The annual Midwest Energy Solutions (MES) Conference put on by MEEA is normally held in person in Chicago in February. February in Chicago often means cold temps and snow and it was definitely that this year, but this year we were able to enjoy it from the comfort of our own homes.
The perception of conferences this year is a mixed bag. Networking, which is often the biggest value of conferences like these, is undoubtedly more difficult. Reconnecting with known contacts is much easier than meeting new people entirely. One benefit, however, is you can gain a lot more from the sessions because you’re not 5 minutes late after you ran into someone while grabbing coffee. Another benefit is that you can easily take notes on the things you hope to remember and you’re not trying to awkwardly grab a photo of the slide being presented because the slide deck is already available. This year’s MES Conference was different (along with much of our lives these days), but continued to bring forth many big topics of energy efficiency (EE) from federal policy action around EE to “in the weeds” conversations on cost effectiveness.
One of the most timely topics discussed was energy efficiency and grid resiliency. The cold weather of the week in Chicago was also felt further South in Texas where news of the blackouts and power outages were top of mind. Whether it’s pushing toward a clean energy future or having a resilient grid, energy efficiency has a role to play and is still the low hanging fruit. To quote from Shawn White of Xcel Energy, the MEEA Board Chair:
We know that the future will be a clean energy economy and we can’t get there without energy efficiency. So lets focus on how we can work together to meet these ambitious goals.
EE needs to be of thought and procured not only because in some states it’s a legislative requirement, but because it can play a vital role in ensuring that the lights stay on. This can’t be done by one or two players in a state, but by an industry. Energy efficiency can also be a valuable tool for utilities to ensure they are equitably serving underserved populations. Energy burden was another key topic at the conference. Participants discussed how it should be used along with a number of other criteria to better ensure customers who most need the help from programs are getting it.
Thanks to MEEA for enabling discussion around the most pressing energy issues facing us. Hopefully “see” you at the next industry conference and you get to say hi to someone new!