UC Berkeley Students further energy efficiency at Verizon, Cabot Corporation and Springfield Public Schools

EDF Climate Corps fellow | September 9, 2013

Data centers, HVAC systems, manufacturing processes and public school vacations are just some of the things our EDF Climate Corps fellows identified energy efficiency improvements for this summer. Read our interviews with Louis, Xiaoding and Leonardo to find out what they have been working on, what barriers they’ve encountered and how they are striving to help their organizations overcome inefficiencies in just 10 short weeks.

Louis Li


Name: Louis Li
Hometown: Hong Kong
School: Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley
Host Organization: Verizon

Q: Why did you want to join EDF Climate Corps?
A: I am very interested in the intersection of the environment, business and technology. EDF Climate Corps links my three interests together, providing insight into the business case for energy efficiency. Also, investing in energy efficiency is one way to have a great environmental impact. In terms of professional development, EDF Climate Corps is a great program that provides training, and places fellows with companies and organizations where we can make a meaningful impact.

Q: What are you working on this summer?
A: I have primarily focused on energy efficiency opportunities at data centers. I am also involved in a solar energy and fuel cells project, which will help provide power to roughly 20 Verizon facilities across the United States.

Q: What is the most difficult part about tackling the energy efficient data center project in your opinion?
A: One of the most difficult parts is finding the best way to fast track a project. I think that people want sustainability improvements, but they also have many other priorities.

Q: Have you found ways to overcome this?
A: I think it is very important to have an internal champion for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. My supervisor, Alan Scott, is quick to make new connections with key stakeholders within the business who can also help drive results. Second, I must be thoughtful when I shape the project scope and identify what my priorities are in order to execute in a timely manner. I also must consider other people’s time and make sure I focus on high value projects. And in order to attain approval for moving a project forward, we must reveal the project’s value to our customers and the business.

Q: What is the best part of working at Verizon?
A: Sustainability is embedded in the culture here at Verizon. The company has a dedicated sustainability team overseeing many different green initiatives, from clean energy to paper reduction. They work hard to provide powerful solutions for real-world issues. There are also more than 12,000 employees that are part of Verizon’s “Green Team,” which practices and promotes “working green and living green,” so it is energizing to be around so many people who share my values.

Xiaoding Zhuo


Name: Xiaoding Zhuo
Hometown: Chongqing, China
School: University of California, Berkeley
Host Organization: Cabot Corporation

Q: What are you working on this summer?
A: I’m looking at the Business and Technology Center of Cabot Corporation, a global specialty chemicals and performance materials company. In the eight buildings that make up the site in Billerica, MA, I’m helping to identify energy efficiency projects, such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and lighting retrofits. I’m also looking at the manufacturing process of their core product and how the energy consumption of that production fits into its market competitiveness.

Q: What is one thing you’ve learned this summer?
A: I’m learning about the energy efficiency industry. I now have a solid understanding about how new technology such as lamps and sensors is delivered to the end customers, the players, the channels and the facilitating role of incentive programs.

Q: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?
A: My manager encouraged me to talk to as many people as possible inside the company so that I could gain a good understanding of the values, culture and decision making processes at Cabot.

Q: What has been the best part for you about working at Cabot?
A: It is a corporation that has put great focus and effort on environmental sustainability and corporate social responsibility. It is headquartered in Boston, MA, which is a city with a lot of new ideas and technology innovations. Cabot is definitely part of this innovative culture.

Q: What is the mark you want to leave on the world?
A: I want to improve people’s quality of life through technology innovation, especially in the environment sector.

Leonardo Covis


Name: Leonardo Covis
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Host Organization: Springfield Public Schools
School: University of California, Berkeley

Q: Why did you want to join EDF Climate Corps?
A: I view energy as one of the essential components of everyday life. In the coming years it will be an even more important issue impacting decision making in every field, especially public policy. I was attracted to EDF in particular because of the public-private partnerships it emphasizes. I believe it will be essential going forward to find collaborative solutions to climate change between public, private and non- profit entities.

Q: What are you working on this summer?
A: I’m working in a school district looking at energy saving opportunities. Most of the schools in the district have already done lighting retrofits, so I’m looking at HVAC and window retrofits. I’m also working on a design guide and performance standards for new construction.

Q: What is the most difficult part about tackling this project?
A: Springfield Public Schools has already taken care of the low hanging fruit, so it comes down to finding places, for example, where the HVAC system is not working as efficiently as it should. Also, the sheer number of schools makes my job difficult; there are 52 in the district. I’ve been to about 25 and have found that each is different, but fortunately, there are certain patterns.

Q: Have you found ways to overcome this?
A: In talking to various employees, I’ve found out that they notice many ways to save energy that a newcomer might not. Although it is not their job to find energy savings, the maintenance and janitorial employees have identified a number of opportunities to share with me through working in the schools. Also, since most of the low hanging fruit have already been picked, I’ve been looking at potential behavioral and procedural changes. For example, during summer vacation, the schools are empty, but the refrigerators in some of the cafeterias are on all of the time. To help with this, I’ve created a checklist for school personnel to go through before school breaks that indicates which appliances to unplug and what other actions they can do to save energy.

Q: What is the best part of working at Springfield Public Schools?
A: The work environment is positive and the people are friendly and joke a lot. Also, the school district has a wellness program where every day after work there is a P90X workout. I’m getting into shape and it is fun to do with all of the different people I’m working with.

Q: What is the mark you want to leave on the world?
A: I think it could be really cool to contribute to some type of carbon removal plan to get CO2 out of the atmosphere. Not just preventing emissions, but capturing the greenhouse gasses that are already in the atmosphere.


This post is a part of our "Interviews with Tomorrow's Leaders" series. Stay tuned for more interviews with our 2013 EDF Climate Corps fellows!

About EDF Climate Corps
EDF Climate Corps (edfclimatecorps.org) taps the talents of tomorrow’s leaders to save energy, money and the environment by placing specially-trained EDF fellows in companies, cities and universities as dedicated energy problem solvers. Working with hundreds of leading organizations, EDF Climate Corps has found an average of $1 million in energy savings for each participant. For more information, visit edfclimatecorps.org. Read our blog at edfclimatecorps.org/blog. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/edfbiz and on Facebook at facebook.com/EDFClimateCorps.