Internship Location: U.S. Department of Energy

So far, my internship has taught me a lot about government processes. I had not realized the complexity of approval processes until I got here. For example, I was asked to write up social media blurbs for a few of the energy efficiency “success stories”. In any non-governmental office, the immediacy of social media would be reflected in this task, resulting in a quick publication of the blurb. But in the government, everything has to be approved before it can be released to the public eye. So I emailed my potential blurbs to those who had asked for it, knowing that it may or may not even be published. First, it had to be edited and confirmed by those directly above me. It then would be included with the success story as a suggestion for social media advertising when we sent it to the front office for approval. The front office holds the final say in whether or not the social media component would even be included in the story’s publication. It may be that they decide they simply don’t want to advertise on Facebook and Twitter for this publication.

I learned about the energy technologies and events taking place

The front office itself adds an even more complex level to this organization; due to the current administration, the appointed people in charge are not necessarily in favor of the goals of my department. Since EERE is funded by Congress, the “politicals” cannot defund the department, but they do have to approve everything that we want published. I came across this in the production of the State and Local Spotlight Newsletter. The goal had been to publish a newsletter every month to update stakeholders on energy happenings, but the front office had delayed the approval process so that a newsletter for April didn’t get approved until May.

I was lucky enough to work on the State and Local Spotlight Newsletter for the June edition. One of my team members was swamped with other work and so turned the newsletter over to me. I was provided with a mix of bulleted and partially written paragraphs for each section. I reworded some and rewrote others to make it into a coherent package of energy highlights. In the process, I learned about the energy technologies and events taking place. One that stood out is the initiative to install solar panels in correctional facilities. The inmates are trained to install the solar panels and so have marketable skills when they eventually reenter the workforce. And, of course, the facilities themselves become more energy efficient. Also included in this newsletter was an announcement for the winners of the Green Ribbon Award for sustainable practices in schools. This highlighted the Boston Green Academy in Massachusetts. I read further into it, and learned about the alternative and experimental practices that the school used in order to increase sustainability awareness and energy efficiency.

Along the lines of energy efficient schools, a colleague directed me towards Project Frog after I expressed interest in green building design. Project Frog is an initiative that creates easy-to-assemble sustainable school buildings. The construction time is cut in half while also achieving the buyer’s unique, desired look. The result is a school environment that is healthy for its students, energy efficient, and creatively sustainable. It is through conversations with my coworkers that I am able to discover these types of projects, that I otherwise would not have known to look for. I am enjoying my internship so far and am looking forward to its continuation.