What does leadership in energy efficiency policy look like?

What does leadership in energy efficiency policy look like?

What does leadership in energy efficiency policy look like?


Energy efficiency is an enormous field with numerous different stakeholders, such as utility companies, non-governmental organizations, and the general public.

Although each group can vary in its goals and methods of affecting change in the energy efficiency arena, they all have the potential to bring about enormous change and environmental benefits.

You would think that energy efficiency would be a “no-brainer” to everyone from business owners to home owners, due to its ability to save money on utility bills while reducing energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions.

However, this is not the case.

Many groups do not agree that energy efficiency is a useful or beneficial endeavor and believe that old methods of energy use, produced by fossil fuels, are the correct path to continue down.

However, other groups like the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) are working to advise policymakers at all levels of government to advance energy efficient technology, programs, and policies. logoACEEE is a well known non-profit created in 1980 that has become known as “America’s leading center of expertise on energy efficiency“.

As a leader in energy efficiency advocacy, it seemed fitting to interview Maggie Molina, Utilities, State, and Local Policy Director at ACEEE, to gain a better understanding of exactly how she leads within ACEEE to further energy efficiency adoption in the country.

Maggie has been a part of ACEEE since 2005 and currently leads numerous state policy and analysis programs, including the annual State Energy Efficiency Scorecard and the State Clean Energy Research Project. 

Maggie’s breadth of experience at ACEEE working with multiple stakeholders to implement change in the energy efficiency field makes her an excellent candidate to interview on the topic of leadership.


What qualities make an effective leader?

Good leaders are excellent listeners. Maggie places great emphasis on the ability to listen attentively to be an effective leader.  Leaders also inspire other through their actions, as well as their words.

Furthermore, leaders always respect others, and they are firm and passionate in their own values, demonstrating integrity. This statement by Maggie struck me most, “leaders always respect others”.

Respect seems to be something that many people often forget about when trying to lead others. In energy efficiency policy, many politicians refuse to respect those who hold opposing views to theirs, making their ability to lead effectively very questionable.


How do you lead others in your field?

Maggie works with numerous stakeholders like utility companies and state and local leaders. In order to work effectively with these diverse groups, strong relationships are key to leading others.

Energy efficiency is a smart policy option for numerous reasons, but Maggie and ACEEE recognize that each state and local region has unique circumstances and challenges.

They listen to stakeholders to understand those unique challenges, and work with them to identify solutions.


How do you measure success in your current role at ACEEE?

Success is measured in many ways at ACEEE, specifically through the

  • Number and range of substantive relationships and partnerships ACEEE develops;
  • Number of states, local governments, or utilities that take policy action to improve energy efficiency;
  • Media coverage of our reports; and
  • Macro-level trends in the energy efficiency of the economy.


How do you handle resistance to ideas/policies that you propose to others?

Again, Maggie emphasizes having strong relationships with stakeholders, as well as credibility in research. If others do not trust the work that ACEEE is doing or who they are as individuals, others may be more strongly opposed to the policies or ideas put forward.

There are always going to be multiple stakeholders and perspectives on any issue, and therefore it is important to listen to others’ concerns to understand a reasonable solution.

If some stakeholders haven’t completely bought into the concept of energy efficiency and its benefits, they will know that ACEEE’s policies or ideas are based on high-quality research and analysis.


What are some skills that previous leaders/supervisors had that have positively impacted your professional life?

One of Maggie’s previous supervisors always had an open door policy and empowered and challenged her. These are skills that Maggie now tries to emulate as a supervisor. His focus on building relationships with our stakeholders has left a lasting impression. 


Negatively impacted?

When Maggie first joined ACEEE, one of her first projects was the first edition of the “State Energy Efficiency Scorecard.” 

A peer-reviewer of the report called it “junk science.” 

As a young professional starting out in the energy efficiency world, Maggie was definitely negatively impacted at first. However, it helped to shape her attitude as well. As someone who had studied biology and chemistry in college, she could not believe someone would confuse a policy scorecard with “science”.

The world of policy is really more of an art than a science – there is no right or wrong answer, but at the same time we need good analysis to understand the impacts of different solutions.  As a professional, the experience also helped remind me to always show respect to others!

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