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 Nina Axelson, Vice President Public Relations with Ever-Green 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 oversee public affairs for Ever-Green Energy, a utility and engineering company in Saint Paul that helps modernize and manage reliable energy systems. My team leads the government affairs, communications, marketing and sales, outreach, education, and community giving for the company. Additionally, I have overseen research and renewable energy deployment projects for the organization.
How did you get into this work?
I studied environmental science with a policy emphasis at the University of Minnesota because I was most interested in how the intersection of science and people could help us improve the planet. After dabbling in heavier environmental policy work, I found myself more drawn to community-driven projects through positions with the YWCA, Best Buy, and a neighborhood organization in Saint Paul. Coming to work with Ever-Green offered me an opportunity to merge my interest in community organizing, policy, and science.
What is a typical day like for you?
There are very few typical days in my job, which is something that I really enjoy. Mostly it gets split between time outside learning from others in the industry and meeting with partners, or spending time with my coworkers, learning about the latest from our operations and projects. I love that I could spend one day in a plant or wood yard and the next day working through an engineering study and trying to problem solve financing or implementation. When I do get a stretch of time to myself, I spend it writing or planning for our communications and outreach efforts.
What are the best and worst parts of your job?
The two things I love about the work are also the hardest. First, science and energy are not always the most interesting topics for folks. So creating excitement and engagement about technical concepts can be difficult, as the folks at CERTs know all too well. However, I think finding ways to make energy interesting and connecting it to what people value is really amazing and fulfilling. The second is similar, with a wide range of technical acumen out there, it is easy for there to be missteps and challenges with achieving meaningful system change. Energy can also drop down the priority list when policymakers and citizens have so many other challenges in front of them. I believe that there is a lot of common ground to be found, where decarbonization efforts can also be economic drivers and job creators. So the best part of the work is taking this as a challenge to understand people’s perspective and value set, so we can find the common ground to make our systems smarter, more efficient, more renewable, and more integrated.
What about your job inspires you?
This answer for me has probably changed every year I have been in the job. It started with the immense possibilities to make change. Then it was the people, particularly folks like Diana McKeown, Anne Hunt, and Ellen Anderson, not to mention my boss Ken Smith, who were throwing their whole selves into this work. Then it was the projects, exciting and gamechanging and creative. The Saint Paul RiverCentre Solar Thermal project, the Saint Paul EcoDistrict, and the Plume Project will forever be some of the proudest moments of my life with some of the best partners. Now, as much as I want to say that it is the unbelievable rate of change in renewables, EVs, and other solutions, it actually comes back to the people. I see women coming together in our sector in new and exciting ways to open up the path for the next generation and elevate each other in this important work. I see the room and the podium changing and new and impressive voices getting their turn to share a different perspective. This is how you galvanize new ideas, recruit excellence, sustain momentum. This has me tremendously inspired!
What advice do you have for women who are thinking about working in energy?
Find peers. Find mentors. There is a community here to help you navigate this industry. Also, recognize that sometimes when you are one of only 10 women in a crowd of 1000 that may hold tremendous power. It took a lot of years for me to realize that my perspective in that crowd might actually be really valuable and now I own it.
Vice President Public Relations
Nina Axelson oversees public affairs for Ever-Green Energy and its affiliates. Axelson’s role includes oversight of legislative and local government affairs, community outreach and philanthropy, and education programming. She has led major initiatives for the organization, including oversight of the nation’s largest solar thermal installation and authoring of studies for clients, the Department of Energy, and the International Energy Agency. Axelson currently serves on the Board of Directors for the International District Energy Association and Clean Energy Economy Minnesota. Prior to joining Ever-Green, Axelson worked in community and business development with a focus on energy and the environment. Axelson holds a BS in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies from the University of Minnesota.
Join us in celebrating Nina 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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MN Women in #Energy: Read our interview with Nina Axelson (
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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