Derrick Blue is Interim CEO at Tampa Hillsborough Action Plan.
A major report shows that there are now more than 119,000 energy jobs in Florida. The vast majority of these—more than 112,000—are energy efficiency jobs. But what are those jobs?
You might be surprised to learn that energy efficiency employs plumbers, carpenters and other skilled workers in the building trades. I should know—I employ and contract with dozens of them.
My work in energy efficiency started when I worked in real estate development. In my early twenties, I managed a company’s day-to-day operations, traveling throughout the state to help businesses start up. One day, I was tasked with helping an office save money by reducing its energy use through weatherization upgrades.
The goal behind weatherization is simple: how can we make a building or home safe and comfortable to live in without wasting energy? We do this by conducting energy audits and making improvements to reduce energy use, such as installing air-tight windows, insulation, LED lightbulbs, vent and exhaust systems, updated air-conditioning systems, and correcting health and safety hazards.
Today, I run a nonprofit organization with a robust team made up of more than 40 staff, subcontractors and vendors. We hire carpenters, electricians, HVAC technicians, insulation companies, energy auditors, and plumbers that make energy improvements to homes in Hillsborough and Polk counties. In Polk County, for example, we worked with a household that had extraordinary high utility bills. After measuring their energy usage through performance diagnostics, and upgrading the home with weatherization services, we were able to cut their bills in half.
Recently our organization also began offering a training program to prepare individuals who have interest in working in weatherization, energy efficiency and home performance. We focus our curriculum on pressure diagnostics, mobile home weatherization, strategies for air sealing, and green remodeling strategies. When an individual leaves our program they are prepared to start their own company as either a subcontractor or in some cases a main contractor in specialized efficiency programs.
In 15 years, I have helped hundreds of families cut their expenses by reducing energy usage. These families in turn have more money in their pocket to support local businesses. Thanks to income-based grants from Florida Department of Energy and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, we are able to help the Florida residents most in need: families with small children, the elderly, and people with disabilities.
Energy efficient upgrades—supported by smart state policies—helps bring the American dream to hundreds of Florida families. As a pastor, husband and father, what’s most rewarding for me is helping others while improving the health of our environment. By decreasing our energy use, we also reduce the emissions that pollute our air, harm our water, and damage our natural resources.
Our work in Florida also makes it possible for an elderly widow to make ends meet, a single mother to buy groceries, or a young paralegal pay their mortgage, as a result of cost-saving energy efficiency solutions.
The 2018 U.S. Energy and Employment report shows that Florida is a real success story when it comes to energy efficiency jobs—jobs that make a big difference to Florida families and their communities. By keeping smart programs and funding in place, we can ensure that the Sunshine State stays on the path toward lower energy bills and good jobs.
Derrick Blue has successfully managed millions of Florida DEO WAP, ARRA and WAP/LIHEAP funds to weatherize over 1000 homes over the course of his career. He is a Certified Real Estate Developer and Building Performance Institute Quality Control Inspector, and also holds certifications from the Florida Solar Energy Center and other organizations in the energy efficiency arena.