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 Amy Collins, Energy Services Field Representative with Missouri River Energy Services, 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?
I work for Missouri River Energy Services (MRES), a not-for-profit, joint-action agency based out of Sioux Falls, SD that supplies wholesale electricity to 60 municipal electric providers in Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota. My job title is Energy Services Field Representative, which means I work with nine of our Minnesota members (Alexandria, Detroit Lakes, Elbow Lake, Lake Park, Henning, Staples, Wadena, Melrose and Sauk Centre) on energy efficiency efforts and peak demand reduction for all of their commercial and residential customers. Our program, called Bright Energy Solutions® (BES), is an energy efficiency program that provides rebates to those who install qualified, new, energy-saving technologies or retrofit existing equipment in their homes or businesses. I regularly meet with my members to visit their commercial customers to offer ideas to reduce electric consumption, market the program to all customers and contractors, and educate commercial and residential customers through community events.
How did you get into this work?
When I applied at MRES, my number one goal was to work for a company in an industry that was strong and robust following the economic downturn prior to 2010. I responded to an ad looking for a customer service representative for an electric company and thought, “what could be more necessary than turning my lights on and having a climate-controlled house?!” After meeting with management, I felt incredibly confident in the professionalism, financial security, and future potential of working in the electric industry on behalf of MRES.
What is a typical day like for you?
As an Energy Services Field Representative, I put my pants on one leg at a time, just like any normal person. While I do not have a typical day, which is what I love, I do have the flexibility to visit nine different cities in a typical week, work from my home office on a paperwork-kind-of day, give presentations to city service clubs or local chambers, or host a booth at an electrician or other contractor event. Every day is different, but ultimately I work with each of my cities to schedule visits with their commercial customers, help them market the BES program, and process all of the commercial applications for rebates.
What are the best and worst parts of your job?
The absolute, best part of my job, hands down, is being in each of my member cities and getting to work with awesome utility staff and their wonderful customers. I love meeting with businesses and learning about what they do, how they operate, and then giving them ideas that will ultimately cut their electric usage and make their business even stronger financially (often with equipment that is brighter, faster, and/or better!) Over the last seven years, I have grown very attached to each of my member cities, their town festivals, their shops and restaurants, and all of the amazing people! It is so fun when customers call us and ask us to come for another visit –repeat BES program users are the best!
I am not one to dwell on the “worst” part of what I have to do, but my biggest opportunity for growth is learning more about the technical or engineering side of what I often encounter. Heating and cooling equipment, as well as things like refrigeration systems, are sometimes a bit complex for my non-engineering brain, but I continue to try to understand mechanical systems and I have a fabulous technical support team that always answers my questions and helps me calculate energy savings when it goes beyond simple math!
What about your job inspires you?
I find my job inspiring for several reasons. Number one, it keeps my brain engaged! Number two, I love helping my members with their customers and being able to give money to help them purchase a better product, while at the same time being environmentally sensitive by removing wasteful electric consumption (why keep a 400 watt metal halide light fixture when you can use a superior LED fixture at a fraction of the electric usage?!) Number three, it is always changing. You may think that you have worked with every last commercial customer in a city to help them save all they can, but then new product hits the market several years later and you are able to present another viable energy efficiency upgrade and do it all over again.
What advice do you have for women who are thinking about working in energy?
I tell women, and young girls, and teenage girls to explore the field of electricity! I have two daughters and have asked if they have ever thought about being a line worker! There is so much potential in any department, at any level, working for an energy company. The future projection of retirees in the industry, paired with the sound fiscal responsibility, leadership, and earning potential working for a utility or electric provider, make this a high-demand career field that students should explore before college and women should explore for a new opportunity. It is the understated, seldom marketed career path that is often overshadowed by the more easily defined “doctor,” or “teacher” or “police officer.” Get out of the box and see the world of potential working in energy!
Energy Services Field Representative
Amy graduated from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and an English minor. Her career, thus far, has spanned the gamut of non-profits, private for-profit, corporations, and government. Prior to becoming an Energy Services Representative at Missouri River Energy Services, Amy worked with the Brainerd Lakes Area Development Corporation as an Economic Developer, and with Target Corporation as a Senior Business Analyst and Project Manager. In her spare time Amy loves to read, spend time with her husband and three children, walk and hike, and travel (she hopes to visit every National Park in the U.S. one day).
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MN Women in #Energy: Amy Collins
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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.