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Learn More about the Midwest Energy Storage Summit Speakers

August 3, 2017Megan ButlerEvents, Featured, MESAComments Off on Learn More about the Midwest Energy Storage Summit Speakers

Energy Storage Summit Speaker and Moderator List


Mary Powell


Green Mountain Power 

Mary Powell is nationally recognized as an energy visionary, positioning Green Mountain Power as a leading energy transformation company. Mary Powell will be the Keynote Speaker at the Summit and Green Mountain Power was recently featured in this New York Times article for its efforts to rethink carbon-based power systems

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Delivering clean, cost-effective and highly reliable power to customers all across Vermont, GMP offers cutting-edge products and service to reduce costs and carbon.  In 2017, GMP was named one of the top 10 energy companies in the world by Fast Company. GMP has also achieved the top score for mid-sized utilities in the East Region in J.D. Power’s 2016 electric utility residential customer satisfaction study.

Mary has served as president and chief executive officer for GMP since 2008.  She initiated and implemented a strategic and comprehensive restructuring of the company that dramatically transformed GMP, and she has been the backbone of a cultural transformation and service quality improvement.  Fast, fun, and effective is her motto. Under Mary’s leadership, GMP became the first utility in the world to become a member of B Corp, showing a commitment to use energy as a force for good.

Mary has delivered on an ambitious energy vision to provide low-carbon, low-cost and highly reliable power to Vermonters.  As a result, GMP became the first utility to offer to help customers go off-grid, built Vermont’s largest wind farm, made Rutland, Vermont, the Solar Generation Capital of New England, and installed smart grid technology across GMP’s service territory.

In 2012, Mary led the acquisition of Central Vermont Public Service, with a promise to generate $144 million in savings for customers.  GMP has grown from serving 88,000 customers in 2008 to serving over 260,000 customers, with revenues of more than $640 million and $2 billion in assets.

And in 2015, Mary led another partnership with Tesla, with GMP becoming the first utility anywhere to offer customers the Tesla Powerwall battery.

In 2014, Mary was recognized by Powergen as the Woman of the Year, in 2015 The Burlington Free Press named her Vermonter of the Year, in 2016 Fast Company named Mary one of the 100 most creative people in business, and in 2017, Mary was named one of the top 25 Most Influential Women of the Mid-Market by CEO Connection.

Chistopher B. Clark


Xcel Energy– Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota 

Chrisopher Clark is responsable for the strategic plan and financial results of Xcel Energy as well as the company’s customer, community, regulatory legislative and governmental relationships in Minneosta, North Dakota and South Dakota.

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Chris Clark is president of Xcel Energy–Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.  Previously he was regional vice president, Rates and Regulatory Affairs.  Clark joined Xcel Energy in the legal department in 1999 and has more than 20 years of experience in energy and regulation.  He serves on the board of directors for the nonprofit organization People Serving People and is also on the board of directors of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.  Clark is a graduate of the University of Iowa and Drake Law School.

George Crabtree


Joint Center for Energy Storage Research 

George Crabtree is Director of the Joint Center for Energy Storage (JCESR) at Argonne National Laboratory and Professor of Physics, Electrical and Mechanical Engineering at University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC). 

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He has wide experience in next-generation battery technology and integrating energy science, technology, policy and societal decision-making. He has led workshops for the Department of Energy on energy science and technology, is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has testified before the U.S. Congress. 

Kelly Speakes-Backman

Chief Executive Officer

Energy Storage Association 

Prior to coming to the Energy Storage Association Kelly Speakes-Backman spent over 20 years working on energy and environmental issues in the public, NGO and private sectors.

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Kelly Speakes-Backman is the first Chief Executive Officer of the Energy Storage Association (ESA), the national trade organization for the energy storage industry. As CEO, she leads the association’s efforts to represent the interests of energy storage in the United States, including policy, external relations, and industry leadership. Prior to joining ESA, Kelly was part of the executive team at Alliance to Save Energy, a premier trade association representing the energy efficiency sector. As the Senior Vice President of Policy and Research, she directed the policy efforts, working closely with industry and policy makers to advance energy efficiency. Kelly has spent more than 20 years working in energy and energy efficiency, sustainability, renewables, and environmental business strategies. Her direct technology experience includes power generation from solar, wind, biogas and biomass, distributed generation, natural gas, smart grid and fuel cells. She joined the public service sector in 2010 as the Clean Energy Director at the Maryland Energy Administration, where she led a team of policy experts and grant administrators to implement programs to meet the Administration’s goal of increasing Maryland’s renewable energy portfolio to 20 percent by 2022. Kelly has testified in Congressional Committees on energy issues, presented regularly at energy industry events and has authored several articles published in energy trade magazines. She also has served on several energy-related steering committees, including the GridWise Alliance (GWA) Grid Modernization Index (GMI) Steering Committee and the SEPA 51st State Initiative. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Boston University.

