After several weeks of hardcore grid-interactive efficient buildings (GEBs) discussion and brutal challenges, I’m giving your brains a break this week – kind of like a shot of whiskey after weeks of drinking green protein smoothies in preparation for that marathon you always wanted to do.
Speaking of GEBs – how do you say GEBs? Gebs, right? What about SEM. No. SEM aficionados are a highfalutin crowd. It’s es ee em. So dudes, if you don’t like the way people pronounce your organization or activity, name it something simple or deal with the consequences of busy people.
What about IEPEC, the International Energy Program Evaluation Conference? I ee pee ee cee. It rolls right off the tongue. I call it I-peck in private company.
This reminds me of the company formerly known as Portland Energy Conservation Inc, or PECI. I had always called it pee ee cee I, but along came a colleague who called it pecky, which makes me bust up to this day.
Here’s another clever way to name your organization: avoid pronuncifiable acronyms like AESP. Nobody is going to pronounce that aspe. How would you pronounce that? Eysp? Eyspee? Ey ee es pee. It rolls right off the tongue.
Does the Electric Power Research Institute mind being called epry? I don’t think so. What about the Smart Electric Power Alliance, seepah? I don’t think so. So what’s wrong with I-peck? Lighten up, folks!
What do you do with the Iowa Association for Energy Efficiency, IAEE? There’s no way to make a word out of that, and saying the letters sounds like someone with their tongue frozen to a pipe on a zero-degree day, or maybe a squealing pig. It’s not good.
Name Origins and Evolutions
Some companies use a twist on their name or acronym to hide what they do. Consider Minnesota Mining and Manufacture, aka, 3M. Scotch tape and sticky notes? Mining? See how that works. Almost no one has heard of Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing.
The same goes for Chicago Bridge and Iron, or CBI. You would think they manufacture primary metals or build bridges. Nope. It’s nearly all consulting of various stripes. I don’t know whether that brand exists anymore because at least the efficiency part was renamed APTIM. What does that stand for? I’ve been told nothing. Really?
Then there are companies with baggage, like say, a huge scandal or fraud that they need to leave behind. What to do? Change the name and rebrand!
Some companies and organizations pull too many words together that even the acronym is unwieldy. Five or more words or letters are (is?) too many. At the opposite end of this spectrum, one word is too much and the company takes a chunk out of the middle of the word, only. KaLEIDOScope.
As for Michaels, we were once a three-letter company – MEI – Michaels Engineering Inc. A few years ago, we rebranded to Michaels Energy and dropped the Inc. from our informal handle. That’s one way to get away from the three-letter company. We still see ME this, ME that, once in a while. The company name comes from Michaels, Jim, the founder.
There are the Regional Energy Efficiency Organizations, also known as REEOs which rhymes with Rio, and she dances on the sand. They consist of NEEA, (nee-uh), SWEEP, SPEER, MEEA (like nee-uh), NEEP, and SEEA (wouldn’t wanna be ya – couldn’t help it). These are all great organizations and they have very different character in what they do and how they operate.
Notice Kentucky. The efficiency civil war is still waging in Kentucky where MEEA and SEEA both want a piece. It’s like Iowa for the RTOs (see below). Both the Southwest Power Pool and Midwest Independent System Operator claim the northwest third of the state, which is where half the state’s wind resources are.
We have the Regional Transmission Organizations – RTOs – formerly known as independent system operators – ISOs – except in Ontario, eh, where it’s the Independent Electric System Operator. See? They stick that E in there to trip you up. You don’t know what to do, so you just say I ee ess oh.
Moving from right to left across the map, the RTOs include ISO New England, NY ISO, PJM (Pennsylvania, Jersey, Maryland), MISO (with a long I sound, not like the Japanese soup – you get soup recipes if you search miso), SPP (Southwest Power Pool), ERCOT (the not-so electric reliability council of Texas), and CAISO (California ISO). Here is a lesson. You snooze, Southwest, you lose. I don’t know why the high plains grifters took “Southwest” for their name (the SPP). I would call them the RISO for red-state ISO.
Twenty years ago, plus or minus ten years, a frenzy of utility mergers went down. They would roll two or more utilities with cool industrial names like “power and light” and move them under a holding company with manufactured names, mostly misspellings of common words or words that sounded like something cool and progressive at the time. Want examples? Search for JD Power Utility Rankings, and you’ll find many.
And there are acronyms for the pop-culturally ignorant like me. Teri, our Director of Sales and Marketing, sets up S&M meetings. “I wish she wouldn’t call it that.” Jeff: “I have no idea. Carry on.” What about non-wire alternatives or NWA? Jeff: “No idea. Carry on.”
Guidelines for Organizational Names
Rules for corporate names:
- If you don’t want letters and acronyms used for your company, use two words, preferably one, or less like null, vacuum, zero, love, zip, absent, gone, diddly, blank, nothing, empty, aught, or nil.
- If you insist on more than a two-word name, beware, and don’t cry if people misuse YOUR acronym.
- Take whatever letters you want, like PJM.
- Less is more – fewer words, syllables, letters.
- Industrial is cool and timeless.
- Focus group with a broad swath of characters to screen for controversy.
 Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance
 Southwest Energy Efficiency Project
 South-Central Partnership
 Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance
 Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships
 Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance