Jimmy Jia Talks Energy Equality

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As Co-founder and CEO of Distributed Energy Management, and Professor of Energy Systems at Presidio Graduate School in Seattle, Jimmy Jia knows energy equality. It all started in grad school at MIT during a discussion on solar energy technology where their professor commented that more energy sources isn’t the answer, because we always consume what we generate. The solution isn’t creating more energy, it’s about consuming less.

“That idea stuck with me for years,” said Jimmy. Five years later, after pursuing multiple angles to his career in technology, business and earning an MBA, he started his energy management business. “At first, I had no idea what it meant, or how to approach it, but in my MBA I started to look at how to use financial budgeting models to reduce consumption.” The key, he says, use the language of business; tying money flows and energy flows together leads to activity-based costing. Basically, a company can improve productivity when they use X less energy and generate Y more revenue. What he’s seeing is that this translates the sustainable energy framework into a standard business framework, a common language. Achieving energy equality is this kind of translation and normalization. “Sustainable energy is talked about as a soapbox, not as a relatable and practical thing for the future.” He’s changing that, one contract at a time.

In terms of the energy community, he shares that it is predominantly straight, but points out that there aren’t a lot of industries that are really LGBT. “As an engineer, it’s about getting your work done. Sexuality has never overlapped for me, it’s just not as relevant.” His boyfriend jokingly points out that being an engineer trumps being gay.

In his early 20s, he had much more uncertainty. It took him a long time to get comfortable with his sexuality. “I wear a lot of different identity hats. One of the least important is my sexuality, possibly because the others are more relatable,” says Jimmy, “I can’t do anything about being gay, so I invest in the things I want to be, like an expert in energy policy.”

But the story doesn’t end there. “I wonder if being the labels that I have – first generation immigrant, Chinese, gay – that I’m more sensitive to social justice issues. I don’t know, because it’s me. But making energy efficiency a focus certainly may have come from this.”

Now that Jimmy has a boyfriend, coworkers are more aware of this side of his life. He hasn’t ever hidden his sexuality, he just views it as a personal part of life, not a bandwagon issue. “I’m as normal [authentic] as possible; the response has been for others to treat me normally.” Jimmy has no soapboxes, and it seems his work in energy is similar. “Extremes have the attention,” Jimmy points out, “but the majority of people are quietly doing the work.”

Jimmy Jia is dedicated to solving real-world energy problems with a balance of technology, business and social impact. With engineering, sales and operational experiences, he innovates unique solutions that addresses pressing energy issues. He is involved in numerous industry organizations, including the Northwest Environmental Business Council, the Washington Clean Technology Alliance, and the MIT Enterprise Forum of the Northwest. He speaks regularly on energy efficiency and integrating renewable into the electric grid.

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