power line over santiago, chile
A power line stretches over Santiago, Chile.

A little-known association in Atlanta that certifies engineers in energy conservation and management around the world is now focusing more intently on Spanish-speaking nations. 

Based in a small office near Mercer University’s Atlanta campus, the Association of Energy Engineers has more than 17,500 members in 90 countries, more than 15,000 of whom have gone through its flagship Certified Energy Manager training program, a credential recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy since 1981. 

At the association’s World Energy Engineering Congress Sept. 30 in Orlando, headlined by speakers like former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the association conducted its first ever seminar completely in Spanish, indicating growing interest in its programs from Latin America, Al Thumman, AEE’s executive director, told Global Atlanta.

The Latin America and Spain Energy Management Symposium also included a look at regional energy markets, renewable energy in the Caribbean and an exam for the certified energy manager program all in Spanish. The organization is working with a Spain-based consultant to deepen its ties in the region and expects to lead members on a trade mission to Cuba next June.  

Long before climate change was a buzzword, but just after the oil crisis of the 1970s, Mr. Thumman said it was clear that the world would need professionals who understood how energy and engineering are interrelated. Boosting efficiency in buildings and power plants goes a long way toward reducing carbon emissions, a key issue for most nations in the 21st century. 

“We were ahead of our time,” Mr. Thumman said. 

Working with a colleague at Georgia Tech, he brought the organization to Atlanta and has kept it here ever since. Over time, AEE has had to adapt its training programs across regional and linguistic barriers. In the early days, he traveled to places like Russia and China, using a “train the trainers” approach to set up local certifying entities in different locales. 

“It’s not a just a U.S. issue. It’s an international issue,” he said of energy management. “We’ve had to figure out how to export outside our area.” 

The push for more Spanish is part of that. In the meantime, the CEM, one the AEE’s more than 20 certifications, is now recognized in the United Kingdom and Ireland

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...