About 10 years ago Emily Greene told a guidance counselor at Delaware Technical Community College (Delaware Tech) that she was thinking about an environmental science career because she wanted to make a difference in her home state. The woman suggested she look at the college’s new renewable energy program.
Greene did a little research and concluded that diving into renewable energy in 2010s would be akin to becoming a computer geek in the 1980s. “The people who got in and learned about computers ahead of the curve, look where they are. That’s what I wanted to do with renewable energy.” And so she has.
In her first job Greene worked as a measurement and verification analyst for a company that helped businesses and school districts in Delaware reduce their consumption by 30%. Then, as an energy planner for the state she wrote Delaware’s regulations for measuring and verifying energy savings. In 2018 she became an energy services manager for Delaware Municipal Electric Corporation (DEMEC) to help businesses and local governments save money by offering an energy efficiency program. And, in 2021, she became the compliance administrator at DEMEC’s Beasley Power Station, which uses natural gas and fuel oil to generate electricity.
“Being able to apply that technical degree has allowed me to get pretty far, pretty quick in my career,” Greene said.
Renewable Energy Degrees Lead to a Wide Array of Career Options
“There’s a lot of other jobs in the industry that don’t involve installation and being on a roof,” said Jennifer Clemons, chair and an instructor in the Energy Technologies Department at Delaware Tech. Clemons credits hands-on professional development programs offered by two ATE initiatives with helping her and her Delaware Tech colleagues enhance the renewable energy solar program and create the energy management and building automation systems degree programs at the college.
Clemons was the newly hired solar instructor at Delaware Tech in 2011 when she attended a professional development program at Lane Community College where Roger Ebbage has used ATE grants and other funding to create the Northwest Water and Energy Education Institute. Then in 2012 and 2014 Clemons attended professional development workshops offered by the Center for Renewable Energy Advanced Technological Education (CREATE). Its principal investigator is Ken Walz at Madison Area Technical College.
“We learned material from them [ATE principal investigators and their teams] and then tweaked it and made it our own,” Clemons said of ATE’s curricula impact. Those hours of high quality professional development subsequently helped Delaware Tech programs receive accreditation from the North American Board of Energy Practitioners. Program accreditation means students can sit for the professional organization’s industry certification exams. Clemons said industry certification is “not required for employment, but it’s definitely very helpful.”
The Delaware Tech programs prepare students for careers in renewable energy system design, site assessment, and management of energy systems in commercial buildings. Clemons said demand is strong for graduates and that 100% of energy programs students have job offers on or before graduating. “I could place 10 times the students I have,” Clemons said.
Greene’s Career Path
Greene combined two Delaware Tech degrees and an industry credential to start her energy career.
“The degree itself is what gives you the fundamental knowledge and basis to be able to talk with all these other disciplines in energy. That was why I was able to work for a private for-profit company, the state government, public power joint action agency on behalf of local government, and electric generator. That is why I’m able to work in all these various disciplines in the field of energy,” she said.
On her way to becoming the first graduate of Delaware Tech’s renewable energy program, Greene earned an associate degree in energy management and completed three internships. The renewable energy degree and energy management degree each required a work experience and Greene did an extra internship.
Clemons describes Greene in 2012 as “very young, but very motivated.” Greene was 22 weeks pregnant when she enrolled in the renewable energy program and persisted in her college courses – with the support of compassionate faculty – even when her infant daughter was in the neonatal intensive care unit. (The child is now a healthy, happy nine-year-old.)
“Energy is very specialized, right. Del Tech prepared me for pretty much all of it. And then immediately out school I sub-specialized to another niche, which is M & V – or measurement and verification. That is what my national certification is. I’m a certified measurement and verification professional through the Association of Energy Engineers,” she said.
Her interest in measurement and verification was sparked by Delaware Tech courses and the realization that despite good intentions to save energy “there’s a really big opportunity for people to mess this up.” That left her wondering “what kind of controls can we put in here to reduce the opportunity for human error – meaning reporting, installation, ongoing monitoring, goal setting, processes, things like that. So, that’s what led me to M & V within renewable energy, which is like a specialization within a specialization.”
In her first job as a measurement and verification analyst for an energy services company, Greene had to check to make sure equipment was installed properly, was operating properly, and was reducing energy use as the company had guaranteed. Systems within the commercial buildings provided data every 15 seconds on everything from fan motors to wall light switches.
“There was a vast, vast quantity of data that I would analyze to make sure that everything was running in the building how we modeled it to run, and if there was a deviation I would have to track that, otherwise my company would be financially responsible for the difference. That was a fun job – legitimately that was a fun job. It was like always having to monitor for the what-ifs. You could turn hypothetical school scenarios into real life,” she said.
Seeking to make more of a difference, Greene took an energy planner job with the state of Delaware in 2017; her assignments included writing regulations for measuring and verifying energy savings. Monitoring by the state’s Energy Efficiency Advisory Council has since found that the programs are making a difference, and the regulations provide a tool for compliance and monitoring progress. The programs and regulations together are “quantifiably and measurably making a difference to the tune of multiple millions of dollars for all Delaware citizens regardless of utility provider,” Greene said.
In 2018 she took a job as an energy services manager for Delaware Municipal Electric Corporation (DEMEC) to help local governments and small businesses save money with an energy efficiency program that taught energy efficient practices and offered energy efficient equipment.
In 2020, at the age of 28, Greene was selected by The Delaware Business Times for its annual list of 40 promising and accomplished professionals under 40.
Now as the compliance administrator at DEMEC’s Beasley Power Station, Greene monitors its operations for compliance on all applicable North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) standards. As a “peak power station” Beasley generates electricity using natural gas or fuel oil as it is needed to compensate for extra strain on the grid. Greene said “keen attention to detail” helps her do this job.