Ellen Anderson

Executive Director

University of Minnesota Energy Transition Lab

Prior to coming to the Energy Transition Lab, Ellen Anderson served in the Minnesota Senate, was a senior advisor to Gov. Mark Dayton, and served as chair of the MN Public Utilities Commission.

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From 2012 to 2014, Anderson was senior advisor on energy and environment to Gov. Mark Dayton and assisted the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board on energy and environmental issues. Anderson helped coordinate state climate change planning, led the implementation of Gov. Dayton’s Executive Order 11-32, including organizing the EQB’s Minnesota Environmental Congress, issuing Minnesota’s Environment and Energy Report Card, and initiating and drafting the EQB’s Minnesota and Climate Change: Our Tomorrow Starts Today report.

In March 2011 Gov. Dayton appointed Anderson chair of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, where she served until early 2012.

Anderson served in the Minnesota Senate from 1993 to 2011 and was re-elected five times, representing several neighborhoods of St. Paul and the city of Falcon Heights.  She chaired the Jobs, Energy and Community Development Committee; the Commerce Committee; the Energy and Telecommunications Committee; and the Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Finance Committee. Her signature legislation includes the Renewable Energy Standard, the Community Based Energy Development law, the Next Generation Energy Act, and many other energy and consumer protection laws, including a law raising the minimum wage; the Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment (co-author); the Mortgage Foreclosure Prevention Act; and the first law in the nation, now in federal law, protecting nursing mothers in the workplace.

Anderson holds a B.A. from Carleton College and J.D. cum laude from the University of Minnesota Law School. She was an adjunct faculty member at Metropolitan State University and the University of Minnesota, teaching courses in law, energy, and sustainability. She has served in numerous leadership and community volunteer positions and received dozens of awards for her leadership in energy, environment, and economic and social justice. Most recently, Anderson received the 2013 Ecological Society of America Regional Policy Award for Informing Policy with Ecological Science and served on the advisory committee for the 2014 Midwest Innovation Summit. She currently serves as a member of the Citizens League Electrical Energy Study Committee, an observer to the e21 project on new utility business models, and the advisory boards for the U of MN Joint Degree Program in Law, Science & Technology, and the Will Steger Foundation.

Ed Burgess

Senior Manager

Strategen Consulting 

Ed helps to lead Strategen’s utility and government consulting practices. He specializes in evaluation and design of policies and programs to advance deployment distributed energy resources, demand-side management programs, energy storage and grid integration of renewable energy. 

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Ed has served clients in the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries, including several Fortune 500 companies, major energy project developers, trade associations, utilities, government agencies, universities, and foundations. His analysis has helped to guide regulations and policies in many states across the country and given companies strategic insight into clean energy investment opportunities. Prior to joining Strategen, Ed worked as an independent consultant where he provided technical analysis to a law firm in Arizona, supporting the firm’s clients in cases before the Arizona Corporation Commission. He also worked with Schlegel & Associates to provide technical analysis on demand-side management policies in Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania and several other states. Ed also played a lead role in two major initiatives at Arizona State University: The Utility of the Future Center and the Energy Policy Innovation Council where he conducted research and policy analysis for the Governor’s Office of Energy Policy, the Department of Environmental Quality, and other major stakeholders in Arizona. At the Utility of the Future Center, he also worked with utilities and former utility Commissioners across the country to develop a strategic approach and model rules for transitioning to a distributed energy future. Ed earned his bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Princeton University and two degrees from Arizona State University – Master of Science (M.S.) in Sustainability and Professional Science Master (P.S.M.) of Solar Energy Engineering and Commercialization.

Christopher Clack

Founder, CEO

Vibrant Clean Energy  

Dr. Clack is an expert in Renewable Energy, Atmospheric Science, Energy Modeling, Computer Programming, and Optimization. Dr. Clack recently collaborated with the Energy Transition Lab and Strategen Consulting to conduct an analysis of the energy storage opportunities that exist in Minnesota.

