Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=176277
Story Retrieval Date: 5/20/2013 1:52:46 PM CST
King Arthur Court in the InterContinental Chicago hotel is guarded by two suits of knights’ armor. This medieval setting played host to the very modern 7th Annual Inspiring Efficiency Awards on Thursday, when the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance recognized those who greened their groceries, laws and energy education programs.
In all, the alliance recognized nine organizations and individuals who have done the most to move energy use out of the dark ages.
“Things are changing; things are turning around,” said Michigan Public Service Commissioner Monica Martinez of the increasingly green energy world. “It’s just the smart way to do business.”
Martinez received the alliance's leadership award for her work on the public service commission and her efforts to pass Michigan’s Clean, Renewable and Efficient Energy Act in 2008. This required utilities to satisfy energy savings goals and increase their percent of renewable energy.
She also increased Michigan’s Low Income and Energy Efficiency Fund, which provides rebates, energy education for children and green community improvements.
Andrea Minniear Cherney, senior project manager, accepted the alliance's education award on behalf of the Energy Center of Wisconsin amid cheers and loud applause. The center combined video, PowerPoint and interactive components in “live webinars,” part of an online education program targeted at executives.
“After each of our live webinars, we do do a little victory dance, because we were able to reach so many people at once with our education,” Cherney said.
The impact award for making a significant dent in energy waste was awarded to Chicago utility Commonwealth Edison for their “retro-commissioning program,” which improves energy efficiency of existing equipment in large buildings instead of requiring substantial new purchases.
Ryan Stoianowski, senior program manager of retro commissioning, accepted the award and noted that the program succeeded because there is “a customer base in Chicago that is hungry for energy efficiency and is making it a priority.”
The alliance distributed two innovation awards, recognizing Detroit-based DTE Energy for its Independent Grocers Incentive Program that helped grocery store owners scale down energy costs. The second award went to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, partnered with Shaw Environmental & Infrastructure Group, to run an online auction where companies competed for grant money by promising energy efficiency.
“I think a lot of the people that think we’re flyover states will start thinking that because they don’t see so much light pollution,” said Jay Wrobel, the acting executive director of the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance.
Prairie Power, Inc., of Jacksonville, and Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy received marketing awards for encouraging increased energy efficiency at both the physical and managerial levels.
The Chairman’s Award went to David Eijadi, vice president of The Weidt Group and chairman of the alliance board from 2007-2010. The alliance also honored past president and executive director Wendy Jaehn, who launched the Change-a-Light Campaign to increase customer awareness and retailer access to energy saving light bulbs (CFLs).
The alliance was formally founded in 2000 with the mission to promote “sustainable economic development and environmental preservation,” and comprises 13 states, including Illinois. Almost 40 applications for the awards came in from among alliance’s more than 120 members and were selected by its 2011 Inspiring Efficiency Awards Committee.
Wrobel closed the awards ceremony by reflecting on the growth of energy efficiency in the Midwest.
“I know life is tough right now with all the stuff that’s going on, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
“This world will become more efficient, no matter what.”