Skip to main content

And the 2017 Oscar Goes to… AESP!

By January 3, 2017November 7th, 2021Energy Rant

Happy New Year! I am launching 2017 with this positive, upbeat Rant (my apologies to all my Oscar the Grouch fans).

I have a go / no-go test for our company’s involvement with organizations: if we are going to be members of something, we are going to participate in, benefit from, and contribute more than money to the organization. Otherwise, it is indeed a waste of money.

The Association of Energy Services Professionals (AESP) is an organization I’ve been involved with since 2010. That was the year I attended the big shindig, the National Conference, for the first time. Since then, I have written and presented papers, moderated sessions, scored paper abstracts, helped plan conferences, written articles for the org’s monthly newsletter – Strategies, and let’s see, gotten myself onto the board of directors. Thank you for the votes!

As with the organizational involvement test above, I apply the same rules to myself for board member participation. It isn’t about me. It’s about moving the organization forward in the best ways that I can. With that background, I am going to share why you should consider joining AESP or get more active in the organization. I close with some 2017 challenges for you, based on feedback from the AESP member surveys.

Learn and Benchmark

AESP offers the most comprehensive and informative mix of what’s happening in the industry, across the board: programs, marketing, program implementation, evaluation, and technology to name a few (check out this Brown Bag webinar to find out more). Active[1] participation in AESP helps answer the following critical questions for members and their organizations:

  1. Are we meeting or exceeding best practices? Better hope so. I want to confirm that.
  2. Are there things to learn and take home to my company? Always, if you think critically and have an open mind.
  3. Are we ahead of the curve, and if so, how do we leverage this within our organization, for our clients and customers, or our regulatory agency (whichever applies)?


AESP is the energy efficiency networking organization. Networking is always at the top of AESP member ratings. Some tips for new conference goers:

  • Find a table of strangers for breakfast and lunch. They are captive and rarely bite. Introduce yourself, ask a question, chime in.
  • For evening receptions when people are less captive, find an AESP staffer, or a board member. Feel free to barge into a conversation.
  • At the close of presentations, talk to presenters.

However, nothing stays the same whether anyone would like that or not. That is the case with our company, your company, and AESP. As a result, we are working hard to improve the organization’s value to utilities.

This brings me to a couple challenges for readers in 2017.

Who is our Client?

The answer to this hypothetical question is something I remind our people at Michaels about on a regular basis. Ninety eight percent of you reading this, and I, owe our careers to the utility industry, the regulators who oversee them, and their shareholders and customers. At times, I think we need to step back and think outside the bubble of our relatively tiny industry.

This gets a little weird in a fully-regulated monopoly market of utilities. We must win in the marketplace of ideas, minds, and money. Are we adding to the economic well-being of our clients, the utilities, and their customers, or are we creating solutions and searching for problems that don’t exist? Are we creating hassles or making success easy? I write about many examples of this in The Rant on a regular basis.

The Rotary four-way test comes to mind for closing out this challenge:

  • Is it the truth?
  • Is it fair to all concerned?
  • Will it build goodwill and better friendships? (Goodwill – think about that!)
  • Will it be beneficial to all concerned? (All means all, not just us.)


As our Board Chairman, Michael Volker, wrote in his recent Strategies note to members, you (AESP members) want more program ideas and exposure to new technologies.

Somebody wake up Oscar the Grouch because he might like this.

As the insurgent rebels at Michaels, we HAVE to present new program ideas. It’s a tough sell. It reminds me of staff wanting performance feedback. In my experience, that comes with a qualifier: they want feedback as long as it’s the right feedback; what they like to hear. Similarly, it seems utilities and consultants alike want ideas, but they don’t want change. See a problem here? In some states, regulation needs to be more conducive to efficiency; i.e., utilities can earn money on bona fide efficiency.

The days of light bulb layups to meet goals are gone. The days of fourth quarter bake sales to sprint to the finish are gone. The hard stuff; the fun stuff; the long-term stuff remains.

I’m convinced, and there is probably an ACEEE paper somewhere to confirm it, that we have only tapped 20%-30% of cost-effective savings potential. The other 70% is wrapped up in mobilizing organizations and embedding efficiency in behavior and the way of doing business. It isn’t a widget or a pill. It’s a lifestyle change and it’s fun, but it’s not instant, like flipping a switch, not so ironically.

That is your conceptual bucket of new ideas, ok? You want new, you need change.

More to come.

[1] Active can simply mean listening and taking it in, as well as getting in there and mixing it up.

Jeff Ihnen

Author Jeff Ihnen

More posts by Jeff Ihnen

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Meg Matt says:

    Hi Jeff,
    I couldn’t agree more! AESP has gone through a major transformation by doing a few simple things:
    1. Thank people for being members
    2. Listening to what members need and doing everything it can to deliver
    3. Investing in staff who are member-focused, creative, intelligent and enthusiastic.
    4. Creating free Brown Bag webinars for members, to continue their education.
    5. Last, but not least, help them network to build a community of contacts whom they can reach out to throughout their career.
    6. Oh…one more thing…they’ll be offering my Brown Bag on the Art of Networking on January 19.

Leave a Reply