Meet a real-life Energy Advisor: Justin Stuva saves the day

When it comes to helping people, Justin Stuva can’t get enough. That’s why in addition to advising co-op members on how they can save on their energy bills, he spends nearly 50 hours a week as an on-call ambulance driver.

How’d you become an energy advisor?
Actually, I’m a third generation co-op worker. My grandpa was the CEO of a co-op, and my dad is one now. My grandma worked for a co-op, and my uncle was a lineman. You could say it runs in the family.

What’d you do before?
I went to school for business administration and marketing at Illinois State University, and the summers of my junior and senior years I worked for Corn Belt Energy. Then I graduated in 2008, and at that time not only wasn’t anyone hiring, most places were letting people go. I took a job with another co-op for a year here in Illinois, and then this position opened up in 2009 at Corn Belt Energy.

And you know, the marketing and business administration background helped me to get the job, but a lot of the skills I developed for the position were learned in the field with my supervisor.

What’s the last hobby you picked up?
The most recent hobby I’ve acquired is driving ambulances. I’m actually a volunteer for the ambulance service headquartered in LeRoy. I was looking for a way to be engaged in the community and wanted to find something to do, and someone had mentioned that they were looking for someone to drive the ambulance. I started in February of 2014, and I’m usually on-call now about 40 to 50 hours a week. It’s actually prompted me to go back to get my EMT license.

Do you need a special license to drive one of those things?
There’s training, but mostly they want to make sure you’ve driven something that large. I grew up driving trucks and tractors, so it wasn’t that different to go from driving a big truck while hunting to using a big ambulance to go pick people up.

It’s funny, but back in the day a paper cut could gross me out. Now I’ve got a passion for driving an ambulance, where I might see a whole lot worse.

If you could switch lives with a person for one day, who would it be?
If I could choose to do anything, it would be to professionally hunt for a day. You get some of these guys that get paid to go hunting, and I think spending a day in their life, going into exotic places and seeing things I might not otherwise, would be incredible.

If you could only listen to one song for the rest of you life, what would it be?
“I Can Only Imagine,” by Mercy Me.

How’d you change your energy habits after you took this job?
My wife would probably call me a little too strict when it comes to turning stuff off. She was rather annoyed, initially, when we first got together. But this job does make you more aware of how and when you use power. I find it rather fascinating to pull up my own usage and say, wow, my Christmas lights use up 30 dollars a month, is it really worth having them? And my wife says, shut up and put up the Christmas lights.

What’s the number one thing members want to know?
People want to know why their bill is the way it is. That’s the number one thing people call in about. They want to understand their bill and understand what a kilowatt hour of electricity really is. It can be tough to get your head around because it’s not a tangible thing. Everybody knows exactly what a gallon of milk looks and feels like, but it’s tough to quantify a kilowatt hour in someone’s mind.

One explanation that usually helps is to start with a standard 100-watt light bulb, which everyone’s familiar with. If you run that for ten hours, it will use one kilowatt hour. If we can start there, we can usually build up to other appliances and how much energy they use with that as a reference point.

If you weren’t an Energy Advisor, what would you be?
I take a lot of pleasure in helping people out. That’s what I’m doing with the whole EMT thing; I’m trying to take on a role in the community where I can help more people. I could see being a paramedic, just because I enjoy doing it so much. But I work in a co-op environment, and I love helping people there, too.