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Dr. Clack is the founder and CEO of Vibrant Clean Energy, LLC (VCE) a software and intelligent services company that focuses on optimization techniques and renewable energy integration into the electricity grid. VCE has produced the world’s first continental-scale energy modeling optimization tool that resolves at high temporal- and spatial- resolution. The flagship tool is known as WIS:dom and was built by Dr. Clack from the ground up to simultaneously consider weather-driven renewables, storage, DERs, transmission, and dispatch using big-data. VCE works with industry, government, and academia to accelerate adoption of efficient planning for a shifting energy paradigm. Dr. Clack is an expert in Renewable Energy, Atmospheric Science, Energy Modeling, Computer Programming, and Optimization. Prior to founding VCE, Dr. Clack was a research scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado Boulder working with the Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) NOAA for half a decade leading the development of the NEWS simulator. Before that, he was a postdoctoral fellow with the National Academy of Sciences. Dr. Clack received his first-class BSc (Hons) in mathematics and statistics for the University of Manchester, UK. He then went on to research applied mathematics and plasma physics at the University of Sheffield, UK. During his PhD, Dr. Clack completed an area of study centered on nonlinear resonance theory within the framework of magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) that remained unsolved for twenty years. The theories derived have helped our understanding of the Sun as well as possibilities for fusion reactors, such as ITER. 

Lin Franks 

Senior Strategist, RTO, FERC and compliance Initiatives

Indianapolis Power & Light Company

Ms. Franks has worked towards the creation of appropriate FERC and RTO tariff and business practice rules to incent interconnection of batteries with the grid.

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Ms. Franks is the Senior Strategist, RTO, FERC and compliance Initiatives for Indianapolis Power & Light Company (“IPL), an AES company.  As part of IPL’s active engagement with the Midcontinent ISO (MISO) Stakeholder process, she represents IPL for market, reliability and transmission issues. She has over the past three years worked toward the creation of appropriate FERC and RTO tariff and business practices rules to incent interconnection of batteries with the grid.  She spearheaded integration of the first lithium ion battery, IPL’s Harding Street BESS, into MISO.    She also coordinates the drafting and submittal of comments to FERC for all US AES Entities.

Ms. Franks was the sponsor of and Chairman of the Electric and Natural Gas Coordination Task Force from its beginning in 2012 till September 2015. She previously served as the Chair of the MISO Ancillary Services Task Force and as the Chair of the State Ratemaking Study Group, and the Long-Term FTR and Planning Task Force, the Vice Chair of the Interconnection Process Task Force, the Supply Adequacy Working Group and the Stakeholder Governance Working Group.

Ms. Franks has more than forty years industry experience in the United States and Western European energy industries.  Her electricity experience covers real time operations, transmission and generation planning and more.   She has held both line and officer positions in the electricity and natural gas sectors and contributed to the success of the two most notable natural gas hubs/market centers in the world, Henry Hub and Zeebrugge. Her natural gas experience includes designing and drilling natural gas wells, physical and financial trading of hydrocarbons as well as hub and pipeline operations.  She was a contributing author in a book published by Risk Publication, “The US Power Market” and the March 2000, “Telecommunications Revolution.”  She also contributed to the Energy Publishing Enterprises 2000 publication “Energy Derivatives: Trading Emerging Markets.” 

William Grant 

Deputy Commissioner, Division of Energy Resources

Minnesota Department of Commerce 

As Deputy Commissioner of the Energy Resources Division within the Minnesota Department of Commerce, William Grant oversees Utility Planning and Advocacy, Low Income Home Energy Assistance and Weatherization programs, and the State Energy Office.

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Mr. Grant was promoted to Director of the Midwest Office of the Izaak Walton League of America in 1995, and to the position of League Associate Executive Director in 2002.  Mr. Grant directed the League’s advocacy of utility regulatory reform policies to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy in the Upper Midwest beginning in January 1992. Mr. Grant was instrumental in the development of several League publications, including Power to Spare in the Upper Midwest, (with Nancy Lange); Energy Efficiency and Minnesota Jobs: The Employment Impacts of Electric Utility Demand-Side Management Programs, The Landowner’s Guide to Wind Energy in the Upper Midwest, and most recently, License to Pollute: Minnesota Coal Plants and the Dirty Power Loophole. Before joining the League, Mr. Grant spent seven years with the Minnesota Department of Public Service, his responsibilities including review of utility conservation plans, integrated resource plans, and certificate of need filings, and interventions before federal regulatory agencies.  Mr. Grant also spent six months on special assignment to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency where he authored, Carbon Fees to Support Minnesota ReLeaf: Implementation Recommendations, a study of the administrative process for collecting a carbon tax on emitters to support a statewide tree planting program. Mr. Grant holds a B.A. in political science and history from Macalester College in St. Paul (1979), and his Masters in Public Administration from Hamline University, St. Paul (1995).

Jessica Hellmann 


Institute on the Environment (IonE) 

Jessica Hellmann provides overall strategic leadership for IonE, an internationally recognized organization working to solve grand environmental challenges. 

