While I officially started working at SEEA on April 26, I have had the pleasure of working with SEEA staff and board members for more than ten years. The team’s dedication to realizing a more energy efficient Southeast that benefits all people has long inspired my curiosity and pushed me to expand how I view energy efficiency solutions. The team has consistently worked to understand the utility landscape and bring together leaders, advocates, and businesses to address the region’s most complex energy problems.
I sometimes hear the argument that energy efficiency is no longer relevant, that all the proverbial sockets have been plugged. However, energy efficiency is an evolving set of solutions that can offset the impact of a warming climate and I believe we are far from maximizing its many benefits. In Atlanta, the median energy cost burden is 32% higher for Black households and 52% higher for Hispanic households compared to white households. Energy efficiency lifts people out of poverty and contributes to a thriving, equitable economy in the Southeast. It is our single greatest resource in addressing the effects of climate change and the disproportionate energy burden costs for low-income and non-white households.
Our region’s health and housing issues can be mitigated through energy efficiency. Energy insecurity affects 35% of all homes in the South, and 7.5 million households have received utility disconnection or stop service notices. Residents in energy insecure homes, particularly children, are at higher risk for chronic illnesses like asthma that can be made worse by pests, moisture, and thermal distress. Lack of access to healthy, affordable homes is rooted in racist housing segregation and voter disenfranchisement, which still shape the region’s energy and housing sectors. Weatherization programs, along with updated energy codes for new construction as well as existing buildings keeps housing affordable, safe, and healthy for all communities, regardless of income.
Energy efficient transportation is also a powerful resource in combating the harmful effects of vehicle pollution. It reduces the outsized impact of poor air quality on low-income communities and communities of color. To counteract the historic inequities in transportation infrastructure, everyone must be included in the decision-making process to find ways for the energy and transportation sectors to create more affordable and accessible mobility options. Through education, collaboration, and promoting a diverse array of perspectives we can create wide-reaching policy that benefits all people who live in the Southeast.
Energy has become a necessary requirement of our modern lives. The fear of being without energy services keeps many people up at night, whether it is families struggling to keep the heat on or braving the hot summer without air conditioning to cover food and medication costs. This fear was a reality of my childhood. It drives me to eliminate that worry for future generations and ensure that all residents in the Southeast live, work, and play in healthy, affordable, resilient buildings.
We are fortunate to be entering an unprecedented time to improve our infrastructure through strategic investments in energy efficient housing and transportation, expanding manufacturing, and creating a more diverse workforce. This investment marks a new era in American history, an opportunity to build systems that provide more wealth, better health, and stronger communities for all of us. Here in the Southeast, we have the greatest opportunity for growth and expansion in the country. I am personally inspired and eager to embark on this journey with the team at SEEA. Their passion, commitment to SEEA’s mission, and deep well of knowledge energizes me and gives me the determination to seek out new partners, better solutions, and a more prosperous South for all.
Atlanta, GA, March 29, 2021 – Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance (SEEA) is pleased to announce the appointment of Aimee Skrzekut as its new president. Aimee was chosen after an extensive search and selection process and will start in her new role on April 26, 2021. Aimee currently serves as the president of ATS Consulting, specializing in strategic planning, fundraising, program, and policy development.
“Along with our board of directors, I am excited to welcome Aimee to the SEEA family,” said Huiet Joseph, SEEA’s board chair. “She has a deep knowledge of energy efficiency work in both the utility and nonprofit sectors as well as the experience to further build on SEEA’s goals to bring equity into the energy efficiency industry.”
Aimee has more than 20 years of leadership experience collaborating with utilities, corporate leaders, regional and national partners. She has a successful record of developing innovative energy efficiency programs, fundraising, and a long history of supporting both internal and external diversity initiatives.
“I am honored and thrilled to join the team at SEEA. I have long admired the organization’s focus on equitable solutions in energy and look forward to being a part of that work,” Aimee commented.
Aimee will succeed Mandy Mahoney, who has served as SEEA’s president since 2013. While at SEEA, Mandy led the region in promoting clean transportation, affordable housing, and energy efficiency policy. In January, Mandy announced her candidacy for Atlanta City Council.
“Mandy’s leadership continues to shape the conversation on energy efficiency in the Southeast. We are incredibly grateful for her service. We are looking forward to what the next chapter brings for SEEA.” said Steve Leeds former SEEA board chair and executive search committee chair.
The executive search for the new president was led by BoardWalk Consulting.
I would like to share an important update regarding SEEA’s work on diversity, inclusion, and integration. For the past two years, Pamela Fann, director of SEEA’s membership program, has been developing a plan to implement our commitment to diversity and inclusion. Pam took on this task based on her assessment of SEEA’s needs and her passion for helping people to learn and realize the benefits of a more equitable work culture.
As the national outcry for racial justice continues, SEEA’s focus on diversity, inclusion, and integration is more important than ever. To ensure our momentum with this work continues, I am pleased to share that Pam’s role is formally changing to director of membership and diversity integration. In this role, she will continue to lead SEEA’s membership program and develop and implement initiatives to further behaviors, attitudes, and policies that support diversity, inclusion, and integration within the organization. We believe that creating an organizational culture where all people feel welcomed and valued will better equip us to realize significant, systemic change in the energy industry.
