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Patti Case is the principal and vice president of ETC Group, an energy-efficiency engineering firm in Salt Lake City. Case was recently honored at the 10th Annual Southwest Regional Energy Efficiency Workshop for her leadership in the industry.
How did you become interested in energy efficiency?
I wasn’t originally working in the energy-efficiency industry, but 25 years ago my brother talked me into quitting my day job and starting this energy firm with him. It appealed to me because back then energy efficiency was the very best way to have a significant impact on the environment without the EPA political side of things. I realized I could help people save money and improve the environment.
The other appeal is that it’s very broad and very challenging. I get to do a lot of interesting things.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
The biggest impact we’ve had is actually growing the company. We’ve created a business that has a highly important impact on the environment, and it also provides really good and interesting jobs.
From an energy-efficiency standpoint, there are times when I’ve worked with a company, like a coal mine, and they’ve made a big change with how they are doing things and they’ve saved a lot of energy. It’s great to walk into a company and help them realize what they are trying to accomplish. It can be very rewarding.
In what ways is your company growing?
We work mostly in the West, but we do have clients all over the U.S. and internationally. We are actively expanding and we are seeing a lot of need and opportunity in the West. The Southwest definitely has growing demand and economies. It’s an exciting market for us.
We’re also working to expand into Asia. We see a lot of potential there because they have very expensive energy without a great infrastructure. We’re excited to work with international companies that have sustainable goals. Energy efficiency is one of the most cost-effective and realistic sustainability goals. The market is definitely growing.
What do you wish people understood about energy efficiency?
I wish that people in the commercial and industrial community understood what a low-risk endeavor energy efficiency is. When they’re looking at how to spend money or improve operations and the bottom line, efficiency projects are a low-risk pursuit with a very high return. When you’re making decisions as to where to spend people resources and money resources, this is a low-risk place to go.
Where do you see the future of energy efficiency?
The most exciting thing is the improvement in data and analytics. We are starting to be able to collect and use information in ways that we haven’t been able to do before. This will help businesses really see how their systems are performing. It will help them see how their buildings can really run. If you’ve got good data and you know what it means, you can do something about it.
What does this SWEEP Energy Efficiency Leadership award mean to you?
To be recognized by your peers is the most flattering thing that can happen. … They do this champion award every year and typically it goes to a politician who has the guts to stick their neck out and say what we really ought to do energy-wise. To have them, and everyone they represent, give me a pat on the back was very exciting.