Women in Energy: Ellen Anderson with University of Minnesota's Energy Transition Lab

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Ellen Anderson

The Minnesota Women in Energy series highlights influential women who are part of our state’s energy efficiency and renewable energy industries. CERTs is highlighting these leaders during the month of March in 2017, which is Women’s History Month.

As part of the series we interviewed Ellen Anderson, Executive Director of the University of Minnesota’s Energy Transition Lab, to learn more about her work, what inspires her, and how other women can get involved in the industry. Read on to learn more!


Can you tell us a little bit about what you do in the energy world in Minnesota?

 
Women In Energy Series Ellen Anderson: I am Executive Director of the Energy Transition Lab at the University of Minnesota. We collaborate with University energy experts and many external stakeholders to help enable our energy transition in Minnesota and beyond. Our current focus areas include energy storage, renewable energy, cities and carbon reduction, and equity in our energy transition.
 

How did you get into this work?

 
Ellen Anderson: I developed an interest in clean energy as a college student, but then went to Law School and worked in public interest justice areas. I was elected to the Minnesota state senate in 1992 and became very involved in energy and environmental issues. The 1994 session included a contentious debate around Minnesota’s energy future and I was hooked! I worked for many years to pass Minnesota’s Renewable Energy Standard (25% by 2025) along with the Next Generation Energy Act and other state clean energy policy. I left the Senate to chair the MN Public Utilities Commission and then advised Governor Dayton and state agencies on energy and environmental issues, before coming to the U. in 2014.
 

What is a typical day like for you?

 
Ellen Anderson: A mixture of meeting/talking with many people, whether in the wind and solar industry, to policymakers and regulators, to utilities, and University people in law, policy, engineering, and more; combined with reading, writing, and researching the latest information on energy transition.
 

What are the best and worst parts of your job?

 
Ellen Anderson: Best: I am never bored! I love working with an array of really smart and interesting people, and the evolution of our energy systems is fascinating and ever-changing. Worst: I constantly have to raise money for my work.
 

What about your job inspires you?

 
Ellen Anderson: This is most transformational and important time in the energy world in our lifetime. What inspires and motivates me is both the moral imperative to tackle climate change and evolve into a sustainable energy future – combined with the tremendous opportunity these challenges present to improve our economy, grow good jobs, become energy independent, and improve our quality of life. I fundamentally believe the transition to a low-carbon economy will make our state and nation a better place to live.
 

What advice do you have for women who are thinking about working in energy?

 
Ellen Anderson: Energy is one of those areas that has traditionally been male-dominated, so we welcome your participation and leadership. It’s the most exciting time ever to be in the energy industry, in many different settings, and because things are evolving so much you will have an opportunity to shape the future.
 

  About Ellen

 

Ellen Anderson

Executive Director
University of Minnesota’s Energy Transition Lab


Ellen Anderson is Executive Director of the University of Minnesota’s Energy Transition Lab. The Lab leverages University expertise in law, policy, and other disciplines, in partnership with the public, private, community, and nonprofit sectors, to help solve our biggest energy challenges for the future. The Lab focuses on advancing energy storage, cities and energy/climate planning, energy justice, and renewable energy, and founded and convenes the Minnesota Energy Storage Alliance (MESA).

From 2012 to 2014, Anderson was Senior Advisor on Energy and Environment to Governor Mark Dayton and assisted the state Environmental Quality Board (EQB) on energy and environmental issues. Anderson helped to coordinate state climate change planning, and led the implementation of Governor Dayton’s Executive Order 11-32, including organizing the EQB’s Minnesota Environmental Congress and issuing Minnesota’s Environment and Energy Report Card.

In March 2011 Governor Mark Dayton appointed Anderson Chair of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, where she served until early 2012. She was a member of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) Committee on Energy Resources and the Environment.

Anderson served in the Minnesota Senate from 1993–2011 and was re-elected five times, representing several neighborhoods of St. Paul and the city of Falcon Heights. She chaired the Jobs, Energy and Community Development Committee, the Commerce Committee, the Energy and Telecommunications Committee, and the Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources Finance Committee. Her signature legislation includes many energy and consumer protection laws, including the Renewable Energy Standard and the Community Based Energy Development (C-BED) laws; raising the minimum wage; co-authorship of the Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment; the Mortgage Foreclosure Prevention Act; and the first law in the nation, now in federal law, protecting nursing mothers in the workplace.

Anderson holds a B.A. from Carleton College and J.D. cum laude from the University of Minnesota Law School. She is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota, teaching courses in law, energy, and sustainability. She is a member of the Advisory Boards for the U of MN Joint Degree Program in Law, Science & Technology and for Climate Generation. She has served in numerous leadership and community volunteer positions and received dozens of awards for her leadership in energy, environment, and economic and social justice issues. Most recently, Anderson received the 2013 Ecological Society of America Regional Policy Award for Informing Policy with Ecological Science; serves as observer to the e21 utility of the future group, served on the Advisory Committee for the 2014 Midwest Innovation Summit and member of the Citizens League Electrical Energy Study Committee.

Ellen is married and has two teenage sons. She enjoys reading, travel, gardening, bicycling, hiking, and the great outdoors.

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Women In Energy Series

The Minnesota Women in Energy series highlights influential women who are part of our state’s energy efficiency and renewable energy industries during Women’s History Month.

 
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    CERTs Partners:

Minnesota Department of Commerce University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships and Extension Great Plains Institute Southwest Regional Development Commission