I am pleased to share a personal message from Pam about her journey and the work ahead at SEEA.
Over the past two years, SEEA has been on a path to honor our commitment to incorporating diversity, inclusion, and integration (DII) in our organization and the energy industry overall. During this time, I obtained my certification as a Cultural Diversity Professional and Trainer (CDP, CDT), developed SEEA’s cultural competency framework, helped craft our diversity and inclusion statement and president’s message, and created tools and training to promote dialogue and advance DII among our board, staff, and stakeholders.
As I reflect on the work we have accomplished, as well as our plans for the future, I want to share my personal story and why I am committed to advancing diversity and inclusion in individuals and institutions.
I grew up in the small midwestern town of Owasso, Oklahoma. My family was the first Black family to integrate the small town. As the only Black person in the classroom and social settings for many years, I experienced direct and frequent racism, but I could not have imagined the abhorrent event that happened next. In 1988, I suffered one of the most painful and definable moments of my life. Members of a white supremacist group burned our home and spray painted the words “N***** Get Out” on the rock wall entryway. While I had experienced the cruelty of disparaging words and racial slurs, I had never encountered the visceral hate that took away our family home, memories, and led to many more obstacles for my family to overcome. That profound awakening began a journey of reckoning with a history of racism and hatred that I had not previously understood.
I gained two gifts from that injustice: the fulfillment of volunteer service, due to the generosity from first responders and The American Red Cross, and my passion for understanding and promoting diversity work. The latter came from the compassion, empathy, and support that we received from many white people in our community and the knowledge that the actions of a certain group of people do not represent the entire race.
I use the insight from this experience daily in both my personal life and career to support diversity initiatives and encourage others on their own journey.
Taking the Next Step
SEEA’s regional focus on energy efficiency topics in the Southeast requires an understanding of the underlying issues and policies that have perpetuated inequities in our communities. While our organization has been tackling the matters of diversity, inclusion, and integration for the last couple of years, the recent racial injustices across the U.S. has amplified the need to address these issues within our organizations, our industry, and the communities we serve.
I am pleased to be leading these efforts for SEEA and look forward to ongoing work within the organization and with our partners and stakeholders to create a more compassionate, knowledgeable, and anti-racist community.
Reach out to me if you have questions or want to talk about how to get started in addressing diversity, inclusion, and integration in your organization.
Learn more about SEEA’s journey to advance diversity, inclusion, and integration.
Last year, SEEA began a new tradition to honor our planet – SEEArth Day. We use this day to encourage more eco-friendly habits through some friendly competition and to share resources and ideas. Emme and Maggie organized the event, split the staff into teams, and created a sustainability scavenger hunt for the week leading up to Earth Day. In 2019, scavenger hunt activities included taking public transit, starting a compost, watching an Earth-themed film, enjoying the outdoors, and many more. On Earth Day, we celebrated in the office with trash trivia, recyclable sorting challenge, upcycled craft projects, and handed out individual and team prizes. At the end of the day, it was decided – a new SEEA tradition was born.
This year, since the coronavirus is keeping us at home, we were unable to celebrate in person. But a global pandemic didn’t stop us from honoring our planet. The scavenger hunt was expanded two weeks, and included even more sustainable activities, all designed to do at home and with families. On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, Wednesday, April 22, we virtually awarded prizes, shared our experiences, and set eco-friendly goals for the future.
Some of the things we learned:
While Mandy really doesn’t like hang-drying clothes, her husband, Sean, loves it. Mandy and her son Paul had fun learning to make salt scrub and home cleaning solutions.
After learning that most wrapping paper isn’t recyclable, Ashley found a recyclable, and affordable wrapping paper alternative.
Randall has made his own personal care and cleaning products for years, avoiding harmful chemicals while reducing waste and supply chain emissions.
Maddy’s parents have always made their own cleaning supplies, because they are cost-effective as well as sustainable.
Pam and Maggie pointed out how hard it is to unplug appliances and turn off lights while we are currently staying at home and dependent on these resources.
Sarah and her little ones got creative with Earth-inspired artwork and craft projects with upcycled materials.
Cyrus noted that in order to leave a better world for future generations, we must make personal changes and as well as work towards global, systemic solutions.
Linda shared that she has learned a lot through these activities SEEArth Day and is inspired to start a compost for her garden.
New dad Will, thought about how he wants his son, Teddy, to grow up with a connection to nature and set a goal to learn how to identify local flora and fauna.
Wesley talked about shopping locally to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the production and transport of products while also supporting workers in your city or region.
While enjoying the scavenger hunt and getting outdoors with her son, Wyatt, Anne also collected pieces of trash that otherwise may have harmed local wildlife.
Many of us already practice eco-friendly habits, like eating plant-based meals, taking short showers, gardening, or buying sustainable products, but are finding new ways to adapt these activities to a new normal and challenge ourselves to do more. While we couldn’t spend the day together this year, we are grateful for our community which continues to support us through these difficult times and remains united in making the world a better place for everyone on it.