Waxing Nostalgic with ENERGY STAR

Posted October 12, 2015

I will be attending the ENERGY STAR Partner meeting in Portland OR this week. This is the second year in a row that I have attended this meeting after taking a number of years off. This meeting holds a special place for me. The first ever industry conference I attended also happened to be the first ever ENERGY STAR Partner meeting that was ever held. The meeting took place in an odd hotel in the suburbs of Chicago. I wish I could recall the name of the hotel but odd is not an understatement, my hotel room in fact had a mirror on the ceiling (and I can say with certainty that this is the only professional conference I have attended where the room had this unique amenity). I still have the business card holder that was handed out as the freebie at that conference, original ENERGY STAR Logo and all.

I think back to this meeting because like me, it was professionally green, none of us attending knew where things were going, whether or not we had the fortitude to not only create a market for ENERGY STAR products, whether we could create enduring partnerships between the energy efficiency industry and the manufacturers and retailers in attendance, in short whether or not this would work.

I attended the Partner meeting every year religiously for almost a decade, Glendale AZ, Washington DC, Las Vegas, Providence, Chicago (again), Saratoga Springs, and numerous other places that are now awash in my mind. It was in a lot of ways where I grew-up professionally. It is the first conference I was ever invited to speak at, it is where I presented on the first ever results on a new idea for lighting programs called the “retail buy down” (yep that’s right – Wisconsin was first), it is where I first spoke about data needs for products programs and probably the first time someone got up and asked for full category sales data (all the way back in 2005) and it is where I met many of the people who now, a decade plus later as still great industry friends.

The meeting has changed, we are more polished, bigger players attend and the stakes are higher. We were experimenting a lot in those early years and I think we can proudly stand upon the base we built. And as some things change many things stay the same, we are still experimenting, models like the Retail Products Platform (RPP), which I will be speaking on during the conference, are forcing us to be open to new approaches, and new delivery mechanisms are reducing program costs allowing for better cost effectiveness. The difference is we do it with more finesse now, our experiments are more deliberate better planned , we have stopped throwing things at the wall to see if they will stick (although we might be well served going back to that now and then). I too have moved along, I had to laugh looking back at the 2004 presentation in Las Vegas… and the differences, the clear evolution of thought, style and the (like it or not) fact that I (and my presentations) and the industry itself has grown up a lot.

I look forward to what will be easily my 10th partner meeting, I am excited to hear the buzz, to meet new people and to connect with old friends. So, check back later this week when I will spend a little more time looking forward, sharing the trends, topics and ideas that come out of this year’s ENERGY STAR Partner meeting.