Partners and Staff

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The Clean Energy Resource Teams project is a public-private partnership staffed by: the University of Minnesota Extension and Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships, Great Plains Institute, Southwest Regional Development Commission, and the Minnesota Department of Commerce. Read on to learn more about each partner and their CERTs staff. Click here to see the CERTs organizational structure.
 


 

University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships & Extension

UMN Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships & Extension The University of Minnesota’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships are citizen-driven university partnerships fostering sustainable development. The Regional Partnerships are based in five regions throughout greater Minnesota and work to foster active citizenship, achieve sustainable development (focusing on natural resources, renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, regional food systems, and sustainable tourism), and create a vital relationship between the citizens of the State and their land grant university. Partner Lead: Kathryn Draeger, Statewide Director

The mission of University of Minnesota Extension is making a difference by connecting community needs and University resources to address critical issues in Minnesota. Extension is a 100-year-old partnership between the University and federal, state and county governments—providing scientific knowledge and expertise to the public. The University of Minnesota is one of the nation’s more than 100 land grant colleges and universities with a mission to engage in teaching, research and extension. Through Extension, land grant institutions “extend” their resources to address critical public issues through non-formal, non-credit education. Extension faculty and staff live and work across the state, in regional and county offices, University campuses, and research and outreach centers.
 