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Jessica Hellmann is the director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota. She provides overall strategic leadership for the institute, an internationally recognized organization working to solve grand environmental challenges while promoting interdisciplinary research, teaching and leadership across the university and engaging external partners and stakeholders. She is also the Russell M. and Elizabeth M. Bennett Chair in Excellence in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior in the College of Biological Sciences.

Hellmann’s research focuses on global change ecology and climate adaptation. She was among the first to propose and study ways to reduce the impact of climate change through new techniques in conservation management. Hellmann led an important paradigm shift in ecology and natural resource management by showing that adaptation — living with climate change — is just as crucial to the future of humanity and Earth’s ecosystems as slowing and stopping greenhouse gas emissions. Her research and that of her students also has shown that differences in the way populations respond to climate change are key to predicting and managing their future.

Hellmann regularly counsels state and national governments on habitat management, restoration and endangered species conservation so future generations can enjoy the beauty and function of nature as we do today. In addition, building upon her seminal findings in ecology, Hellmann has extended her work on climate change adaptation to human systems, including health, infrastructure, food and water. She works with governments and corporations to build investment in climate change adaptation and co-authored several climate assessment and adaptation planning efforts, including the biodiversity and ecosystem portions of the Chicago Climate Action Plan and the 2014 National Climate Assessment. She sits on the Board of Directors of the Great Plains Institute, the Science Advisory Council of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, and the Visiting Committee of the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources.

Before coming to the University of Minnesota in 2015, Hellmann was on the faculty at the University of Notre Dame in the Department of Biological Sciences. She also served as research director of the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, which assesses and ranks the vulnerability of nations around the world to climate change and their readiness to adapt to climate change. She continues to collaborate with ND-GAIN as a core research member, mentoring several ND-GAIN researchers based at the University of Minnesota and elsewhere around the country. In addition, she led the climate change adaptation program at Notre Dame’sEnvironmental Change Initiative and directed GLOBES, an interdisciplinary graduate training program in environment and society, among numerous other high-level academic and scientific responsibilities. She also founded Notre Dame’s undergraduate minor in sustainability.

Hellmann earned her Ph.D. in biology from Stanford University and served as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation and the University of British Columbia’s Centre for Biodiversity Research. She is an alumna of Stanford’s Leopold Leadership Program and a recipient of a career enhancement fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. She became a member of the Notre Dame faculty in 2003.

Hellmann is a frequent contributor to leading scientific journals such as Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, BioScience and PLOS ONE. She serves on the editorial board of the journal Evolutionary Applications, is an associate editor with both Conservation Biology and Elementa, and serves on committees for the Ecological Society of America, the College Board and the National Academy of Sciences.

A skilled science communicator, Hellmann is routinely called upon by leading media outlets around the world such as CNN, NPR, Fox News, The Telegraph and the Chicago Tribune to provide expert input on topics related to global change and ways to minimize adverse impacts to people and nature.

Originally from Indiana and Michigan, Hellmann enjoys a wide range of activities, including marathoning, traveling the world, exploring the Midwest, gardening and spending quiet time with her husband and daughter.

Alexandra B. Klass

Distinguished McKnight University Professor

University of Minnesota Law School 

As a Distinguished McKnight University Professor at the University of Minnesota Law School Alexandra Klass teaches and writes in the areas of energy law, environmental law, natural resources law, tort law, and property law.

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Her recent scholarly work, published in many of the nation’s leading law journals, addresses regulatory challenges to integrating more renewable energy into the nation’s electric transmission grid, siting and eminent domain issues surrounding interstate electric transmission lines and oil and gas pipelines, and applications of the public trust doctrine to modern environmental law challenges. She is a co-author of Energy Law and Policy (West Academic Publishing 2015) (with Davies, Osofsky, Tomain, and Wilson), The Practice and Policy of Environmental Law (Foundation Press, 4th ed. 2017) (with Ruhl, Salzman, and Nagle) and Energy Law: Concepts and Insights (Foundation Press 2017) (with Hannah Wiseman). Prior to her teaching career, Professor Klass was a partner at Dorsey & Whitney LLP in Minneapolis, where she specialized in environmental law and land use litigation. She received her B.A. from the University of Michigan and her J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School. She was a law clerk to the Honorable Barbara B. Crabb, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. She is a member scholar at the Center for Progressive Reform and a Fellow and Advisory Board member at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. She served as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of Minnesota Law School from 2010-2012. She was a Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School in 2015.

