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Energy Central Power Perspectives™: Welcome Jim Madej, New Expert in the Energy Efficiency Community

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Leadership has always been critical in the utility sector and the energy industry widely. For too long, companies were content to operate in the way they always have, because it was working just fine. But recent years have shown opportunities in decarbonization, energy efficiency, smart technologies and more shake up the energy industry and demonstrate that new might, in fact, be better. The various events of 2020, from COVID to rolling blackouts to wildfires and more, have further demonstrated the need for the industry to be agile and adapt, which has only served to make the need for keen and insightful leadership even more apparent.

As we grow the Energy Central Network of Experts, we often focus on the types of thought leaders who are bringing experience and expertise in various areas of the power industry, but an important area that cannot be overlooked is that leadership within the sector, the ability to guide and inspire from the top down. Today’s newest expert that I get to introduce to you is one who combines that knowledge-backed expertise with an overall commitment to being an industry leader. Jim Madej is the CEO of Franklin Energy and AM Conservation Group, and I’m thrilled to share with you the Q&A that he was generous enough to share with me as a part of our Energy Central Power Perspective ‘Welcome New Expert Interview Series.’

I encourage you to read some of Jim’s insightful perspective, and welcome him with as our latest expert who can bring unique ideas and valued leadership to our Energy Central Community:

Matt Chester: We’re so happy to have your expertise added to the Energy Central community, Jim. It’s always helpful for our community members to have an idea of who their experts are and why they are considered experts. So to start off, can you give us the quick overview of your background, your areas of expertise, and how you got into your current role as CEO of Franklin Energy and AM Conservation Group?

Jim Madej: Certainly, thanks for having me. I spent 17 years at GE, in both Financial Services and Power, followed by 3 years at an ESCO. I then moved on to over six years as Chief Customer Officer at a large electric and gas utility in the Northeast, where I ran all the energy efficiency (EE) programs.

Prior to joining Franklin Energy as CEO a few months ago, I spent three years as the CEO of another EE implementation company that had a consulting and engineering practice. I’ve worked on the commercial side, the operations side and in many executive leadership roles over the course of my career. I think I’m best at building teams and solving complex problems. Driving meaningful change is something I’m passionate about. 

 

MC: As a CEO in the energy space, now is the time to be forward-looking, particularly since the utility industry as a whole has long been slow-to-move and filled with inertia. Do you still encounter partners and stakeholders clinging to the old ways of thinking, and if so how do you foster a vision for the future and adaption to new technologies and opportunities?

JM: Yes, many people don’t like change, for various reasons. I think in the utility sector there is also the inherent conflict of a business model that is incented inconsistently with the changes we want to see. I’d like to see evolution at the regulatory level, primarily better incentives and penalties for lack of adoption. I’d also like to see utilities learning from one another. The industry as a whole is learning a lot of the same lessons and I think we can get there faster if we work more collaboratively.

 

MC: Your background has seen you move around from different ends of the utility business—commercial finance at GE, director at Hess, customer engagement at National Grid, and even your own company before accepting the role as CEO at Franklin Energy. How have these unique experiences served to broaden your perspective of the energy industry? Are you able to tap into that as you work with partners to confront the day’s energy challenges?

JM: Well, it’s definitely been good training on different business models and cultures!

As you point out, I’ve seen different viewpoints. That experience helps you gain perspective, and I certainly think it influences how I think and lead every day. For example, our industry is currently in the midst of changes due to the pandemic that will ultimately help drive more customer-centric program delivery solutions, provided we can think long-term and avoid temporary solutions. As an implementer developing those next-generation solutions, we need to think proactively about things like how we’ll evaluate these programs, ensure high customer satisfaction, and implement them in an efficient way so they remain cost-effective.

In the midst of all this change, we need to keep a newly remote workforce engaged as we simultaneously try to recoup lost revenue. It hasn’t been easy, but I’m grateful for my past experiences that now help to keep myself and the rest of our leadership team focused on both the big picture and the future.

MC: How have you seen the COVID-19 pandemic impacting the march towards general energy industry goals of reducing GHG while maintaining affordability and reliability?

JM: I think we need to acknowledge affordability has changed, and we likely don’t know the full impact of that yet. For me, it makes EE and demand response (DR) even more critical than ever.

That said, I think the industry got scared and didn’t know how to adapt. Now is the time to innovate and push for change. Now is the time to use EE as an economic recovery engine. It is one—if not the only—energy investment a consumer or business can make that pays money back and provides a long-term return. 

 

MC: Can you share a preview of some exciting projects that you in the pipeline at Franklin Energy that are going to move the needle in new and exciting ways?

JM: The pandemic has forced everyone to move in new and exciting ways. We pride ourselves on working closely with our very creative clients and finding ways to innovate. We built something we call our Innovation Lab team and they’re working on virtual solutions. We are particularly excited about two of them: our next-generation virtual audit, and KitPick™, which is a dynamic kit-ordering portal that allows us to provide customers with semi-custom kits.

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Thanks to Jim Madej for joining me for this interview and for jumping feet first into the Energy Central community as an expert. Jim is available for you to reach out and connect, ask questions, and more as an Energy Central member, so be sure to make him feel welcome when you see him across the platform.

 

The other expert interviews that we’ve completed in this series can be read here, and if you are interested in becoming an expert then you can reach out to me or you can apply here.

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