MIke Nemeth

The State of Our Blog

First, a little history for you.  When SJVCEO began, waaaay back in 2007 blogs were sort of a new deal. We had ten of them.  That's right.  Ten.  The blog that you know today began as our News and Events blog where the intent was to post meeting notices, conferences, and workshop flyers.  But something happened, better stated, nothing happened.  We had eight posts in all of 2008 and that number dropped off to six in 2009.  We just never acted like a "typical" non-profit.  Our meetings were reserved for the board, and we only ever had one conference per year and that ended in 2009!

We had separate blogs for sustainable communities, renewable energy, biofuels, board members--heck, we had a blog just for media releases that had all of zero posts!  Needless to say we were figuring it out as we went; or as our former Executive Director liked to say, "we're learning to fly while we build the plane".  Something had to give--and one day late in 2009 I just got tired of looking at so many pointless blogs and deleted all but one.

Something else happened in 2009, actually two somethings happened:
Somehow Mike Nemeth and Sandy Nax stumbled into our little operation.  With more than 50 years newspaper experience between them it didn't take long for them to realize the story was our blog needed some lovin'! Soon, between the two the SJVCEO blog was seeing an average of 20 blogs per month.

The most viewed post ever? This gem on electric cars and John Bonham (classic Mike).  The biggest month on record? May 2012 with coverage of everything from solar, to bios, to efficiency, a book review, and an EV shaped like a doughnut.  There was a heck of a lot going on.  And, somewhat fitting, it was Sandy's last month with SJVCEO, and the truth is we've never been able to keep it up since he left.

Then, in the betrayals of all betrayals (what, too much?) Mike abandoned ship and moved down the road to the Air Pollution Control District!

Obviously the wound is still fresh in the SJVCEO office, and one of us may have a flair for the dramatic...

Mike actually still blogs for us.  It was one of his demands upon leaving.  And honestly, if it wasn't for him we would have been dead for the last month and a half.  If you didn't catch them here, here, and here are a few of my favorite post-SJVCEO Mike blogs; this is my absolute favorite--but that's more because Mike's granddaughter, Petra--er, I mean Lem--makes an apperance.  That and it's pretty much awesome.

Okay, long way around to say we needed to make a change or as Petra/Lem would do, move fluidly within our current environment.  We have a new team member, Dee, who made her blog debut yesterday. And Maureen and I are still here, slaving away in a world of energy benchmarking.

So the state of the blog is this: there are now three ladies running the show.  None of us are of the caliber of Mike and Sandy, but we're going to do the best we can to serve their legacy and maybe, just maybe we'll hit that magic number of 100,000 views.  Because we're women we met, made lists, refined our lists, and made a lunch date to address the handling of the blog.  What can you expect from us?  A guaranteed five posts per week (starting Monday, September 24th--also known as my birthday).  We will each post one topic post per week.  Dee will be taking on "Money Mondays" with news, resources, and tips for finance in the clean energy world.  On Wednesday you'll be treated to "Wellness Wednesdays" (somebody loves alliteration, and that somebody is me!) where Maureen will spell out the connection between energy, the environment and your personal wellness.  As for me, I'm looking forward to "Believe it or Not" each Thursday where I get to share something weird or unusual with you--hmm, I wonder what Mike would do? Tuesdays and Fridays are dealers choice, so whatever Dee feels like sharing is what you'll get! Word is Mike will still be on the blog, and we're happy to let him stay since he's sort of like our street cred in the blog world.  And, who knows--we're open to guest bloggers around here, even my brother-in-law took a turn.

We are going to do our best, and we hope you keep reading.  There's been a lot of love that went in and I feel a strong sense of responsibility to see this blog continue.  As I said to Sandy today in an email, "Always [blogging]. Maybe not at the levels of the past, but we'll keep it going" and we will.

