State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School


At Con Ed, an Alum Promotes Clean Energy

Sustainability Management alumnus Shaun Hoyte (Class of ’16) comes from the energy and utilities industry, where he has more than a decade of experience in New York City’s complex electric, gas and steam distribution systems. In his current role as an energy-efficiency program manager for Con Edison, he is tasked with helping lead the transformation of the electric grid to improve efficiency, generate revenue and maximize societal benefits. As a student, Hoyte served as president of the Sustainability Management Student Association, and was the 2016 student commencement speaker. He is currently vice chair of the Alumni Advisory Council for the School of Professional Studies, and serves on the board of directors for the Columbia Alumni Association.

(Photo: Paige Grant)

What is your current job, and what are the responsibilities associated with it?

As program manager in Con Edison’s Energy Efficiency department, I lead a team of multidisciplinary professionals to accelerate the adoption of innovative energy-efficient technologies for small and mid-sized business owners. We work across the five boroughs of New York City and in Westchester County. The role involves everything from budgeting, sales, marketing and outreach to planning, data analysis, engineering, policy and implementation. Since 2009, more than a million customers have upgraded to energy-efficient equipment through our energy-efficiency programs. It’s saved more than 7 million metric tons of carbon emissions.

Do your current responsibilities align with the professional goals that you originally had when you began the SUMA program?

I was already working at Con Edison when I enrolled in the SUMA program as a part-time student. But I was in a completely different role. At the time, I was a blue-collar electrician/mechanic working on general maintenance and capital-system upgrades in substations and power-generating stations. My professional goals entering the SUMA program were met midway through my studies, when I was promoted to a management position in the clean-energy side of the business. The icing on the cake for me is the network of professionals I’ve gained, the leadership/volunteer opportunities provided by the university, and the ability to reach back and hire Columbia grads.

What inspired you to work in sustainability?

Inspiration has come in many forms. I’ve always been fascinated by the complexities of the electric grid. Having the opportunity to shape and influence how we produce and consume energy has played a major role. Additionally, unforeseen life challenges prompted me to seek pathways where I could have the greatest chance at meaningful impact. Coupled with great mentors, friends, family and a little bit of luck, a career in sustainability was an easy choice.

What has been the biggest challenge in your position?

Small businesses are the backbone of the New York City economy, but most them are operating on slim margins. Many of these businesses have had to lay off employees, and some have closed indefinitely due to the pandemic. Investing in energy-efficient upgrades has become less attractive for them. I’d say one of my biggest challenges over the past 12 months is the conversations I’ve had with business owners in unfortunate situations. But working with them and assisting them with their energy needs while reducing harmful pollutants in the environment has been extremely rewarding.

What has been (or will be) your most significant accomplishment?

In 2019, I launched a series of stakeholder engagement events geared toward enabling minority- and women-owned business participation in the small-medium business program I manage. These businesses often have few employees and may feel intimidated seeking contracts from large organizations. Since the launch, we’ve tripled the number of minority- and women-owned contractors working in the program. Additionally, we amplified a workforce-development initiative. We partnered with my implementation contractor, Willdan Energy Solutions and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to launch an energy efficiency technical-training program designed to increase the number of qualified clean-energy professionals working in this space. Last year, the training program placed 75 graduates with clean energy jobs, and there are many more to come.

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