Introduction to Maureen Quaid
Maureen Quaid began her career 32 years ago at the Minneapolis Energy Office (now CEE) and recently returned to CEE as a senior energy efficiency project manager for our new program development department. She has held a variety of diverse roles in energy efficiency and renewable energy, including program strategy, design and research, operational management, policy analysis and regulatory advocacy, and communications. I interviewed Maureen recently to gather more details about her impressive career.
Helen: Tell me a little bit about your background.
Maureen: I got my start at the Minneapolis Energy Office and have spent my entire career in the energy industry — so I’ve seen it from multiple angles. I think of my career as having three major phases: research and development for about 10 years, operations for 10 years, and mostly program planning and policy for the last several years.
My first phase brought me to the west coast for a job at the Washington State Energy Office and then as a consultant in Portland, Oregon. After taking a break from energy for a few years, I jumped back into the field with a job at the Energy Trust of Oregon, which launched my “operations” phase. I developed their communications infrastructure, including customer service, a call center, the organization’s website, and trade ally network. I was also a key public speaker for the Trust so I needed to understand everything we did at a high level and how all the pieces of the organization were interrelated.
My two most recent positions focused on program planning and policy, with opportunities to work on several interesting projects. At the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, I helped the U.S. Department of Energy facilitate relationship building between utilities and local governments. As a program planner at PNM, I focused on customer analytics, helping the company build capacity to collect data at the customer level and pivot from mass marketing to more direct, targeted, analytics-based marketing. Direct marketing is a relatively new idea in the field and one that I think more utilities will adopt to achieve a cost-effective portfolio of efficiency programs.
H: So you are no stranger to CEE or the energy industry in general! What interests you about energy efficiency and how will your wide range of experiences impact your new role here at CEE?
M: When I got started, I really liked the idea of working for “the good guys” to do work that helps the environment. Energy efficiency is interesting and challenging, and requires competency in a number of different disciplines. It’s also really well suited to lifelong learners, which I think describes me. There is always some new or interesting challenge to tackle, and this has been the case throughout my career.
My orientation toward learning supports CEE’s evolving efforts to help utilities improve efficiency programs and offer more cost-effective solutions. As we explore new programs here in Minnesota, there is a good chance that if something has been tried elsewhere I will already know something about it and I look forward to sharing that. At CEE, I will work on program benchmarking and best practice recommendations as part of the potential study.
H: What do you see as today’s big energy challenges and opportunities?
M: One of the biggest challenges we face with the current administration is the withdrawal of federal support and subsidies for clean energy. However, it is possible that market forces have evolved to the point that clean energy can survive without federal incentives. That is the case for wind, and it is getting to be true for solar as well, and I think that energy efficiency market-based programs will also continue. I also see that leadership in clean energy will come from local, state and regional organizations, and I look forward to building relationships with those that share CEE’s goals.
The challenge with energy efficiency is with cost effectiveness, which is very difficult to achieve with today’s low gas prices and increases in the transaction costs associated with customer-centered programs. CEE will need to focus on improving program offerings, increasing cost effectiveness for customers and utilities, and pursuing more personalized marketing approaches. Success will require a paradigm shift in the utility business framework — the market model for efficiency programs needs to shift. I’m hoping to contribute here and in discussions of future challenges and opportunities in transforming utility business models.
H: Now that you’ve come full circle back to CEE, what are you most excited to be working on?
M: I feel very positive about my return to Minneapolis and CEE, and coming full circle in my career. There is a real satisfaction in that. In deciding to move back to Minneapolis, I wanted to work at an organization that felt right to me, and CEE felt right.
I’m excited to hit the ground running with the potential study, developing program benchmarking summaries and recommendations to help Minnesota utilities build the next generation of efficiency programs. In many ways, that approach is already in place and one of the reasons Minnesota has been so successful with energy efficiency. But we’ll need to work harder to maintain and build on that success, finding ways to do our work faster, better, and cheaper. CEE is well positioned for this work and I am excited to be a part of it.
Maureen Quaid's bio
Image credit: DOE/NREL- Raymond David