CELS Student helping reduce Rhode Island’s energy consumption, one school at a time

marissaUniversity of Rhode Island undergraduate Marissa Pereira has earned a reputation for going above and beyond what’s expected of her. A senior in the College of the Environment and Life Sciences’ Department of Environmental and Natural Resource Economics (ENRE), Pereira is already trying to save the world by helping to reduce energy emissions.

“This experience has made me realize what I want to do with my life,” says Pereira.  “I was never a numbers person, and now all I do is look at numbers all day, and I love it.”

Pereira is a Fellow in the URI Outreach Center’s Energy Fellows Program where she works with URI Outreach Center staff on the Rhode Island Public Energy Partnership (RIPEP) to help reduce energy consumption in the public sector. A Department of Energy funded grant, RIPEP is led by the RI Office of Energy Resources (RI OER) and is a collaboration between RI OER, URI, National Grid, and other key state and municipal agencies. Working closely with Rhode Island municipalities, school districts, and state agencies, Marissa and the RIPEP team are focused on helping many of these public agencies reduce energy consumption by 20% by October 2015.

“Our goal is to help people realize how much energy they are using,” says Pereira. “My favorite part is to see the look on the face of our partners as we present their actual energy usage. It is mind-blowing.”

marissa2The opportunity to take classes at URI while taking part in the fellowship has helped Pereira become a stronger student and Fellow.

The fellowship has taught Pereira how to present complex data to clients. With four new Energy Fellows on her team, Pereira runs meetings, organizes and presents findings, and manages and trains the students.   

“Marissa’s impeccable eye for detail led me to hire her for a second year to manage URI’s work on RIPEP,” said Kristina DiSanto, URI Outreach Center’s Energy Projects and Fellowships coordinator. “I consider Marissa a qualified staff member as she and I are essentially performing the same tasks.”

DiSanto, who expanded Pereira’s role as a team leader, said Pereira manages many aspects of the grant on her own from municipal engagement and reporting to program development and training.

“I’ve seen her confidence skyrocket as she gained experience mentoring other undergraduate students, presenting complex information to municipal employees and officials, and planning new project deliverables with Rhode Office of Energy Resources and National Grid,” DiSanto added.

After receiving her degree at URI, Pereira hopes to land a job in the energy efficiency field that gives her an opportunity to help residents realize energy savings.