Trial Blogs

As previously mentioned, we are hiring.  Specifically we are hiring for an energy and grants project manager. It's not Mike's soon-to-be old job, but it's close.  In addition to the grant funded projects the position will also include oversight of our social media platform, which includes our blog, Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.  The linchpin being our blog.  It is important to have a feel of a candidate's writing style and research ability.  Therefore, we have asked our potential future coworkers to complete a trial assignment for the blog.

The top candidates will be given an assignment prepare a trial post for one of five topics.  The posts will be between 500-750 words and include image(s).  *Right now I have to admit I appropriated this concept from my favorite blogger, Belle over at Capitol Hill Style.  She took a similar approach with potential interns and I loved the process so much I decided to use it!* Our existing blog has a definite 'voice' and there is no expectation that it will be replicated.  My hope is to see individual style.  Once we have all the submissions--and permission of the authors--I will post their work for you all to read.

I think you'll be pleased, as I know our whole team has been so far.  Even Mike.  And if Mike likes it, well it's either totally obscure or really, really good.

Farewell Mr. Nemeth

Mike Nemeth and Sonic, blogging.

At SJVCEO we’re hiring.  Now, I’d love to say we are growing at such a rate that we have to staff up to meet the need.  The truth is our Mike is leaving us.  Mike Nemeth, resident blog master and EECBG project manager is moving on to the San Joaquin Valley Air PollutionControl District

Mike’s passion for energy and news provided the perfect combination to build the SJVCEO social media platform which has become a go-to resource for clean energy interests in the Valley.  While with the SJVCEO Mike oversaw the Clean Energy Partnership which provided technical experience to local governments resulting in millions of dollars in project retrofits and a savings of nearly 8 million kWh.  Mike’s last day with SJVCEO will be Monday, July 30th

From September 2009 to the present, Mike worked as Project Manager on the Clean Energy Partnership, serving as the liaison between the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, two Investor Owned Utilities, and the 36 local governments that make up the Partnership.  Mike also worked with the cities of Ceres and Delano on their Department of Energy direct-fund EEBCG projects.

In addition to his EECBG work Mike jumped headfirst into the world of green workforce development, leading our collaboration with West Hills Community College on the Valley Legacy Grant.  In this role, he narrowed the communication gap between educators and employers, contributing to an improvement between workforce development training and employers needs in the Valley’s “green” industry.  Mike’s efforts on the project helped to establish a beneficial and enduring working relationship with WHCC allowing the two entities to work together to improve the training for future workers and build capacity of locally-grown employees. Fortunately for our office, Mike chronicled his work on the WIA SJVCEO site, www.wiasjvceo.com, which provides useful resources for students, teachers and job seekers. The online repository provides lesson plans, studies, white papers as well as links to career sites and green employers—it even is home to a clean energy video vault.  Should you ever want to experience the view from atop a 25-story wind turbine without climbing one, the video vault can make it happen! Because of Mike the SJVCEO has received national praise for the service:

"It looks to me like you have done an invaluable service for the clean energy education community (really).  I was particularly interested in your work because it is so fresh, making it particularly valuable as I am sure you appreciate how dynamic the web environment is on this subject."                                                                    
--James Sulzen, PhD., Wesleyan University

I know I speak for our whole SJVCEO team in saying Mike’s departure will leave a large hole that will never be completely filled.  We wish him the best of luck in his new position as an Air Quality Specialist, and take comfort in knowing he will be less than a mile away!  

Thank you, Mike for your contribution to the organization, driving the fish truck full of LED Christmas lights, obscure references to things like Troll Hunter and the education you've provided us on all things Alaska.  You will be missed.  

Testimonial: Energy efficiency can be tough (sometimes)

For the past two years, I've been helping cities and counties prepare to install energy efficiency retrofits.

It hasn't been simple. We're working with federal grants with very particular requirements. But the challenge caters to my make-the-world-a-better-place sensibilities.

And we've got a lot of company. Energy efficiency has caught fire in the past couple years. In the corporate world, companies are installing lighting and other electrical retrofits and establishing sustainability policies that revamp manufacturing and distribution practices. Their directive is to cut waste and promote savings of not only but energy but water and other materials.

