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Staff Spotlight – Matthew Socks, Senior Consultant

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How long have you been with Optimal Energy?

September marked 12 years!

With a degree in mechanical engineering from MIT, what led you to a career in energy efficiency?

Growing up in southeast Michigan, for most my life I thought I would end up working in the automotive industry. I’ve always gravitated to the technical side of things, and from an early age I’ve been curious about how things work. In this context, mechanical engineering seemed an obvious fit. In my second year of college, my path began to shift. I took a truncated course on climate change that really opened my eyes to the immediate danger we face. The IPCC’s Third Assessment Report had recently been published, and we took a deep dive in to the science and findings. I recall seeing the well-known “hockey stick” graph projecting skyrocketing global temperatures and thinking, “How can I do something to help fix this? Years later, I found that answer in the energy efficiency industry.

Please let us know where you worked before Optimal.

Believe it or not, Optimal is my first professional experience. During school, I had an engineering internship for several years at a manufacturing facility for an automotive supplier. Most of my time was spent using CAD (computer-aided design) software to document tooling changes and setting up a plant-wide preventive maintenance system.

Youre on the leading edge of energy efficiency analytics: measures, methodologies, and potential analyses. How do you stay on top of new technologies in your area?

Mostly by doing a lot of reading! There is no shortage of information available online and in journals on upcoming technologies and practices. The trickier part is knowing where to look and what to spend time on. Another way is through partnerships. Efficiency is such a broad industry, it’s difficult to be an expert in every nuance. One of the benefits of being in the industry for quite some time now is that I have a good network of colleagues. I can throw out questions to them, and learn where things are headed.

What professional organizations do you belong to or participate in?

I’m a member of ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers) and NSPE (National Society of Professional Engineers).

What are some of the exciting new areas that interest you, and what effects might they have?

I think the energy industry’s focus on integration is very exciting. We’ve seen the emergence of cost-competitive renewables, new storage options, a smarter electric grid to enable more demand response, electric vehicles, and a mature efficiency marketplace. Now, we’re beginning to see all these elements considered together in ways they haven’t before. It’s really shifting perspectives of what is possible. I’d say this is evidenced by the many net-zero carbon goals that US states, municipalities, and utilities are beginning to set.

Having been at Optimal Energy for 12 years, can you compare the company today to when you first started?

In many ways, Optimal is much the same as when I started back in 2007. We’re a little bigger and perhaps more well-known, but our shared focus and passion for battling climate change is as strong as ever.

Outside of work, what are your favorite activities? Do you have a memorable story about one of them?

We have a very busy two-year old, so when we’re not at work, my wife and I are usually just trying to keep up with him. We love to get outdoors together, whether to go hiking, kayaking, running, or just enjoy the beautiful Vermont summers in the backyard.

photo boothWhen I can find the time, I like to build things and tinker with electronics. One of my favorite projects was building a photobooth from scratch for my wife. She’s always loved photobooths, so when it came time to ask her to marry me, I built an entire photobooth in secrecy and surprised her with it in our living room to pop the question. I designed the structure, learned how to upholster, figured out the software, and integrated the lighting and electronics. Luckily, she said yes, and we put the photobooth to work at our wedding. Now, we take fun pics with family and friends from time to time.

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