.7-3%), and apples (2.6%). Depending on the impact chosen, different methods were used to assess their monetary value. Once the initial value was determined, it was discounted to the present day and totaled to find an all-encompassing total value with a present-day discount value. After research and projection, we estimated that climate change by the end of the century would cause an estimated revenue loss of $227,458,890.00. This translates to a total present value of $96,664,001.71 at a 1% social discount rate.

Lastly, we explored how adaptation could cushion or eliminate the negative effects of climate change on agriculture. We looked specifically at the use of genetically modified crops (GMOs), irrigation, increased use of greenhouses and the use of crop insurance. The increased use of GMOs was determined to be more detrimental than helpful and was dismissed as a likely tactic for use. The other options underwent cost-benefit analysis to determine whether or not the plan was an appropriate solution. We came to the conclusion that all of the remaining adaption plans would provide some benefit if they were all used moderately.

Though I took the course as an elective, I found this course and project essential to my education as an ENRE student. The project encouraged me to learn core competencies needed in the field of Environment and Natural Resource Economics and in my future career. Students involved in this project hone important skills from writing to cost/benefit analysis to excel. I personally learned a valuable lesson in group work and developed skills that will remain with me as an asset in my search for a career and in my daily work to follow.


by: Ellen Richer ’16

Environmental & Natural Resource Economics & General Business Double Major

Sustainability Minor

August 5th, 2014