Interested in the Clean Energy Industry? Co-op at MassCEC

The co-operative program may be the cornerstone of Northeastern’s charm, but what they fail to tell us is that these internships are monumental stepping-stones in our academic and professional paths. A college degree will no longer ensure your future — it’s not a golden ticket to a lifetime of financial and professional stability.

Today, we have to make smarter and larger decisions about our futures at younger ages. Unfortunately, most students lack the experience to make decisions that can be considered smart, and don’t develop key skills — writing cover letters, interviewing, networking, solving problems in the work environment — until after college.

Luckily, the Northeastern administration recognizes this deficit in the national education system and mitigates it by encouraging students to thrust themselves into the real world to gain valuable experience. It is with this understanding that I found myself interviewing with my future team in the conference room of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC). It took me thirty seconds to know that I belonged with these vibrant staff, and so I began my second co-op as the Innovation and Industry Support fellow at MassCEC.

MassCEC is a quasi-public firm that aims to accelerate the “success of clean energy technologies, companies and projects in Massachusetts.” According to their website, the team is dedicated to developing long-term economic growth in MA through the creation of jobs in the clean energy sector.

This is achieved by funding renewable energy rebates, supporting the local clean energy workforce and investing in startup companies.MassCEC receives their funding from the Renewable Energy Trust Fund, which was founded by Chapter 23J of the General Laws and is financed by a “systems benefit charge of $0.0005 per kilowatt hour.” Both electric ratepayers of MA utilities and municipal electric departments — who elected to participate in the program — pay this charge, with the average MA family contributing $0.32 per month.

There is no other organization in the United States that initiates collaboration between the private and public sector in the way that MassCEC does.

Through various programs, such as Catalyst, InnovateMass and IncubateMass, they provide early-stage financing and support to clean energy companies, allowing them to grow and move their innovative clean technology closer to commercialization.

Furthermore, they cultivate programs tailored to construct a strong local clean energy workforce, such as their statewide internship program. Since its formation in 2009, MassCEC has financed renewable energy installations in both the residential and commercial sector and invested in municipal clean energy projects.

The results of these investments are monitored in their annual MA Clean Energy Industry Report, which displays job and industry growth. MassCEC truly understands the meaning behind an interdisciplinary approach to addressing climate change, as they partner with the investment community, municipalities, workforce development organizations, residents, businesses and local and international clean energy companies to develop, finance and deploy renewable energy systems across the Commonwealth.

As the Innovation and Industry Support (IIS) fellow, I worked on many of MassCEC’s projects and programs and gained insight on various state initiatives. Within a day of my arrival, I was asked to create marketing material on energy reductions and cost savings that manufacturers could take advantage of.

The material I provided ranged from existing utility incentives to the combining of manufacturers’ energy usage into “bulk-buying” groups for cheaper rates and various rebates offered at MassCEC for clean energy installations. This task involved weeks of meetings with numerous colleagues and external peers, and set the stage for many other projects that I took the lead on in the past few months.

I was given the opportunity to spearhead the organization of an energy conference — known as the Advanced Clean Energy Technologies for Campus Use Seminar and Expo — which required months of outreach, event planning meetings and problem solving.

In order to determine the most relevant content to the 29 institutions that participated, I interviewed facility managers at a select amount of colleges and asked them to explain their annual energy usage and interest in the adoption of clean technology. The event aims to facilitate the interface between innovative clean energy companies and campus energy managers whose goal is to improve stability on campus, specifically at state universities and community colleges. These clean energy companies have brought cutting-edge technology to commercialization with the intention of reducing energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

Fellows at MassCEC are often trusted with a significant amount of responsibility, as the company has around 60 employees and relies on co-op students to assist them in their various programs and projects. While I can go on for hours about the exciting projects to which I contributed, I will end by reflecting on these past few months and expressing my deep gratitude for this opportunity.

The benefits of co-oping at MassCEC is that you get your foot in the door to the clean energy industry and to a brighter future. In addition to obtaining critical skills, such as the ability to lead meetings and manage key projects, I had the opportunity to explore the clean energy sector and determine that it is an industry that I hope to return to in the future.

Cayman Somerville, Environmental Science, 2017