David Kolata

Executive Director

Citizens Utility Board, Illinois

The Citizens Utility Board has been called the “gold standard of consumer groups nationwide” by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. 

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David Kolata started at CUB in 2001 as a senior policy analyst, moving to director of policy and government affairs in 2003.  He was named Executive Director in September 2005. Prior to joining CUB, he was a policy analyst for the Environmental Law & Policy Center, where he focused on transportation and energy issues. David is a 1991 graduate of the University of Notre Dame.  He received a master’s degree in political science from the University of Toronto in 1993, and a Ph.D. in the same subject from Vanderbilt University in 2003. He is a board member of the Illinois Environmental Council. 

Nancy Lange


Minnesota Public Utilities Commission 

Nancy Lange was appointed Commissioner to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission by Governor Mark Dayton, effective March 4, 2013, and appointed Chair, January 23, 2017.

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Chair Lange is a member of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) and is Chair of its Committee on Energy Resources and the Environment. She also serves on the NARUC Committee on Washington Action. Chair Lange is a member of the Midcontinent States Environmental and Energy Regulators (MSEER) group and currently serves as its Chair. She also serves as a member of the Mid-America Regulatory Conference (MARC). Prior to her appointment, Chair Lange served as Manager of Policy and Engagement at the Center for Energy and Environment. Ms. Lange holds a B.S. from Iowa State University and M.A. in Public Policy from the University of Minnesota. Her term will expire on January 7, 2019.

Clair Moeller

Executive Five President, Operations


As an executive leader of the office of the Chief Operating Officer, Mr. Moeller is responsible for MISO’s transmission planning functions and transmission services. He is a well-respected industry expert with more than 25 years of experience in the operation of power systems in the Upper Midwest.

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Mr. Moeller is skilled at identifying and implementing best practices in transmission planning and operations. His current focus is infrastructure planning in collaboration with the utilities that serve the 15 states and one Canadian province that comprise the MISO region. Under his guidance, transmission planners in the region have begun to explore transmission infrastructure value by utilizing techniques borrowed from generation and strategic planners in an effort to give policymakers context for the decisions they will face as the electric energy future unfolds. Mr. Moeller completed the Oxford Advanced Management and Leadership course at Oxford Said Business School, the Executive Management program at the Carlson School of Business, University of Minnesota, and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Iowa State University. 

Todd Olinsky-Paul

Project Director

Clean Energy States Alliance 

Todd Olinsky-Paul directs CESA’s Energy Storage and Technology Advancement Partnership (ESTAP) project, a federal-state funding and information sharing project that aims to accelerate the deployment of electrical energy storage technologies in the USA.

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As project director for Clean Energy Group (CEG) and Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA), Todd Olinsky-Paul directs CESA’s Energy Storage and Technology Advancement Partnership (ESTAP) project. In this capacity, Todd works closely with DOE, Sandia National Laboratory, and numerous state and municipal energy agencies. Todd also works on CEG’s Resilient Power Project, which focuses on behind-the-meter solar+storage for critical infrastructure energy resiliency. His recent work has focused on energy storage technologies, policy, financing, and markets. Todd has an M.S. in Environmental Policy from Bard College and a B.A. from Brown University.

HSoholtBSoholt, Beth               

Executive Director

Wind on the Wires

Beth Soholt is the Executive Director of the non-profit organization Wind on the Wires (WOW). WOW is the Midwest’s premier organization focused on significantly expanding the penetration of wind power and overcoming the barriers to bringing wind power to market.

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 Lunched in 2001, WOW members include non-profit clean energy and environmental advocacy organizations, wind developers, wind turbine manufacturers, tribal representatives, and business that provide goods and services to the wind industry. The WOW footprint covers 9 states that stretch from the Dakotas to Indiana. WOW is a key regional partner of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and the groups work closely together to advance wind power development and transmission issues in the Midwest. Beth is responsible for guiding WOW’s work in the areas of transmission planning, state regulatory proceedings, legislative policy, and education/outreach and serves on the board of directors. She holds a seat on the Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO) Advisory Committee representing the Environmental Sector. Prior to WOW, Beth worked at the Izaak Walton League of America’s Midwest Office on deregulation and regional transmission issues, Mahlum & Associates Law Firm on energy issues, Minnesota State Senate as a senior staff member to Senator Richard Cohen, and Mid-Continent Area Power Pool (MAPP – predecessor to MISO) as staff to the Environmental Committee and Operating Committee. Beth holds a law degree from Hamline University Law School, St. Paul, Minnesota, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Luther College, Decorah, Iowa.

Ted J. Thomas

Chairman, Arkansas Public Service Commission

Vice President of the Organization, MISO

Ted Thomas of Conway was appointed Chairman of the Arkansas Public Service Commission by Governor Asa Hutchinson in January 2015. 

