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 2018, which is Women’s History Month, culminating in a reception at the 2018 CERTs Conference in St. Cloud on March 28th.
As part of the series we interviewed Anna Richey, Southern Minnesota Regional Manager with Conservation Minnesota and Chair of the Rochester Energy Commission, 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?
As the Southern Minnesota Regional Manager for Conservation Minnesota, my job takes me all over the region to work with local units of government, citizens groups, and other organizations on clean energy initiatives. From helping to advocate for solar in Saint Peter to collaborating with groups like Clean Energy Economy Minnesota to encourage elected officials to support good renewable energy policy, the scope of my work on energy is broad. Overall, I would say that in the last three and a half years, I’ve become a connector of sorts, helping to connect our members and others with similar goals to achieve desired outcomes.
I’m also in my second year as the Chair of the Rochester Energy Commission, on which I’ve served for the past three years. The Commission is tasked with executing the City’s Energy Action Plan, which we also developed. The goals of the plan are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050, lower retail electric rates 1.5% annually and achieve 25% renewable energy by 2025. I work with the other commissioners, City departments and our shared City/Destination Medical Center Sustainability Energy and Sustainability Director to develop projects, outreach opportunities and policies that support these goals.
How did you get into this work?
My interest in environmental and energy policy was first piqued when I was living in California after college. Their renewable energy development and policies around carbon emissions and water conservation were decades ahead of the rest of the country. My real understanding, though, developed over a career in politics and time spent at the State Legislature working as a Legislative Assistant for a member of the relevant committees. As I was required to develop position statements for candidates and follow legislation, I came to not just understand but really love the intersection between environment and technology when it comes to clean energy. Just like all other outdated systems of delivering service, I could see that not only was coal not viable from an environmental standpoint, but it’s an antiquated technology. When Conservation Minnesota decided to hire someone to work in Southern Minnesota, I was already living in Rochester and jumped at the opportunity.
What is a typical day like for you?
The best part of my job and work with the Commission is that there is no “typical” day. I feel very fortunate that my job offers such a variety of tasks, challenges and opportunities that no two weeks or two days look alike. I may start Monday morning having coffee with a member in Winona and end my week with a clean energy coalition in Mankato. A morning that starts with a Rochester meeting on energy efficiency could end in Minneapolis at an event for the Climate Smart Municipalities project and dinner with a delegation from Germany. I see my function as that of a connector, facilitator and ally, so every opportunity is valuable to moving renewable energy forward in Southern Minnesota.
What are the best and worst parts of your job?
Meeting all of the incredible, passionate people who work in this industry and the advocates who support the work is hands-down the best part of the job. I am always learning from others’ experience and I often can’t believe I get paid to do this. The worst part is feeling like I am inadequate as one person with so much turf to cover. If there were even two more of me, I feel like so much more could be done and so many more initiatives given the time and attention they deserve. But, I imagine most people in this industry feel the same way.
What about your job inspires you?
I am inspired by the creativity and innovative thinking that are always going on around me. The people who are passionate about clean energy come to it from a variety of backgrounds and motivations. But, ultimately, it’s about helping people, improving the environment and looking toward the future; there’s nothing more inspiring than being part of something that encompasses all of those values.
What advice do you have for women who are thinking about working in energy?
What I wish someone had told me when I started was that there would be a deliberate attempt to intimidate me by industry veterans. Whether through talking circles around me with technical jargon and acronyms or by more aggressive means, this has been a constant. The learning curve is steep, but not endless and there is an advantage to being “big picture” and willing to consider lots of new ideas and approaches. Linear thinking has its place and we need it from engineers. But, policy requires creativity and the ability to see unique scenarios and solutions, so there’s a place for all strengths in energy work. So, get comfortable with being in the minority in most rooms and be prepared to stand your ground. But, DO IT.
Southern Minnesota Regional Manager, Conservation Minnesota
A Minnesota native, Anna also lived around the country—including in San Francisco and New Orleans—before declaring Rochester home four years ago. She spent a decade working on political campaigns around Minnesota, as well as working at the State Capitol and learning the ins and outs of municipal planning as a project assistant for a private transportation and urban design firm.
Currently, Anna works for Conservation Minnesota, serving as the Southern Minnesota Regional Manager, working with community leaders and people who want to protect Minnesota’s Great Outdoors and promote clean, renewable energy throughout the region. She is also currently serving her second year as the Chair of the Rochester Energy Commission.
Anna is a 2004 graduate of Kenyon College in Ohio. In her spare time, she can be found year-round enjoying our Minnesota Outdoors on the trails or with a fishing pole in hand.
Join us in celebrating Anna and other leaders at the 2018 CERTs Conference!
Join hundreds of Minnesotans exploring their clean energy options March 28-29 at the 2018 Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) Conference! The first day ends with a reception honoring women leading Minnesota’s clean energy industry and featuring dinner-worthy appetizers, drinks, more networking, and games. Learn more and register >>
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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.
All 2018 Interviews