kumarbigMallika Kumar ’14 worked at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), an international environmental advocacy group. Mallika worked at NRDC’s Energy and Transportation Program, where she assisted a team of policy staff on projects for advancing industrial energy efficiency. In this role, she researched and analyzed various proposals for states and utilities to increase deployment of industrial energy efficiency technologies, drafted a plan for executing next steps on specific proposals with partners, such as Northeast Utilities, and liaised with utilities, industrial end-users, industry, and state and federal government experts, as well as other NRDC partners including the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, and the Consortium for Energy Efficiency.



My Experience

I worked as an industrial energy efficiency intern at the Natural Resource Defense Council’s (NRDC) Energy and Transportation Program this summer.  In this role, I worked with NRDC staff on strategic energy management programs that were focused on promoting advanced industrial energy efficiency policies.  Expanding NRDC’s engagement with the industrial sector on energy efficiency is critical to their mission of promoting clean energy business solutions in a way that forges win-win solutions for utilities, businesses, and other stakeholders.During my internship, I researched and analyzed various proposals for utilities to increase deployment of industrial energy efficiency technologies, conducted interviews with energy experts, utilities and regulators, and drafted a plan for executing next steps on specific proposals (e.g. timeline, suggested program design) for Northeast Utilities, an NRDC partnerThe NRDC internship drew heavily on the management and analytical skills that I have developed at Columbia Business School.  One of my main tasks in the internship was to demonstrate the business case for utilities and industrial end-users for implementing various industrial energy efficiency solutions. This required me to perform cost-benefit analysis as well as effectively segment utilities’ customers, all tools that I have learned from my core classes at Columbia Business School. I also drew heavily on the insights from my strategy classes at Columbia to develop an implementation plan for NRDC to move forward on specific proposals for Northeast Utilities.Advanced energy efficiency programs have been implemented successfully in very few states. So getting sufficient data and finding replicable business models proved to be very challenging. Moreover, regulations vary from one state to another. So while energy efficiency programs make financial sense in one state, it may not be the case in another state. So it was not possible for me to develop a generic implementation plan for a utility in any state. And because my internship was just four weeks, I was not able to assess the regulatory impacts in detail.

My biggest takeaway from this experience is that to sell an idea with social or environmental impact, it is not enough to demonstrate societal benefits. Showing monetary savings and bottom-line impacts is much more powerful and effective in motivating utilities and businesses to implement energy efficiency programs.

The second takeaway was setting priorities and objectives. Given the short duration of my internship, it was important to set realistic expectations and an achievable and feasible scope of work.

I enjoyed the office culture at NRDC, and discovered that I thrive in dynamic and entrepreneurial environments. I enjoyed opportunities to drive projects entirely, and being able to set the strategic direction of the project. The various talks I attended at NRDC during my internship were also very useful in helping me gain a broader understanding in the field.