Melissa Pawlisch Lissa Pawlisch is the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) Director for the University of Minnesota Extension’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships. Over the past thirteen years she has guided CERTs—a unique program partnership designed to connect individuals and communities to the resources they need to identify and implement community scale clean energy projects. After an environmental consulting stint, she got her Masters in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy. Lissa is passionate about working directly with communities to help them understand their energy options, the values that drive their projects, how technologies and practices can be deployed, and how to harness community capacity to affect change. Her current focus areas include community shared solar and local government clean energy adoption.
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Joel Haskard Joel Haskard is the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) Co-Director for the University of Minnesota’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships and Extension. Joel has over fifteen years experience coordinating and managing community and economic development activities in the U.S. and abroad. A jack of all trades, Joel works across CERTs programming, and his current focus areas include MN Energy Stories, electric vehicles (EVs), and partnering with utilities on energy efficiency outreach.
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Dan Thiede Dan Thiede is the CERTs Communications Manager with the University of Minnesota’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships and Extension. In this role, Dan is responsible for everything from goal-setting and big-picture strategy to the daily management of websites, social media, outreach and marketing, public relations and publicity, design and publications and communications interns. Dan has undergraduate degrees from the University of St. Thomas in geography and English writing, as well as a minor in environmental studies. Dan also recently earned a Masters degree in Strategic Communications from the University of Minnesota.
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Maggie Kozak Maggie Kozak is the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) Event Programming & Seed Grants Manager for the University of Minnesota’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships and Extension. Maggie plans, organizes, promotes, and executes CERTs events big and small, statewide. She enjoys managing CERTs seed grants and working with regional CERT Steering Committees. In addition, Maggie reviews publications and tends to the contracts and administrivia that make the world go ‘round. She has worked domestically and internationally on environmental and community development issues. Maggie enjoys biking to work, running, and yoga.
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Alexis Troschinetz Alexis Troschinetz is the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) Behavior Change and Metrics Coordinator for the University of Minnesota’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships and Extension. She infuses behavior change science into CERTs programs and campaigns; conducts campaign research, development and implementation; and evaluates CERTs’ programs by tracking quantitative and qualitative metrics. She’s presented at the American Evaluation Association, Behavior, Energy and Climate Change, Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, and Energy Design conferences and she’s authored three peer-reviewed journal articles. Alexis loves volunteering and and currently serves on her neighborhood’s Board of Directors. Alexis holds her professional engineering license and has a B.S. and an M.S. in Environmental Engineering (EnvEng) from Michigan Technological University, Sustainable Futures Institute. Alexis practiced EnvEng for over 7 years at two consulting firms prior to CERTs, working on sustainable operations, remediation, and stormwater.
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Peter Lindstrom Peter Lindstrom is the Local Government Outreach Coordinator with the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) at the University of Minnesota’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships and Extension. In this role Peter spearheads outreach and education to local units of government (i.e., cities, counties, townships, school districts) about approaches for financing energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements, particularly through the Guaranteed Energy Saving Program (GESP). Peter is also the Mayor of the City of Falcon Heights, MN, and serves on the Regional Council of Mayors. Most recently, Peter was Assistant Director of the Center for Science, Technology & Public Policy at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School, Executive Director of SciMathMN, and the Vice President of Public Affairs at the Minnesota High Tech Association.
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Fritz Ebinger Fritz Ebinger is the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) Rural Energy Development Program Manager for the University of Minnesota’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships and Extension. In this role, he works on energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives with agricultural producers to reduce farm production costs and advance utility conservation planning. Fritz graduated cum laude from St. John’s University in 2001 and served in the Peace Corps as an Agroforestry Volunteer in Panama from 2001-2003. He attended Drake Law School as a Public Service Scholar, graduating and passing the Minnesota Bar in 2008. While at Drake, he focused on agricultural, environmental, and natural resources law and wrote for the Drake Agricultural Law Journal. Following graduation, Fritz clerked for Judges Joe Chase and Robert Birnbaum in Minnesota’s Third Judicial District from 2008-2010 and was a solo practitioner from 2011-2013. Most recently, he comes to CERTs from The Minnesota Project where he managed their farm energy programs.
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Chris Meyer Chris Meyer is the Southeast CERT Coordinator for the University of Minnesota’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships. Almost done with an MS in Environmental Policy Management with an emphasis on Energy and Sustainability from Denver University, Chris also has a BFA in printmaking from the University of Minnesota and a BS in Economics from Drake University. A personal journey which started with a desire to install solar panels lead to a DIY project for a net-zero-energy home remodel, becoming a residential PV site assessor, community solar organizing, and coordinating the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society’s statewide renewable energy tour. Chris is an Extension Master Gardener and helps organize and works in a community garden that donates produce to local food shelves, and is working with the City of Winona to implement a residential rain garden program.
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Brian Bluhm Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency Brian Bluhm is the Northeast CERT Coordinator based at the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency. Brian has a B.A. in Anthropology and a M.Ed. in Environmental Education from the University of Minnesota Duluth. Active in sustainability education for over 10 years, Brian is also the Executive Director for the Iron Range Partnership for Sustainability and Coordinator of the Rutabaga Project to increase local and nutritious food access in NE MN.
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Kristi Fernholz Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission Kristi Fernholz became the West Central CERT Coordinator in 2016, although she has been on the West Central Steering Committee for several years. Kristi is a Senior Planner at the Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission where she has worked since 2000. She has worked on a variety of projects assisting local units of government in her region, including grants management, grant writing, comprehensive planning, tourism development and coordination of a number of programs. Kristi has a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a minor in Environmental Studies from University of Minnesota Duluth. She uses that unique combination in her work as much as possible. For example, she is the coordinator of the Meander Art Crawl through her work at the UMVRDC, but she has also been an artist of the Meander Art Crawl since it began in 2004. Kristi began her interest in renewable energy in college through her studies, and then on her organic farm where she and her husband put in a geothermal system to heat their home. Kristi enjoys photography, gardening, traveling, camping and being with her family.
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Melissa Birch Melissa Birch is the Central CERT Coordinator. Melissa grew up in north-central Minnesota and has a B.A. in French from Gustavus Adolphus College, an M.A. in International Relations and Environmental Policy from Boston University, and a Ph.D. in International Relations from the Fletcher School at Tufts University, where she focused on environmental policy and economic development. She has worked and volunteered in research, non-profit organizations, natural resource management, and education in locations ranging from Mexico to Massachusetts to Minnesota. She is passionate about finding ways that clean energy can help meet communities’ needs.
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Matt McFarland Matt McFarland is the Northwest CERT Coordinator. Over the past year and a half, Matt has worked at Headwaters Regional Development Commission in Bemidji, Minnesota. Some of his duties include managing projects for the subsidiary Housing Corporation, DEED Small Cities Grants administration, transportation work on behalf of MnDOT and working with MHFA to administer Rental Rehabilitation Loan Funding. Matt is a native of Northwest Minnesota, growing up in the small community of Alvarado. Having grown up near North Dakota and relocating to Bemidji, he hopes to connect and represent the entire Northwest CERT region. Matt is an avid runner, enjoys books and “good” tv shows, and deeply appreciates driving by beautiful Lake Bemidji at least twice a day.
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Great Plains Institute

Great Plains Institute The Great Plains Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that takes a pragmatic approach to our energy and climate change challenges—working with diverse interests to transform the way we produce, distribute, and consume energy to be both environmentally and economically sustainable. Through research and analysis, consensus policy development, and technology acceleration, GPI is leading the transition to clean, efficient and secure energy. Metro CERT is a program of The Great Plains Institute. Partner Lead: Rolf Nordstrom, President & Chief Executive Officer
 
