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Is This the Real Life? Is This Just Fantasy?

By October 8, 2012November 8th, 2021Energy Efficiency, Energy Rant, Utility Stuff

When I was a kid, I liked to play games; board games, cards, video games, pinball, racing with an electric racetrack, and even golf with clubs on grass outdoors!  BTW, these things kick butt over any video game, any day.  Somewhere between the ages of 12 and 14, I lost interest in this crap.  Why?  Because life is enough game for me.  It’s all about competition, and I’d rather beat others on the court, field, or classroom doing real things with my own skills.  And now, it is business in which I compete.

When I go to conferences or seminars, aside from networking, I want to learn.  I want to learn what others are doing so I can compare and contrast, and I may even learn something I didn’t know, or learn more about something I knew little about.  I don’t want to play dopey games that have no consequences.

For example, last week I attended the E Source Forum in Denver.  I ignorantly sauntered into a session called Optimizing DSM (demand side management, aka energy efficiency) Programs.  Tell me something I don’t know, or at least give me something to laugh at, whether it’s humor or a laughably mediocre/poor performing program that is sold as the greatest thing since squeezable cheese whiz – like a new personal transportation device developed in a bubble, ignorant of other programs (cars).  As an example, metaphorically speaking, if the program were a car, it would be the Wayne’s World AMC Pacer.  Isn’t it fantastic?!  Uh, yeah sure.

In a triple flip of fate, it just so happens the theme song with the Pacer is Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody; “Is this the real life?  Is this just fantasy?…” 

Back to the real life, upon sitting down for the session, I quickly learned this was a trap – It was a fantasy of: you have a crappy program, design a new one in twenty minutes after reading everything you need to know on two sheets of paper.  The prisoners at our table (our team) each played one of six or eight characters like market analyst, program designer, marketing guy, evaluator, implementer, etc.

We were a municipal utility with 300,000 customers, all of which hated us.  Our goals would increase five fold over three years.  The current program consists almost entirely of lighting (this is actually realistic), and the sector at hand is small business.  All the trade allies hate us because we have gyrating incentives depending on the season and which way the wind is blowing. Our budget was $16.  Go.

Thank goodness some people like to do this stuff.  My inclination was to get away from lighting – the training wheels of EE programs.  The Forum featured numerous sessions on the latest and greatest training wheels, and I successfully avoided them all.  The one thing I like about lighting is lack of it – spaces that are either daylit or dimly lit.  Anyway, nobody at our table was going for my divergence from training wheels.  We did the usual status quo act, and I was fine with that.  Let’s just get out of here.

There were about eight teams; four on our scenario and about four on a residential program fantasy.  The winning team/program gets a chocolate bar and deserved ridicule.  My colleague’s (who shall remain un-ID’d) team won and true to form, there were no boundaries to their fantasy – money, physics, geography, time – don’t let these petty issues get in the way.  Every trade ally gets a free iPad.  Every participating customer gets an all-expense paid, two-week vacation in sunny Damascus.  The judges went for that.  Ok.  It’s all yours.  Enjoy your day in the fantasyland sun but once you walk out the door, it’s time to leave it all behind and face the truth, little silhouetto of a man.

Otherwise, it was a great conference, pretty much.  We were able to spend a lot of quality time with clients and meet and greet new people, aka networking.

In other news, the most overused buzzword of 2012 and/or possibly 2013 is “space”, as in market.  Used in a sentence, “We operate in the large C&I space.”  I would suggest a drinking game, where for every time the word space is muttered, everyone takes a shot of tequila.  After 10 minutes in an EE conference social hour, no one would be left standing.  The entire city would be out of booze.  Yes indeed, at the end of the day, after kicking the can down the road, I’d like to throw space, paradigmatic synergisms, and the entire middle class, under the bus.

Jeff Ihnen

Author Jeff Ihnen

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