*The first in a series telling the story of energy efficiency in Michigan entitled Energy Efficiency Snapshots: Capturing the Growth of an Industry.
A positive energy efficiency business story is nothing new, but a growing number of voices are coming together in Michigan to ensure that the message of job creation from energy efficiency is heard. One such voice is that of Amanda Godward, owner of Ecotelligent Homes and Ecotelligent Buildings near Detroit.
Godward recently participated in a bipartisan luncheon on energy efficiency sponsored by NRDC and Michigan League of Conservation Voters (MLCV). The event brought together 34 state legislators from both parties and 15 energy efficiency businesses to share positive industry messages and discuss local job creation from energy efficiency. Speakers reported the significance of energy efficiency in businesses, the successes of current utility programming, and the substantial potential still untapped.
Nationally, a newly released Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) report found that 1,600 jobs were announced dedicated to building energy efficiency just between July and September of this year. This report also ranked Michigan fourth in the country for clean energy job growth—citing jobs associated with renewable power generation, manufacturing, energy efficiency, and more. Additionally, a comprehensive Michigan-specific study found that the state’s clean energy sector employs over 30,000 workers, with 22,000 coming from the energy efficiency sector. These jobs include the contractors, suppliers, engineers, and auditors that design, install or evaluate the energy-saving solutions for residential, commercial and industrial buildings. They are the men and women who work to make your home more comfortable, your energy bills more affordable, and Michigan businesses and industries more cost-effective competitors.
When we save energy in our homes and businesses, we reduce the need for power generation and leave our air cleaner and bodies healthier. Energy efficiency continues to be the cleanest, cheapest way to stretch our energy dollars and allows for more money to be spent elsewhere in the local economy, creating jobs in our communities.
AN INSIDE LOOK: ECOTELLIGENT
For a close up of one of Michigan’s energy efficiency businesses, we asked Godward about her personal journey and success.
Godward: I was unhappy working as a mechanical engineer in the auto industry. I wanted to combine my technical skills with my environmental passion. I took classes and earned a few different green certifications and after doing some job shadowing and research I discovered energy auditing was a perfect fit.
NRDC: How has your business grown or changed over the years?
Godward: I started Ecotelligent Homes in 2009 while still working as a mechanical engineer. At that time I only provided independent energy audits. I discovered that my customers would have me do a detailed energy audit on their home but would not act on any of my recommendations. Since implementing the improvements is what actually helps the environment, I earned my Builder's License and formed relationships with subcontractors to start implementing the improvements. In 2011, I was awarded a citywide energy efficiency contract and that's when I left my engineering job to concentrate on Ecotelligent Homes full time. In 2012, we expanded into commercial energy audits and efficiency improvements with Ecotelligent Buildings. We are continuing to build up our residential and commercial teams of technicians and energy auditors. My goal for 2014 is to bring some of the subcontracted work in-house, such as insulation and building envelope improvements.
NRDC: What is your project load like?
Godward: We have done over 20 commercial energy audits since we added Ecotelligent Buildings in 2012, and we have completed over 400 residential energy audits and installed over 150 energy efficiency improvements. On the commercial side we had a great project at Lake Erie Transit which is a bus depot in Monroe, Michigan. It’s roughly a 35,000 square-foot-building and that was recently renovated to improve energy efficiency and our ASHRAE (Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) Level 2 energy audit identified roughly $45,000 worth of improvements that would pay for themselves in less than three and a half years. We oversaw the installation of energy efficient florescent lighting, LED lighting, HVAC commissioning, and building envelope improvements
NRDC: What would you like to see from state policy?
Godward: I would like to see a long-term plan that allows all aspects of the energy efficiency industry from customers, contractors, and the utilities to make wise long-term decisions and investments. I think one of the major areas where the structure of the policy could be improved is to capture the lifecycle savings of energy efficiency measures. For example, insulation will last (at least) 30 years, but when Ecotelligent installs insulation for a homeowner the utilities and the state are only claiming the energy savings of the measure for the first year it was installed. Perhaps if there were incentives for the utilities to implement the deeper retrofits and claim a longer-term or lifecycle savings—like them being able to claim the savings for a longer period of time—we would see lasting energy efficiency improvements.
A PROMISING FUTURE
Michigan is filled with thriving energy efficiency businesses like Godward’s. Each day they grow stronger in relaying their demand and commitment to energy efficiency to local, state, and national policymakers through groups like the Michigan Energy Efficiency Contractors Association (MEECA).
As long as we can free the energy efficiency industry from regulatory barriers and surround it with sensible policies, such as those espoused by Godward, its future in Michigan, and the rest of the country for that matter, can only continue to flourish.