When George Sfinarolakis became a URI Energy Fellow at the beginning of his doctoral studies in 2014, he tackled a project to create a benchmark of the energy usage at various state and municipal buildings throughout Rhode Island. The project allowed him to combine his interests in economics and the environment by measuring how much energy was consumed at each building and comparing it to optimal energy use.
“Energy is a bridge between economics and the environment. It’s both an economic and an environmental issue,” said Sfinarolakis, a native of Greece, who came to the United States to enroll in URI’s graduate program in Environmental and Natural Resource Economics, one of the top programs of its kind in the country.
At the same time, he was evaluating the effectiveness of utility-sponsored energy conservation programs for his dissertation.
During his studies, the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources hired Sfinarolakis to manage the state’s Lead by Example initiative, a program to coordinate the efforts of state agencies to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. His success in leading the initiative was rewarded when Governor Gina Raimondo named him a recipient of the 2017 Rhode Service Award. He was recognized for developing a streetlight energy efficiency incentive program aimed at converting streetlights to LEDs; leading the effort to install solar panels atop state buildings; and saving money by establishing reverse auctions for the procurement of electricity and natural gas for all state agencies.
“It’s the first time the state has developed programs for renewable energy and large-scale energy efficiency, and it has been a success,” Sfinarolakis said. “I’m very happy for the award, and very happy with this job. I hope to be doing it long into the future.”