DAYTON, Ohio — Belinda Kenley has always been a leader. As a graduate of Sinclair Community College, Leadership Dayton, Aileron’s Course for Senior Executives, and the Jo Ann Davidson Ohio Leadership Institute, she continued to refine her natural leadership skills.
It wasn’t until she was introduced to Energy Optimizers, USA (EOU) founder Greg Smith, that she was given the opportunity to pair her development and management skills with her passion for the planet. Greg served as a mentor, Belinda explained, and it was through their professional partnership that she learned the benefits of energy efficiency not only for the environment but for schools and businesses as well.
Belinda began her career at EOU as Vice President in 2011 and, because the company was a startup, the scope of her responsibilities was large. She recalls doing “anything and everything needed, including a little project management, lots of marketing and business development, and administrative work.” As the business grew and more associates were able to be hired, she was “able to focus more on the marketing and business development aspect of our business, as well as serving in a Leadership role.”
Women are particularly underrepresented in the green energy workforce. “It’s a highly competitive business in a crowded field”, Belinda explained, “and it’s not an easy one”. When asked why women are rarer in this field, she responded, “Many of those who work in this business have either an engineering or construction background, and there just haven’t been that many females in those roles until recently.”
It’s true, it is a competitive and challenging field to pursue, but Belinda has never backed down from a challenge. Today, Belinda is also a current elected member of Centerville City Council and was recently recognized by Women in Business Networking as one of the year’s “25 Women to Watch”, Belinda proves that women not only can compete in this field but can excel. Though her degree was not specific to energy efficiency, her intelligence, willingness to learn, and dedication got her to where she wanted to be.
Investing in the Future
Energy Optimizers, USA makes government facilities and school buildings more energy-efficient, not only to save the environment but to save teachers’ jobs as well. So far, well over 1,000 teachers’ positions have been able to be retained by cutting costs on energy – over 75 million dollars in total. In addition to the jobs and money saved, over a billion pounds of CO2 have been prevented from being released into our atmosphere.
EOU believes in educating the younger generation on the importance of sustainability and conservation. Schools doing comprehensive projects with EOU are then offered support for student-led projects such as creating zero-waste cafeterias and district recycling as part of their educational outreach. Belinda’s favorite project so far was working with Graham Local Schools in St. Paris, Ohio, where they have “designed and implemented multiple energy savings projects since 2012.” The Energy Conservation Project implemented by the district resulted in utility savings of over $410,000 in three years.
Many of the project ideas came from their ‘Green Team’ which she states is “an energy team of middle and high school students.” Being a part of this group “engages students in learning about energy innovation and technology,” and hopefully this type of program will also “pique students’ interest in green energy jobs.” Graham Local Schools receive the 2018 Community Green Achievement Award from Green Energy Ohio for this work.
For young women thinking about pursuing a career in sustainability, Belinda says “Do it!”. She believes that this field is only going to grow, and women should be a part of it. She mentions that “taxpayer-funded organizations like schools and local governments are constantly concerned about cutting expenses while maintaining services and looking at energy-efficient solutions is a great way to do that.” This will lead to many new jobs and opportunities with sustainability at the forefront of it all.
Her advice for women not interested in ‘the technical aspect of the business’ is they should “focus on business development! There is nothing more rewarding than finding a customer with needs and an interest in sustainability and helping them achieve their objectives.” Belinda is proof that women are more than capable of addressing climate and energy challenges, and that there are many ways of doing so.
Along with doing their part to convert as many schools and government buildings into places with a lower carbon footprint, Belinda is also excited about the overall trajectory of energy efficiency in Ohio. She believes that “the future is bright” and, although COVID-19 brings about stressful and dangerous times, it is also bringing about the need for more efficient use of energy by “forcing organizations like schools and local governments to operate with less money and devote more resources to keeping staff and students safe. They need to seriously consider energy savings projects like LED lighting, HVAC upgrades, and building controls to cut expenses.”
These savings are typically guaranteed by EOU, where she states, “We guarantee savings in most of our projects and provide measurement and verification to support the success of our projects.” This means that the reduction in costs due to an investment in more efficient utilities will be calculated beforehand, to eliminate any uncertainty. Measured, guaranteed savings is only one of many unique qualities that aid in the growth of their company. Belinda believes the key to their rapid growth is their “customer service and dedication to preserving the world in which we live. We are committed to environmental stewardship, not only through our actions but through the services we provide to our customers.”
Energy Optimizers, USA also takes seriously the “responsibility to reduce carbon emissions so projects are not just geared towards dollar saving but also towards saving our planet.” These unique qualities have been a large part of fostering the trust of their local community and growing their customer base. As far as what more can be done to improve Ohio’s energy efficiency, Belinda recommended taking a harder look at the current policy.
Belinda mentioned how important policy is in setting into motion the gears of sustainable energy consumption. Passing green policy is crucial to saving our planet and Ohio has recently taken steps in the wrong direction. She pointed out that “Recently, legislation was passed stating that utilities don’t have to provide rebates after December of 2020”, and states that, “This is not good policy, Ohio needs to incentivize organizations to install energy savings measures.” Hopefully, Ohio soon turns back in the right direction, but until then, Energy Optimizers, USA is still making waves in the world of energy efficiency.
By Rachel Bernthold