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He has served as Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for the 20th Judicial District, Administrative Law Judge at the Public Service Commission, Budget Director for Governor Mike Huckabee and in the Arkansas House of Representatives, where he served as Chairman of the State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee during his final term.

Chairman Thomas received a Bachelor of Arts with High Honors in Political Science from the University of Arkansas in 1986 and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Arkansas School of Law in 1988.  He is licensed to practice law before the United States Supreme Court, the Arkansas Supreme Court, the United States Courts of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and the Eight Circuit, and the United States District Courts for the Eastern and Western Districts of Arkansas.

Chairman Thomas is Vice President of the Organization of MISO States (OMS) and serves on the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) Washington Action Committee and the Committee on Electricity.

Sarah Van Cleve

Energy Policy Advisor


Sarah manages Tesla’s energy storage policy development, collaborating with regulators and legislators on policies affecting the development of energy storage in US electricity markets. 

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She leads Tesla’s policy on various electricity industry issues including resource procurement, integrated resource planning, and wholesale market design. Prior to working at Tesla, Sarah managed energy storage policy at Southern California Edison where she helped guide the utility’s groundbreaking procurement of 264 megawatts of energy storage. Sarah started her career as a financial analyst in electricity and emissions markets working in operations, trading, and market design. She holds a B.A. in Economics from UCLA.




Learn more about the Midwest Energy Storage Summit and register today!

Register Today for the Midwest Energy Storage Summit September 15, 2017

The University of Minnesota’s Energy Transition Lab, in partnership with the Minnesota Energy Storage Alliance, will host the Midwest Energy Storage Summit on Friday, September 15, 2017, at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. The Summit will include over 300 participants from throughout the Midwest representing energy leaders from industry, the public sector, academia and non-profit sectors.

The Summit will run from 8:00 AM- 4:00 PM on September 15th and will be followed by a networking reception from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM at the University of Minnesota Campus Club. The event is open to the public but space is limited so register today.  The modest registration fee includes meals and the networking reception.

Click Here To Register For The Summit

About the Midwest Energy Storage Summit

Our energy systems are undergoing a significant transition, and energy storage is linchpin for a more flexible, resilient, reliable, efficient, and low carbon grid.  Whether considering grid or distribution scale or customer applications, furthering deployment of storage in the Midwest will require an integrated, collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach, as well as a deep understanding of technology advancements and the market and regulatory environments.  

The goal of the Midwest Energy Storage Summit is to gather energy stakeholders from a variety of sectors in order to reach a shared understanding of energy storage trends, opportunities, and barriers in our region and nationally.  We will connect Midwesterners to learn from each other and explore opportunities for regional cooperation.  Key outcomes you can expect:

  • Understand MISO operations and rules relating to energy storage and current and future implications for the regional grid
  • Learn about storage from different perspectives:  
    • Policy and regulatory pathways
    • The role of research in bringing technology to market
    • Implementation – how “doers” get projects off the ground
  • Capitalize on networking and collaboration opportunities

Midwest Energy Storage Summit Agenda

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Mary Powell, CEO of Green Mountain Power, Vermont
  • Chris Clark, President of Xcel Energy’s Upper Midwest Division (Minnesota & the Dakotas)
  • George Crabtree, Director Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, Argonne National Lab
  • David Kolata, Executive Director of Citizens Utility Board, Illinois
  • Lin Franks, Senior Strategist of Indianapolis Power and Light
  • Jessica Hellman, Director of Institute on the Environment (University of Minnesota)
  • Tod Olinsky-Paul, Project Director for Clean Energy States Alliance
  • Ed Burgess, Senior Manager for Strategen Consulting
  • Clair Moeller, Chief Operating Officer for MISO
  • Kelly Speakes-Backman, Chief Executive Officer of the Energy Storage Association
  • Bill Grant, Deputy Commissioner of Division of Energy Resources for the MN Department of Commerce
  • Alex Klass, Distinguished McKnight Professor at the University of Minnesota Law School
  • Ted Thomas, Vice President of the Organization of MISO and Chairman of the Arkansas Public Services Commission
  • Beth Soholt, Executive Director for Wind on the Wires
  • Nancy Lange, Commissioner for the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission
  • Sarah Van Cleve, Energy Policy Advisor for Tesla

Read More about Summit Speakers Here


Click here for more information about Summit lodging and transportation 

Thank You, Midwest Energy Storage Summit Sponsors 

Kilowatt Sponsors

Fresh Energy

Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy

PAR Energy Solutions


Union of Concerned Scientists 

Supporting Partner: Midwestern Governors Association

Media Sponsor: Midwest Energy News

Become a Midwest Energy Storage Summit sponsor today! 

