Investing in renewable energies. Individuals selling energy back through smart meters. The increase of electric vehicles on America’s roadways.

The U.S. energy industry is undergoing a revolutionary period of growth and change, and UF alumni are playing central roles. Hear from two alumni—with a combined 50-plus years in the energy industry—about their experiences and what’s in store for the future.

Bruce Narzissenfeld (BSAc ’79)

As rewarding as Bruce Narzissenfeld’s career in public accounting was, he wanted more.

“When working in public accounting, you’re reviewing books and records, and making recommendations that may or may not be acted on,” said Narzissenfeld, who spent four years at Arthur Andersen. “I wanted to get out of the grandstands and onto the field. I really wanted to be responsible for producing results and executing recommendations.”

Narzissenfeld (BSAc ’79) found that opportunity at TECO Energy, and he’s been reaping the rewards for the past 31 years.

As a Vice President at TECO Energy, a Fortune 1000 company, Narzissenfeld directs the company’s Marketing, Customer Service, Business Development, and Fuels Operations platforms. He’s witnessed dramatic advancements in the energy industry over his more than three decades at TECO, and notes more changes—particularly in renewable energy—are on the horizon.

TECO Energy’s solar initiative has been increasing in scope. Tampa Electric, one of TECO Energy’s subsidiaries, made its “first foray into large-scale solar power...” when it erected a canopy of solar panels at Tampa International Airport that provides enough electricity to power up to 250 homes. The company recently announced plans to build a similar array at LEGOLAND Florida and is in the process of building the largest solar project in the Tampa Bay area on land it owns at Big Bend Power Station.

“In 2000, we were the first utility in Florida to have a Renewable Energy program powered in part by company installed solar systems at high profile places in the community,” said Narzissenfeld, “A decade and a half later we feel the time is right to expand into large–scale solar to meet customer demand as prices have become more competitive.”

In addition to its expanding solar initiative, Tampa Electric achieved an historic mark in minimizing its carbon footprint. In the past coal has been used more than natural gas to generate electricity. This past year, Tampa Electric’s changed that equation and generated 52 percent with natural gas and 48 percent with coal.

More about Bruce...
  • Bruce’s first job after graduating from UF was at Arthur Andersen. His first boss was Al Warrington (BSBA ’58), the College’s namesake, and managing partner of the firm’s Miami office.
  • Bruce said his time at UF was memorable and impactful. “It exceeded my expectations. I was exposed to such a diverse mix of students and professors who viewed the world differently than I did, and caused me to challenge how I thought about things, including business, life and politics.”
  • Bruce’s career at TECO Energy has run the gamut, including roles in accounting, finance, and operations—an unconventional position for an accounting graduate. “That was a wonderful opportunity. It taught me to think synergistically, about the financial implications of your actions, and what’s really involved in running a company.”
  • Another facet of TECO Energy’s initiative that Bruce is excited about is compressed natural gas (CNG) and electric vehicles. The company now fuels 42 CNG stations throughout Florida. It is also leading by example. TECO Energy has installed charging stations at the majority of its sites for employees to recharge their electric vehicles.
  • Bruce kidded about being the only Gator among TECO Energy executives. He hopes Warrington graduates consider the energy industry for their careers. “It’s a rewarding industry to be a part of and there are opportunities in so many areas. The world runs on energy, and you can have an impactful and interesting career.”

Connect with Bruce on LinkedIn.

Darin Cook (BS ’87)

As a former tournament chess player, Darin Cook (BS ’87) meticulously analyzed every move he made. Oftentimes, he would walk over to his opponent’s side of the table to view the chessboard.

That detailed and strategic approach has served Cook well in his career where patience, planning, and seizing a well-timed opportunity have helped Infinite Energy become a prominent player in the energy field.

Infinite Energy, based in Gainesville, provides natural gas to customers in Florida, Georgia, New Jersey and New York, and electricity to customers in Texas. The company was developed in the early 1990s when the federal government deregulated interstate natural gas pipelines, allowing customers to purchase natural gas from other entities (Previously, customers could only purchase natural gas directly from the pipelines).

But Cook and fellow Infinite Energy co-founder Rich Blaser didn’t enter this unregulated sector with guns blazing. It took two years and plenty of “no’s” from prospective financiers before they were able to launch the company in May 1994.

“We got rejection after rejection,” Cook said. “We could have saw the rejections as failures, but we saw them as opportunities to learn why we failed. The good thing about all those rejections was we had to think of everything.”

Their preparation paid off handsomely. Infinite Energy was profitable within three months, and has recorded sales of more than $500 million the past three years.

Cook attributes much of the company’s success to its “operations first, marketing second” philosophy. He’s seen competitors experience incredible growth early on, but inevitably fail because of mismanagement and an undeveloped infrastructure.

“You can’t always be in growth mode,” Cook said. “Before you go into new markets, you have to coil the spring beforehand.”

More about Darin...
  • Darin cites solar energy, smart-metering technology and power distribution as significant disruptors in the energy industry.
  • Darin has served as a valued mentor through the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Center—including its Veterans Entrepreneurship Program—and the Poe Center for Business Ethics and Education Research. “My dad was a professor and my mom was teacher. I guess teaching is in my blood.”
  • Infinite Energy received the Pinnacle Award at the 2016 Gator100, which recognizes the 100 fastest-growing, Gator-led companies in the world.
  • Darin’s tactic of viewing the chessboard from his opponent’s view was also a byproduct of his hyperactivity. He used numerous techniques, from sitting on his hands to walking around the table, to allow him to think before he moved any pieces.
  • An interesting piece of advice Darin shares with his mentees is to not work too much on your weaknesses. “Get your weaknesses up to average. Then, work on your strengths. You have natural gifts in your strengths so your potential is much higher.”

Connect with Darin on LinkedIn.