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SEEL, LLC (Solutions for Energy Efficient Logistics) was first launched in 2009 in our hometown of Detroit, Michigan, with a guiding vision that everyone deserves a path to energy efficiency. Like any startup trying to find its footing, there were numerous obstacles before us in 2009. How
ever, even though we started in one of the worst economic recessions of the past one hundred years, this paled compared to the challenges before us as a minority enterprise. As any minority business owner can tell you, the hill is higher, steeper to climb, and goes on longer. Nevertheless, for the past twelve-plus years, SEEL has excelled in its role as a new entrant to the energy efficiency (EE) marketplace. We have developed a portfolio of work of which we are tremendously proud that is ever-evolving, growing, and making an innovative and lasting impact within our industry.
The Evolution of Energy Efficiency Work
Energy efficiency programs have changed much in recent years. Technologies and services previously unheard of have become prevalent, and in many cases, deemed essential. But unfortunately, many communities still stand on the fringes of participation and adoption of these critical advances. As a result, these communities, particularly those of color, cannot access proven programs to lower their energy usage and expenses. This situation will only intensify with increasing whole building electrification, including on-site renewable generation and electric mobility. As U.S. society has become more aware of the myriad of hurdles for historically disenfranchised communities and ethnicities, we have seen movements such as Black Lives Matter, Me Too, and DEI impacting all aspects of life - from political and professional to social and economic. This has brought our industry to a crossroads. As a result, the utility industry must address the many lingering questions on the path to providing meaningful services to all customers, particularly those of color, traditionally considered "hard to reach."
What is DEI?
So, what is Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI), anyway? This framework describes programs and policies that encourage the representation and participation of diverse groups based on gender and gender identities, races and ethnicities, and political stance. DEI is the antidote to dysfunctional, entrenched concentrations of power and privilege that come at the expense of the disenfranchised. It's rooted in the concept that those in power and who have privilege want to stay in control to maintain or expand their inherited privilege. Imagine for a minute that you are seated for a fantastic meal. Your host has placed your dinner on a round table graced with an ornate tablecloth. Diversity is about the graceful weaving that goes into the different fabrics that make the tablecloth come together. Equity is about ensuring that all materials have equal standing, ensuring the cloth is of equal strength. Finally, inclusion is where the table is set, and everyone from their diverse backgrounds has a seat at the table and a voice to be heard. And to be very clear, we have a lot to discuss!
DEI in the Energy Sector
DEI in the energy efficiency space is unique. According to a study done in 2019, the national workforce average shows 53% of the workforce was male, but in the energy efficiency sector, 75% was male. When we look atAfrican Americans, for example, they represent 12% of the national workforce. However, as it relates to the energy efficiency sector, they represent only 8%. Even when we look at people 55 years older, 23% are represented in the national workforce, but only 13% are in the energy efficiency workspace. What are the most effective ways to tackle this problem and move the needle on diversity, equity, and inclusion in EE? What impacts need to be made? We must address these questions as we gather around our DEI table.
How SEEL Will Work to Increase EE DEI
With SEEL's unique history as a certified minority-owned and disabled veteran-owned business, we are well poised to lead the conversation on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the EE sector. SEEL has made a significant move and created a position that focuses on energy access and equity for clients, potential customers, and employees. I am pleased to be the first Director of Energy Access & Equity at SEEL. I lead SEEL's agenda to make lasting change within the energy efficiency industry by looking at new hiring practices, targeting diverse communities, and what those practices should entail for success and equity. SEEL President & CEO Louis E. James has said in no uncertain terms, "We must advocate for energy equity in our service to the community." Therefore, this is what we will accomplish. We are excited to welcome our many peers to the DEI table for a productive discussion on an equitable and inclusive energy efficiency sector. The meal promises to be healthy, abundant, and tasty. We will always have an extra chair waiting for you.