Energy OutWest 2014

Posted by Jim Gunshinan on April 17, 2014
Energy OutWest 2014
David Hepinstall (r) and colleague from the Association for Energy Affordability in New York City. Their work provides a powerful antidote to cynicism.
I was at the Energy OutWest Conference several years ago, but a memory still stands out from that event. I was at lunch with a man who was a weatherization technician. He was bitter. The people we help don’t care about saving energy, as long as someone else is paying for it, he said. And he went on like that.
I’m at this year’s Energy OutWest in San Diego and I finally realize why the memory of that cynical guy has stayed in my mind. I think people who are cynical and bitter have a reason to be. Sometimes they become cynical because they have unrealistic expectations of themselves and others. But we human beings are pretty flawed creatures and we do lots of disappointing things, everything from a rude remark to violent crimes. I don’t want to diminish the pain someone experiences because of the bad actions of others. I do want to provide a remedy for that. I want Home Energy magazine to provide a remedy for that in the stories it tells about the successes and failures of the people working in home performance, and the lessons learned that help them do a better job the next time. 
I know that “that hopey thing” is not taken seriously by some and is even taken as naïveté. But I don’t care! Acting hopefully, without burdening ourselves with the heavy weight of expectation, is the remedy for cynicism.
We have plenty to be cynical about. Just read the newspaper. But when the head of Energy OutWest, Mimi Burbage, says at the opening plenary, There are people in poverty; we know what we can do for them, it gives us hope and a confidence in our ability to make a difference in the lives of people. When DOE’s Jennifer Somers, at that same plenary, says The orchestra conductor is silent. It is her job to bring music out of others, she offers us a realistic but hopeful approach to our work that does not focus on our limitations, but on our continuing service to others. It’s not always the bottom line numbers that mark us as successful. Sometimes it is the quality of our relationships.
Bruce Manclark did a presentation about duct leakage testing, and explained to a classroom of weatherization technicians and managers how he has grown and changed through the years; how he has changed his mind about the efficacy of certain tests. But he still sees a great benefit for a young person doing hundreds of duct tests. If you correlate the test results with a visual inspection of the ducts, you learn how to look at a duct system and know what needs to be fixed. After many years in home performance work, Bruce is still curious; he’s still figuring things out. That gives us hope all up and down the line. We’ll spend our whole careers trying to get it right and we never will—not exactly. What a relief! To do well we just need to stay in the game, stay curious, and pick good mentors.
And on a very personal note, I was given a shot of hope when my group, the Transformers, during the weatherization competition last night, nominated me for a special honor. I was entered in the contest for the baldest person in the room. And I came in last place. That gives me hope that to some people, other than my wife, I may still appear youthful and sexy. I can go for older and sexy later.

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