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New master’s program in energy conservation is first of its kind

November 7, 2014

A new professional master’s program will launch at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in fall 2015 and become the first in the world specifically designed to train analytically minded students to evaluate energy efficiency and other resource conservation initiatives.

The Resource and Energy Demand Analysis (REDA) program is an accelerated degree designed to meet the growing need for professionals in consulting, utilities, organizations promoting renewables, and other areas of resource conservation.

Photo: Bill Provencher

Bill Provencher

Bill Provencher, a professor of agricultural and applied economics and energy consultant who will serve as the REDA director, says he has seen a skills gap in the industry firsthand. “So many college graduates care deeply about the environment and issues like climate change,” he says. “This degree will help them satisfy their desire to work toward a low-carbon future while also earning a good living.”

Madison is one of only a few cities nationwide with a cluster of resource and energy consulting firms, allowing REDA to draw on the expertise of local professionals to enhance student learning and advise on curriculum.

“We’ve added value to the curriculum by including a practicum that simulates a workplace experience using real data,” says Barbara Forrest, a REDA co-designer. “At the end, students will have a tangible credential to show employers, and students can complete the degree in only 10 months — it’s accelerated so they can get out into a job as quickly as possible. This would be a great track for environmental studies majors who enjoy quantitative work.”

“Students will have a tangible credential to show employers, and … it’s accelerated so they can get out into a job as quickly as possible.”

Barbara Forrest

The need for specialized training in demand analysis is being driven by explosive growth in advanced technologies, such as smart meters and smart thermostats, says Provencher. These devices are creating new opportunities for conservation by collecting data that can be analyzed to understand behavioral factors in programs to reduce energy demand.

Provencher and Forrest say the job market for REDA graduates will also be international, thanks to the global push toward using smart technologies, such as water and electricity meters, to encourage conservation. “Utilities everywhere are trying to get their customers to save, and all those management programs need careful evaluation to see what works,” Forrest says. “REDA graduates will be those analysts.”