Modernizing Minnesota’s Grid: An Economic Analysis of Energy Storage Opportunities

Energy Storage Paired with Solar Found to Be More Cost Effective in Minnesota Today than Natural Gas Peaking Plants

As federal policy on renewable energy is being rolled back, a new UMN-led report finds that when environmental benefits are considered combined energy storage and solar arrays can be a more cost-effective alternative in Minnesota – implementable today – to natural gas peaking plants, which are fired up only to meet peak demand.

It also shows that increasing the deployment of energy storage combined with renewable energy would help Minnesota meet its statutory goal of 80 percent carbon reduction by 2050 sooner and at a lower cost than other technologies.

The report, “Modernizing Minnesota’s Grid: An Economic Analysis of Energy Storage Opportunities,” is the result of months-long effort led by the Energy Transition Lab (ETL) at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. Lessons learned could also be applied to other Midwest states that are in the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) footprint.

“Energy storage is a linchpin for Minnesota: It has the potential to reduce our system costs, increase electric grid resiliency, and even decrease greenhouse gas emissions in our broader coal-dependent region,” said Ellen Anderson, director of the Energy Transition Lab. “While the federal government questions the reliability of renewable energy, states like Minnesota are stepping up to show it’s possible to connect renewables and storage to reduce both costs and greenhouse gas emissions, while maintaining a reliable grid.”

Input from dozens of Minnesota energy experts laid the foundation for the analysis and final report.   ETL convened more than 60 stakeholders, including representatives from utilities, energy technology companies, nonprofits and government, in two Energy Storage Strategy Workshops starting in 2016 to assess the opportunities for energy storage in Minnesota and at MISO. Participants explored whether and how energy storage could be used to help Minnesota achieve its energy policy objectives, and enable greater system efficiency, resiliency and affordability. Project collaborators Strategen Consulting and Vibrant Clean Energy conducted the use-case and system-wide modeling for the analysis, with input from MISO.

In addition to showing that storage plus solar already could be more cost effective than peaking gas plants, including environmental benefits, the analysis shows that the deployment of storage in Minnesota is projected to increase the use of low-cost renewable energy generation dispatched in MISO and to reduce the need for expensive transmission investments.

Furthermore, it shows that as standalone storage becomes more economic, it will be able to compete with and displace new gas combustion turbines installed to meet peak demand. Beyond 2022, storage was found to be more cost effective than a simple cycle gas-fired peaking plant for meeting Minnesota’s capacity needs.

Connexus, Minnesota’s largest distribution cooperative, was a participant in the workshops and is already pursuing procurement of a 20MW, 40MWh energy-storage system. It will be one of largest storage projects of its kind in the Midwest. According to Connexus, responses to its Request for Proposals have been encouraging, with prices even more competitive than anticipated.

“We have been assessing energy storage to understand its potential benefits to our distribution system and members. Just like solar PV, with continuing drop in storage pricing, it is now becoming cost effective in specific applications,” said Brian Burandt, Vice President of Power Supply and Business Development at Connexus. “While we expect broad applications will be enabled with ongoing cost reductions and performance enhancements, we believe the technology is ready today for application on our system. That will save our member-owners and Minnesotans on electric costs, but in tandem, facilitate renewable energy growth to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

The energy storage planning process was spearheaded by ETL and the Minnesota Energy Storage Alliance (MESA), with support from the Energy Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, the Minneapolis Foundation, the Carolyn Foundation, AES Energy Storage, General Electric, Next Era Energy Resources, Mortenson Construction, Great River Energy and Strategen Consulting.

Wind and solar energy projects could bring 5,000 new jobs to rural Minnesota: Energy Transition Lab report measures the impact of federal and state policies to expand renewable energy

November 15, 2016Megan ButlerFeatured1

Source: Centre for Alternative Technology. (CC BY 2.0)

Minnesota has undergone a remarkable transformation in its energy landscape over the past decade. Coal, once the dominant fuel source for Minnesota’s electric utilities, has given way to new types of energy resources — wind and solar among them. While Minnesota’s state energy policies have been a large driver in the shift from fossil fuels to renewables, the federal Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit have played a major role in shaping the state’s clean energy economy while keeping rates affordable for utility customers, according to a new report from the Energy Transition Lab.

The report “analyzes real proposed projects, not theoretical ones,” says Ellen Anderson, ETL’s executive director. “Extension of federal policies for wind and solar development are helping Minnesota residents, businesses and schools save on their energy bills and procure locally-produced wind and solar energy,” says Anderson.

