There is a slight sense of dread in the energy efficiency industry these days. Dread that comes with the uncertainty of a changing administration, with rhetoric that seems to pull us back, with the possibility of undoing decades of hard work, with moving away from rather than towards a cleaner energy future. It can be heartbreaking. Yet, as I left AESP National Conference last week, I took with me not a sense of fear but instead on of heartened optimism. Over the course of the conference, I had the challenging and exciting opportunity to help facilitate the creation of an illustrated timeline of this industry. Working with the other conference attendees, we crafted a visual story of energy efficiency. As happenstance would have it we were attending the conference and crafting the timeline over Valentines Day, and as I worked with the attendees I began to recognize that this was not just a timeline, and this was not just a gathering of people who happen to work in the same field. This was the telling of a love story, crafted by people who do this work because it is their passion.
This industry, which was birthed in 1970, was forged through difficulty and persevered because of the passion of its people. While politics, technology, and pop-culture have all shaped the industry at various points, the great thinkers, the doers, the ones who did this because it mattered to them deep down, made it real. Leading this project throughout the conference, allowed me to see who you all are. As we dived into rich conversations, I saw the depths to which you have dedicated your lives to this work. My eyes were opened to the love you all hold for this space. Love for the planet, for problem-solving, for doing work that makes you want to strive for nothing less than better things for everyone on this little planet we call home. I met the greats of the industry who spoke with fondness of their fist day on the job. I met those who worked to found what is now AESP. I learned that the people in the room were more than just colleagues; they were friends, godparents to each other’s children, and co-dreamers in an ambitious vision. I learned about those who forged new paths and those we lost too soon, and most importantly, I bore witness to a connection and comradery that is deep in this industry. It was a history lesson, from terrifying blackouts to triumphant forward-looking legislation; to corporate unity and collaboration, to seismic scandals like Enron.
When I was finally done, all stories told and drawings in place, what I saw was indeed a love letter, an industry telling its story. Darkness, followed by triumph, an industry driven by the people who love this work, who are connected deeply to each other and who have consistently stood together in the hardest moments. An industry that has withstood the ebb and flow of history, all charted as little yellow bubbles on a timeline. It is clear we are a team that has fought the uphill battles, who is rich with leaders and innovators, who finds opportunity in the face of challenge and who do this work for the love of it. There will always be the hard stuff, the low bubble, but I am convinced that the incredible strength and skills found in the people I met last week, the people that make this industry, will always pull us back up.