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 2016, which is Women’s History Month.
As part of the series we interviewed Amy Fredregill, Manager of Resource Planning and Strategy at Xcel Energy, 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 Northern States Power Company Minnesota (NSP-MN) which is one of the operating companies under the Xcel Energy umbrella. I work in the regulatory department. Our department files approximately 1,000 regulatory filings per year. Our regulatory process entails having many aspects of our business approved by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC), so we have a close relationship with the Commission and the Minnesota Department of Commerce. We spend a lot of time working with stakeholders on our various proceedings and issues that are on the horizon by answering questions, staying in the loop, and making sure they are getting the information they need.
I started here in August and I was previously the executive director of The Midwest Renewable Energy Tracking System (M-RETS), a REC tracking system. Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) are the commodity that is used to demonstrate compliance with state renewable standards and to make renewable claims in the voluntary market place. They track data on renewable energy generation that the account holders can use for these claims.
I came to Xcel from M-RETS in August and I am helping to run a new team here called Resource Planning and Strategy. We get involved with a lot of resource planning issues in the Upper Midwest, including Integrated Resource Plans (IRP), general resource acquisition and renewable energy issues as well.
I have a background in policy and government affairs; so before I was running M-RETS, I was working for a trade association for cooperative businesses. I worked with electrical, agricultural, health care, housing, food and financial cooperatives—any business that was structured as a cooperative. Before that, I was working in Washington DC on the hill, with Senator Harkin on conservation, rural environmental issues on the agricultural committee. Before that I was working for Bill Grant on energy and agriculture issues when he was the Director at the Izaak Walton League (Midwest Division).
How did you get into this work?
I have been doing energy work for the last twenty years. I have an interest in environmental issues. My undergraduate degree is in economics and environmental studies and my Masters degree is in environmental policy. I like to work really collaboratively and one of my roles at Xcel is to do a lot of work with stakeholders and find out what different ideas stakeholders have and share those ideas. I like to figure out ways that we can find common ground and how we can reach mutually-beneficial results for-policy goals, business goals, and business needs. The Resource Plan Supplement that was just filed on January 29th is visionary. We have proposed retiring the two coal-burning units at the Sherco plant in Becker in the mid-2020s and cutting our carbon emissions by 60%. That is a pretty good example of the collaborative efforts and the work that we have been doing for the past year to work with stakeholders on our plans.
What is a typical day like for you?
There is so much going on, and because of that I work across various departments and business units at Xcel, including environmental policy, energy supply, corporate development, community relations, government relations, transmission and distribution. Of course, we have all the regulatory issues for the different operating companies across Xcel and the different states we work with. We have all kinds of meetings between these parts of the companies to coordinate. For example, we administer the Renewable Development Fund which has a stakeholder-based advisory group—a group of diverse individuals that help advise and make recommendations on the use of those funds. We have an advisory group meeting this afternoon and then I am heading up to St. Cloud for the MPCA’s Clean Power Plan listening session. So that’s an example of one day!
We typically work across state lines and we manage our system as a five-state system. We had a meeting yesterday to coordinate our various dockets. We also have an outreach team that is working with stakeholders on the resource plan. We have weekly meetings to coordinate on the information requests for the resource plan. Quite the diversity to my days around here.
What are the best and worst parts of your job?
I just had my six month anniversary last week so I am still in a big learning phase. I feel that my mind is filled with all the interesting things going on and how I can use my experience to keep working toward solutions that are the best for the company and the public. I really enjoy that. The hardest thing is prioritizing. There are so many things that you can or should be participating in. It is about choices and it is hard to know, when you are doubled and tripled booked, what is the best use of that hour. Thinking creatively about what our highest priorities are and how we can get other people involved. Do we have the right people at the table? Are we talking about the right things?
What about your job inspires you?
I am really interested to see how Xcel looks at all the challenges and opportunities and navigates through the complex web when making big resource decisions. I am really excited about the opportunities we have in front of us thanks to tax credits and affordable financing opportunities for renewables. Our modelling shows that it makes the most sense to consider renewables in a lot of cases. I am really interested to see how, over time, those numbers have changed and where we sit today with very affordable wind energy. The prices for solar are dropping and I’m really excited about that.
What advice do you have for women who are thinking about working in energy?
I always like to tell people that this is an incredibly fascinating field. I came from a background in agriculture and energy policy. The energy world is much more diverse in terms of gender than the agricultural industry. I wouldn’t discourage anyone from working in either field. I think they are equally fascinating, with important work. There are all kinds of opportunities for leadership in the utility industry. Things are changing so quickly—batteries, storage, conservation, and new technologies that are very consumer-centric.
I would encourage people to set their heights high and think about what their dream job is down the road. I think it is hard because there is so much fascinating work out there. When it comes to energy policy, it is such a small world in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. Maintain really constructive relationships and try to be a trusted resource for information. Keep growing your network and talking to people, asking questions and being curious.
I think a good way for people to expand their expertise and network is to serve on boards of nonprofits. If you want to get into the energy industry and you haven’t been in the industry yet, there are organizations that work on those issues who are always looking for great strategic directors. If you are struggling with finding your niche or need to flush out your resume, I think that it is a good opportunity to serve on a board. I serve on the board of MAP for Nonprofits and they help facilitate matching people with board service. I think they are a really helpful tool for people to get involved.
Manager of Resource Planning and Strategy
Amy Fredregill is Xcel Energy’s Manager of Resource Planning and Strategy for the Regulatory Affairs department of Northern States Power Company. She began this new role in August 2015. Amy is involved with Xcel’s long-term regulatory strategy, including resource planning, acquisitions, renewable energy policy and utility business model transformation initiatives with stakeholders in the Upper Midwest.
Having worked in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, Amy has nearly 20 years of experience in policy, energy, and environmental issues in the Midwest and nationally. Prior to Xcel, Amy was Executive Director for the Midwest Renewable Energy Tracking System (M-RETS); she was hired by the M-RETS board of directors in 2011 as the organization’s first employee to help structure and grow the organization. Previously, Fredregill was Vice President of the Cooperative Network, a business trade association working with cooperatives in the Upper Midwest, where she focused on policy issues in the energy and agriculture industries. Amy has also held positions as a legislative aide for the US Senate and a researcher for the MN Public Utilities Commission.
Amy has travelled internationally to consult on several USAID partnerships, most recently in Mexico to assist with federal energy reform. She currently serves on the board of MAP for Nonprofits and was previously appointed by Governor Dayton to the board of the Center for Rural Policy and Development. She received a Master’s degree in Public Policy and Nonprofit Management from the George Washington University and a B.A. in Economics from the College of St. Benedict. In her free time, she plays the fiddle and enjoys wilderness backpacking, cross country skiing, canoeing, and kayaking with her husband.
Share on Twitter!
For #wmnhist #IWD2016
mncerts</a> is highlighting 18 women leading MN's <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CleanEnergy?src=hash">#CleanEnergy</a> industry! <a href="https://t.co/N6dQ6gXx6U">https://t.co/N6dQ6gXx6U</a> <a href="https://t.co/q0ZWy51Iym">pic.twitter.com/q0ZWy51Iym</a></p>— CERTs (MNCERTs) March 1, 2016
|About the Author: Kathleen McGee is a freelance writer and content strategist for environmental organizations. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.|
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.