Building information modeling, which enables designers to drop energy use like a rock, is sweeping the urban construction industry and is threatening to encompass more. Managers have learned to shave significant energy costs by monitoring and adjusting power consumption before construction and during occupancy. New products are coming on light rapidly that allow greater central control and monitoring.

And utilities are reworking their distribution networks by incorporating smart grid technology that offers game-changing savings through broad energy management protocols.

Into the light

Lighting retrofits are possibly the most cost-effective of these measures. And they're much of what I'm in charge of at the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization. We've also got air conditioning, pumps and other retrofits.

Yet getting our projects installed has not been simple. From my Formica-covered table top in Fresno, I have been working to funnel federal stimulus money into the Valley economy via Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants. It's been a long road. We're finally getting the projects bid, materials purchased and at least some problems resolved.

Some issues still pose difficulties. Because of the relatively low rate of reimbursement offered by the California Energy Commission for the energy efficiency retrofit measures, some of my cities and counties have struggled to find contractors. The small size of some projects haven't helped.

Get 'er done

The state has been working frantically to get jurisdictions finish their projects by the March 14, 2012 deadline. But California Energy Commission project officers can only offer advice and direction -- no extra funds.

I heard one county was able to figure out how to pay for the replacement of air conditioning units on the maximum reimbursement of $1,000 per ton. That's a pretty big deal, by the way. So I gave the woman in charge of the program a call.

She said her county had no magic bullet, just an employee who had spent years in the HVAC trade. The county purchased units from a manufacturer that certified its products as Buy American-ready and installed them itself rather than going to an outside contractor.

Energy savings American style

The SJVCEO wants to maximize the value of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants my team is administering. When complete, the retrofits would save 5.4 million kilowatt hours of electricity. We want to save all that energy.

However, about four months remain before our deadline to complete the work, and a number of our jurisdictions still need contractors. Many of our cities don't have the staff to do their own retrofits. All have had to make drastic budget cuts because of the economic slide of the past few years.

We discovered almost immediately that because of the reimbursement rates our jurisdictions were having trouble attracting interest even in this down economy. Requests for proposal issued by several cities turned up no interested bidders, while others came in with bids that far exceeded reimbursement costs.

Finding solutions

My boss charged my co-worker Sandy Nax and I to come up with a solution. We followed the formula of using a sole proprietor who has no employees and does all the work himself, thus avoiding Davis Bacon wage rates. But this work is difficult for one person.

Sandy tracked down names using an online contractor search engine and California's Contractors State License Board listings, and I started cold calling.

I eventually called 83 contractors all over the San Joaquin Valley. Three contractors expressed interest in air conditioning retrofits.

I'm hopeful we'll find lighting contractors interested as well. I'm not so sure about pump retrofits, but we all have our fingers crossed.

Nothing's simple with grants

I've been on the phone a lot explaining how the process works. Reimbursement is likely going to be slow, making it tough for contractors already strapped by an unforgiving economy.

I did reach a friendly contractor in Kingsburg who said, "I'm not interested in anything to do with the government." I get that. Seriously, I do. Working within the strict confines of federal grant requirements is enough to make anybody relate to rocker George Thorogood's request for "one bourbon, one scotch and one beer."

Maybe when the job's done. We're determined to make this work.

Photo: Corcoran pump 9A where we have retrofits planned.

Green jobs: Valley Legacy Project releases video on achievements

The Valley Legacy Project is meant to get the San Joaquin Valley's K-12 system, higher education and workforce investment boards working together to better prepare people for occupations with high-growth potential.

Those include agribusiness, biotech, water technology, renewable energy, manufacturing and supply-chain management.

Of course, at the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization, we care most about clean energy. We created a website, www.wiasjvceo.com, that is meant to be a one-stop shop for those looking for jobs or just to find out more about green energy.

The Valley Legacy video was presented at the annual California Partnership for the San Joaquin annual summit Oct. 7 in Bakersfield. It is short but has impact.

The project came about through a coalition of groups and great work from participating students, teachers, WIBs, the private sector and others.