Diana McKeown Diana McKeown is the Metro CERT Director at the Great Plains Institute. Diana has led the Metro region of CERTs since October 2007, during which time she has coordinated and participated in a number of clean energy initiatives, including: Apple Valley’s Better Energy Program; Neighborhood Energy Service (a partnership with Neighborhood Energy Connection and others to deliver residential energy workshops and home visits in all 17 neighborhoods in Saint Paul); an energy makeover of the Lao Family Community Center in partnership with Xcel Energy. Diana has also collaborated on the launch of a number of projects/programs including GreenStep Cities, Minnesota Schools Cutting Carbon, and a variety of energy savings measures through CERTified Campaigns. Diana has coordinated successful events, forums and tours, including the annual Brake for Breakfast gathering and the SolarWorks workshop series. Prior to joining the CERTs team, Diana worked for over 14 years at Clean Water Action where she gained experience with media work, grassroots organizing, campaign planning, lobbying, and fundraising. Diana has extensive experience building strategic campaigns and coalitions. Diana has a state certificate in residential energy auditing from Dunwoody and holds a B.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of Minnesota. Diana lives in Minneapolis with her husband and two daughters.
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Trevor Drake Trevor Drake is a Project Manager at the Great Plains Institute. His CERTs work is focused on advancing solar PV deployment throughout Minnesota. In this role, he develops projects and programming to help local governments and their communities understand and implement solar energy projects. Currently, Trevor is supporting a cohort of 8 Greater Minnesota cities and counties seeking to reduce barriers to solar energy deployment within their jurisdictions. Recently, he worked with a team of local governments in Minnesota to launch a joint purchase of community solar garden subscriptions for public buildings – totaling 35 Megawatts across 25 government entities. Prior to joining CERTs, Trevor served for two years in the AmeriCorps public service program where he worked with Habitat for Humanity to build a LEED-Certified affordable home and assisted a local municipality to implement energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in its public buildings. Trevor is a graduate of Saint John’s University with a BA degree in Environmental Studies..
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Southwest Regional Development Commission

Southwest Regional Development Commission The Southwest Regional Development Commission provides professional expertise and leadership to enhance regional opportunities. The Southwest Regional Development Commission (SRDC) is a nine county planning and development agency providing services to local units of government, non-profit agencies, and various individuals and groups both public and private sectors throughout the region. Membership is comprised of 36 representatives of townships, cities, counties, school boards and public interest groups. The SRDC provides a forum for the discussion and resolution of issues common to the area. The following are program areas in which the Commission is presently involved: Development Services, Community Driven Planning, Management and Policy Administration, Strategic Planning, Agency and Legislative Advocacy, Capital Resource Development, Transportation, Area Agency on Aging , Infrastructure and Solid Waste. The SRDC coordinates the SW CERT. Partner Lead: Jay Trusty, Executive Director
 
Annette Fiedler Annette Fiedler is Physical Development Director of the Southwest Regional Development Commission. She grew up in Nebraska, attending high school in Lincoln. She has an Undergraduate degree in Geography with a special emphasis in urban studies, and a Master’s Degree in Community and Regional Planning from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Following her college education, she began to work for the Southwest Regional Development Commission as a planner in September 1986. The Physical Development Planning position has included work in assisting local units of government in Transportation, Land Use, Solid Waste Management Planning, Environmental, and Energy planning. Currently, her work focuses on Transportation and Renewable Energy planning issues. The Transportation planning objective is to coordinate with the Minnesota Department of Transportation in the planning and development of a comprehensive transportation system in SW Minnesota. She serves as staff to the SRDC Transportation Committee, technical staff to Area Transportation Partnerships 7 and 8, and provides technical assistance to local units of government. She has served as the MRDO Transportation Planners co-chair, and has been on various state plan advisory committees. Energy Planning currently involves two major work areas: staff to the 18 county Rural Minnesota Energy Board and the Southwest Clean Energy Resource Team (CERTs) Coordinator. The 18 County Joint Powers Energy Board formed to provide policy guidance on issues surrounding energy development in rural Minnesota. The SW CERTs has developed a strategic vision and renewable energy and conservation plan, reflecting a mix of energy sources, such as biomass, solar, hydrogen, and wind. The plan laid groundwork for funding and implementing renewable energy projects that meet regional needs.
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Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources

Minnesota Department of Commerce The Division of Energy Resources works to promote and advance energy efficiency and renewable energy to Minnesota consumers, businesses and policymakers through educational outreach and technical assistance, targeted financial incentives, and demonstrations of market-ready new technologies. The office also is responsible for the state utility-funded Conservation Improvement Program and administers the low-income Weatherization program. Much of their work is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy State Energy Program. Partner Lead: Michelle Gransee, State Energy Office Clean Energy & Programs Manager
 
Michelle Gransee Michelle Gransee is the State Energy Office Clean Energy & Programs Manager at the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources. Michelle supervises the State Energy Office, which is made up of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and training experts.
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Kim Havey Kim Havey is the Program Leveraging Coordinator at the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources. In its first three years, the $150 million 10 year MiM program has funded more than 16 MWs of Solar PV and over 1,000 distinct projects throughout Minnesota. The Program connections team oversees the State Energy Office (SEO) communications and outreach including the Eco-Experience at the MN State Fair, website and newsletters such as Renewable News. Kim previously established a record of success as the co-founder of Sustology, a sustainable design-consulting firm that focuses on environmental sustainability. Kim earned a BBA in Real Estate from the UW – Madison and a MURP from the U of MN. He is accredited by the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) and is a LEED Accredited Professional (LEED AP).
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Minnesotans building a clean energy future

         

    CERTs Partners:

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