2018 Rural Energy Conference

2018 Rural Energy Conference

Georgia Tech Global Learning Center
Atlanta, GA
October 22, 2018

Overview | PresentationsAdvisory CommitteeKeynote Speakers | Past Conferences     

What is Rural?

Small towns and rural countryside make up three-fourths of the land area in the United States and are home to 14% of the total US population. Rural America, defined as areas with a population of less than 50,000,  is also a way of life with a proud and independent culture all its own. Just as rural and small-town America’s lifestyle is unique to its geography, so too are its energy, economic, and societal challenges.

The 2018 Rural Energy Conference, was a one-day, multitrack conference that preceded the two-day meeting of the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance (SEEA). It convened leaders from industry, utilities, cooperatives, nonprofits, academia, and government to discuss how energy efficiency technologies and programs can help rural America leverage its unique characteristics for economic growth and social equity.

Our inaugural Rural Energy Conference featured plenaries and panels on the three tracks below: Energy Efficiency Programs, Energy Burden & Equity, and Economic  Development. Although we did not call for abstracts, there were opportunities to shape the conference agenda through webinars that we hosted on each track.


Click on the speaker's name to view the presentation. (Note: Not all presenters provided presentations for us to post for viewing.)

Opening Keynote Address

Christopher A. McLean, U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utility Service

1A. Rural Program Design and Financing

Moderator: Mary Shoemaker, American Coucil for an Energy-Efficient Economy

How$martKY™ Program: An Overview 
Chris Woolery, Mountain Association for Clean Energy Development

Helping Solve the Affordable Housing Crisis with Energy Efficiency in Gunnison, Colorado 
Emily Artale, Lotus Engineering and Sustainability

Advancing a Clean Energy Economy in Central Appalachia  
Hannah Vargason, Natural Capital Investment Fund

1B. Energy Burden Mapping

Moderator: Carrie Dancy, Green County, Alabama Board of Education

Tools to Reduce Energy Burden in your Community: An Overview of DOE LEAD Tool in Minnesota
Michelle Joy Gransee, Minnesota Department of Commerce

Visualizing Energy Affordability: What Does a High Energy Burden Look Like? Who Experiences Them?
Heather Pohnan, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

Energy Burden and Efficiency Potential for East Tennessee: A Case Study 
Rory McIlmoil, Appalachian Voices

1C. Distributed Energy Resources

Moderator: Peter Muhoro, National Rural Utilities Cooperative Financing Corporation

Solar PAYS Case Study 
James Owen, Renew Missouri 

Rooftop Solar as an Economic Engine for Rural Areas 
Michael Sachdev, Sunrun 

Community Solar and Energy Efficiency 
Mark Cayce, Ouachita Electric Cooperative


2A. Community Programs

Moderator: Molly Graham, Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance

Realizing Energy Efficiency through Direct Collaboration between Utilities and Communities
Catherine Krasner, APTIM
Michael LaScola, American Electric Power 

Meeting Rural Customers Where They Already Are 
Seth Creigo-Snell, SCS Analytics LLC 
Stan Martz, Globe Electric 

How an Efficiency and Education Program Transformed the Energy Industry in Puerto Rico
Juan C. Diaz-Galarza, Dynamic Solar Solutions

2B. Inclusive Financing

Moderator: Marilynn Marsh-Robinson, Environmental Defense Fund

How$mart a Dozen Years Later  
Brian Dreiling, Midwest Energy, Inc.

Energy Efficiency Opportunities that Include Everyone 
Marshall Cherry, Roanoke Electric Cooperative 

Energy Efficiency Opportunities that Include Everyone 
Daniel Pate, North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association
Laura Langham, North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association

2C. Manufacturing and the Rural Economy

Moderator: Jason Walsh, National Cooperative Business Association 

The Relative Importance of Manufacturing to the Health of the Rural Economy 
Jill Ferguson, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy

How South Carolina is Meeting the Efficiency Needs of World Class Industry
James Chavez, South Carolina Power Team

DOE Programs to Support Rural Productivity 
Jay Wrobel, U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Manufacturing Office


3A. Agricultural Programs

Moderator: Kelley Smith Burk, Office of Energy, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Energy Efficiency & Agriculture – Fertile Ground for Savings 
Lisa Pucelik, Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corporation

How a Utility Program Harvested Energy and Water Savings in the Agriculture Sector
Emily Merchant, Navigant

Colorado Agricultural Energy Efficiency Pilot Program  
Michael Turner, Colorado Energy Office

3B. Manufactured Housing

Moderator: Luis M. Bernal, U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utility Service

Zero Energy Modular Homes: An Affordable Housing and Economic Development Program for Rural America 
Alison Donovan, VEIC  

Servicing Manufactured Home Communities 
E’Lois Thomas, SEEL, LLC.