Among the report’s highlights:

  • The clean energy economy is continuing to expand in Minnesota, providing low-cost energy, creating jobs and economic impact.
  • Federal and state policies, especially extension of the Investment Tax Credit and Production Tax Credit, are helping Minnesota see significant new renewable energy projects, jobs, ratepayer savings and economic benefits.
  • Modeling shows that planned additions of wind and solar projects in the state will result in approximately $7.09 billion in direct investment, over 5,000 jobs related to construction alone and 3,987 megawatts of newly installed energy capacity.
  • Distributed generation of solar energy has almost doubled in the past two years, with businesses citing the ITC as a major driver in their success.

“These projects will not only expand renewable energy in Minnesota, they will create more than 5,000 jobs and over $7 billion in direct economic impact in 18 mostly rural Minnesota counties,” says Anderson.

Read the Report

Minnesota Energy Storage Strategy Workshop

November 3, 2016Megan ButlerEvents, Featured, MESAComments Off on Minnesota Energy Storage Strategy Workshop
Photo Credit:

Energy Storage System Photo Credit: Portland General Electric (CC BY-ND 2.0)


In September the Energy Transition Lab convened and hosted an informal Energy Storage Strategy Workshop in partnership with the Energy Foundation and a number of key local and national storage and utility industry leaders. Workshop partner and co-facilitator, Strategen Consulting, provided technical assistance and case studies of storage projects from around the country and is working to analyze specific energy storage use cases in Minnesota.

The goal of the workshop was to identify and prioritize key electric power sector challenges in Minnesota which can potentially be addressed cost-effectively by energy storage. Additionally, the workshop served to inform Minnesota stakeholders about various grid services energy storage can provide such as reliability, peak shaving, efficiency, flexibility, power quality, and renewable energy enhancement.

The workshop was the first of its kind in the nation, bringing together a diverse set of key Minnesota energy ecosystem stakeholders in an informal, small group meeting format to form hypotheses for how energy storage can be locally deployed across electric power sector silos, and to develop methodologies and approaches to evaluate its cost-effectiveness. The Energy Transition Lab and Strategen Consulting envision this informal approach as a potential model that can be expanded to other states looking to evaluate if and how energy storage can be integrated into their electric power sector.

The workshop included several presentations on energy storage which can be accessed below:

See the resources below for additional information:


University of Minnesota Buys Community Solar Subscription

October 28, 2016Megan ButlerFeatured, NewsComments Off on University of Minnesota Buys Community Solar Subscription

The University of Minnesota is tapping into a new source of power. With approval from the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents last week, the U’s Twin Cities campus will purchase two megawatts of community solar garden subscriptions from Minneapolis-based Geronimo Energy, LLC.

“This is an important step for the University and our sustainability efforts,” said Shane Stennes, Director of Sustainability. “We anticipate significant savings of nearly $800,000 over the 25 year contract while supporting the development of new renewable energy resources in the State of Minnesota.”

A community solar garden is a centralized, shared solar electricity facility connected to the energy grid that has multiple subscribers. Currently being built in Dakota County, the community solar garden will produce electricity and renewable energy certificates to be provided to Xcel Energy. The University pays Geronimo fees based on the amount of the subscription and the actual production from the solar garden. The University receives credits from Xcel on the University’s electric bill based upon the production of the solar garden and the University’s subscription share of the garden.

The University has been exploring renewable energy opportunities as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and consumption of fossil fuels. Most recently, this work has focused on accessing the emerging Minnesota solar energy market.

In 2015, the University hired Eutectics®, a local clean energy advisor, to assist the University in assessing risk and determining the financial feasibility of purchasing solar electricity through various mechanisms. At the same time, the University’s Energy Transition Lab and Institute on the Environment collaborated with three other Midwestern universities and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association on a U.S. Department of Energy–funded project called “The Solar Endowment: A PV Investment Roadmap for U.S. Universities and Foundations.” The project created teams of students that worked with University staff and faculty to evaluate solar potential, to develop financial models for solar, and to organize campus outreach.

The University is currently pursuing other renewable options in addition to the community solar subscription. Recently, the institution submitted a letter of support to the Public Utilities Commission for Xcel Energy’s Renewable*Connect pilot program. The proposed program will allow Xcel customers to designate that a portion of their electricity come from a blend of wind and solar resources. Later this month, the University is also releasing a request for proposals for on-campus solar installations at four of its campuses.

Photo Credit: Marufish (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Duluth’s Energy Future

August 12, 2016Megan ButlerEvents, