In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting women who are leading the way in positively transforming our communities through high-performance buildings.
Meet Patti Boyd, Senior Technology Strategist at the District of Columbia Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU).
Why do you value energy-efficient and high-performing buildings?
I value energy-efficient everything! I’m a mechanical engineer by training, so buildings have always been a passion of mine because they each have their own unique systems that can be optimized, updated, and transformed.
I worked in both power systems and manufacturing early in my career and liked the work, but I could never shake the feeling that my work was only dirtying the environment. I needed a change. Then, I met someone who was working on energy efficiency by helping businesses save energy. A lightbulb clicked for me: It just makes sense to minimize waste in every part of our lives, and energy is no different. I have been in the energy efficiency field ever since, and I enjoy knowing that I’m now helping businesses, people, and the environment.
When I talk about my work at the District of Columbia Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU), where we focus on improving the energy efficiency of buildings in Washington DC, people sometimes ask if I’m a tree hugger. I am, but more importantly, I value helping people save money and working to ensure a healthy environment for future generations.
What are you most proud of in your career related to energy and efficiency?
I just celebrated six years at the DCSEU, and looking back, I have seen so much happen during that time. Just being part of the organization’s efforts has been extremely satisfying, as we work together with the community to address climate change by reducing annual greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption while expanding renewable energy use.
I am most proud that I have been able to help guide the DCSEU forward—most notably, we have proved that an organization like ours dedicated to sustainable energy use can be effective for environmental goals as well as community engagement and economic development. We continue to partner with incredible universities, innovative business leaders, and forward-thinking changemakers throughout our area to make it happen, and I am proud that we continue to improve our results.
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change.” What is the change or market transformation you would most like to see in the energy industry?
So much is happening in the energy industry. Microgrids and solar systems are here, so we need to develop smart policies as these independently owned systems are incorporated into aging and undersized distribution systems. We also need to think about how to establish workforce training to support these new industries and train the next generation of commercial building operators. And, we need to move more power utilities toward accepting energy efficiency as a verified and dependable resource.
I’m excited to see all of these changes moving forward, but the transformation I am currently working on is the sweeping expansion, due to decreased cost, of data analytics and applications used to optimize energy use. These capabilities inform building owners of inefficiencies in the way their systems operate, which can lead to energy savings when addressed.
At the DCSEU, I led the development of our Pay for Performance program, which offers incentives for energy-saving measures based on analysis of metered data to determine actual energy saved in commercial and institutional buildings after improvements to systems have been made. It’s such an easy way to achieve big value and greater energy savings.
What is your advice for women in the energy and sustainability industries?
There is so much happening in energy and sustainability that is all so new—if you find a niche that calls out to you, go after it. Start studying it. Check out events where you can meet similar-minded people. Go to conferences where experts are talking about it. We need ambitious innovators to take these ideas to the next level, so get out there and make change happen.