A Model for Weatherizing South Carolina Manufactured Homes 
Mike Smith, Help My House SC

3C. Broadband Infrastructure

Moderator: Paul Breakman, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association

Designing Rural Energy Efficiency Programs in Wisconsin: Past, Present, and Future
Joe Fontaine, Public Service Commission of Wisconsin 

Connected Homes, Connected Future 
Bob Hance, Midwest Energy Cooperative

The Impact of Low Latency Networks on Distributed Energy Services  
Ron Holcomb, Tipmont REMC


4A. Residential Programs

Moderator: Nicolas Cavallo, EnergySavvy

Pre-Pay Power – Putting Rural Consumers in Control of Their Power 
Jimmy Green, Brunswick EMC

Providing High Quality Incentives and Services Across all Geographic Regions Using  Workflow Automation 
Greg Krantz, National Grid

Serving and Supporting Vulnerable Households in Sparsely Populated Areas
Tracy Stoner, Nexant

4B. Public Health and the Environment

Moderator: Monica Rockicki-Guajardo, Better Building Works, LLC

Co-Benefits of Weatherizing Low-Income Homes: A Rural Perspective
Bruce Tonn, Three3

Holistic, Multi-Benefit Models that Incorporate Energy Efficiency in Vulnerable Households
Jacqueline Patterson, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

Getting our Ducts in a Row: A Successful Statewide Weatherization Program Targeting Energy Inefficient Homes 
Katherine Johnson, Johnson Consulting

4C. Beneficial Electrification

Moderator: Keith Dennis, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association Opportunities for Beneficial Electrification  
Ken Colburn, Regulatory Assistance Project 

Agricultural Beneficial Electrification: Trends and Opportunities
Kyle Clark, EnSave

Electrification of Rural School Bus Fleets 
Holmes Hummel, Clean Energy Works


5A. Commercial & Industrial Programs

Moderator: Brent Bailey, 25x’25 Alliance

Challenges of Delivering Energy Efficiency to Rural Business Customers
Adam Procell, Lime Energy

State-University Partnership Benefits Rural Small Businesses
David Carter, Kansas State Extension

Accessing Capital with USDA for your Rural Small Business and Agricultural Production Enterprise
Venus Welch-White, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Business Cooperative Service

5B. Customer Relations and Education

Moderator: Gabriel Labastida, CoBank

Working with Members: Education, Energy Efficiency, and Economy 
Alan Shedd, Oglethorpe Power Corporation

Growing Utility Competition and Developing a Marketing Mindset 
Jeff Almen, National Information Solutions Cooperative

Results of Tailoring Efficiency Program Messaging to Rural Communities
Laura Matney, Wabash Valley Power 
Neil Curtis, Navigant

5C. Workforce Development

Moderator: Heidi Binko, Just Transition Fund

Country Revival: How Energy Efficiency Grows Rural Economies  
Grant Carlisle, Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2)

Qualifying New Entrants to the Energy Efficiency Workforce in South Carolina
Larry Bratton, The Sustainability Institute

How Tarriffed On-bill Programs are Creating Jobs in Rural America: An Update from the Field in North Carolina
Tammy Agard, EEtility

Action Sessions

Robert Coates, USDA, Rural Development, Rural Utility Service,  Electric Program

Luis M. Bernal, USDA, Rural Development, Rural Utility Service,  Disaster Recovery Team

Venus Welch-White, USDA, Rural Development, Rural Utility Service,  Energy Programs

Aaron Morris, USDA, Rural Development, Rural Utility Service,  Energy Programs

Closing Plenary Keynote

Mark Cayce, General Manager and CEO of Ouachita Electric Cooperative

Advisory Committee


Keynote Speakers

Christopher A. McLean is the Acting Administrator of the Rural Utility Service where he oversees the operations of the planning, policy and finance agency focused on rural electric, telecommunications, broadband, water and sewer infrastructure. The agency makes low interest loans for rural electric infrastructure, renewable energy, smart grid and energy efficiency and its investment portfolio exceeds $60 billion. Chris also serves as the Assistant Administrator for Electric Programs (AAE) at the RUS. As AAE, Chris presides over a $46 billion loan portfolio.

Mr. McLean is a former RUS Administrator and former Governor of the Rural Telephone Bank. Prior to his return to RUS, Chris was the Acting Director of the Program Planning and Accountability Division of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (OASCR) at the United States Department of Agriculture. Chris was in private practice from 2001-2010 and was the co-owner of e-Copernicus, a consulting firm that specialized in telecommunications, transportation and technology policy.

Mr. McLean hails from Omaha, Nebraska. He received an LL.M. in International and Comparative Law from Georgetown University in 1985, a J.D. from Creighton University School of Law in 1982, and a degree in Business Administration from Creighton University in 1980.




Mark Cayce is the General Manager and CEO for Ouachita Electric Cooperative headquartered in Camden, Arkansas and has served in this capacity since January of 2002. He has over 39 years of experience working with investor-owned utilities and electric cooperatives. Mark was named as one of the Top 40 Electric Utility Innovators in 2017 by Public Utilities Fortnightly and was recognized by Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality with the 2018 Energy Excellence Award for partnering with South Arkansas Telephone to merge solar energy and fiber-optic internet, while bringing fiber optic internet to rural South Arkansas. Under his leadership, Ouachita Electric Cooperative was recognized by the Smart Electric Power Alliance as the 2017 Electric Cooperative of the Year. 

Presently, Mark serves as Chairman of Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation. Prior to joining Ouachita Electric Cooperative, he was with Texas Utilities for 15 years where he specialized in energy efficiency, customer service, and local management. He served as Operations Manager at Jackson Electric Cooperative in South Texas for 10 years. He is a graduate of the University of North Texas.