Passionate People: An Interview with Karen Butterfield

September 03, 2014
September/October 2014
A version of this article appears in the September/October 2014 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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To thank Karen Butterfield for her long-time service and dedication to Home Energy magazine, publisher Tom White took a bit of her time to discuss her experiences and how the magazine has changed and grown during her many years of involvement. Karen Butterfield has been a contributor and editor at Home Energy magazine since 1985, and until 2013, was a director of Energy Auditor and Retrofitter, Incorporated, the nonprofit corporation that owns and publishes the magazine. She’s also been a long-time member of the magazine’s Board of Directors.

When she’s not working with Home Energy, she’s the managing director for national and federal accounts at SunPower Corporation. SunPower designs, manufactures, and delivers high-performance solar-electric systems worldwide for residential, commercial, and utility-scale power plant customers.

Tom White (TW): How has Home Energy magazine played a part in your experience in the energy industry?

Karen Butterfield
is the managing director for national and federal accounts at SunPower Corporation, headquartered in San Jose, California.

Karen Butterfield (KB): Fresh out of college, I did an energy audit on [Lawrence Berkeley Lab Senior Scientist and California Energy Commissioner] Art Rosenfeld’s house in 1985, and he lit a fire in me about home energy. He advised me to get involved with the magazine and connected me to the editors, including Alan Meier, who inspired me to make a career out of this first (unexpected) job I’d landed. Passionate people spread passion, and the magazine has very passionate people!

TW: What plans do you see for the future of our industry?

KB: I moved from energy efficiency into solar PV in 2008. Eventually, I see myself finding that nexus between supply and demand by integrating energy efficiency, demand management, supply, and maybe even storage. That’s my dream. In the end, customers want it all, and as the utility model changes, I think we will be able to figure out how to do it all.

TW: How have your many years on the Home Energy Board of Directors shaped your career in the home energy industry?

KB: The Home Energy board has morphed and grown in size and skill over the years. I’ve enjoyed it and feel honored and grateful that we have been able to navigate some tricky problems for the magazine. I’m proud of the products that the Home Energy staff publishes. And I’m glad that Home Energy magazine helps to create good jobs and an energy efficiency community that drives our mission.

TW: What is one thing the home energy industry needs to really make it into the mainstream and be a success?

Karen Butterfield, along with Base and Major Command and Assistant Secretary of the Navy Roger Natsuhara, at the flip the switch ceremony for the new PV power plant at Naval Air Weapons Station, China Lake. (NAWS Public Affairs)

KB: I guess if I knew that, we would already be touching hundreds of thousands of energy consumers by now. In a way, we are touching consumers now through the thousands of practitioners and energy geeks who are loyal to the magazine. If I regret anything during my time on the board, it’s not pushing harder to run more as a business (.com) than as an academic publication (.org). It’s a fine line, but I think to break into the mainstream, we need more channels to the market.

TW: Any last thoughts on what Home Energy magazine does well?

KB: Content, content, content. There are so many wannabes out there who don’t have access to cutting-edge studies, people, and programs that generate this amazing content!

Tom White is publisher of Home Energy magazine. He restores historic homes in his free time.

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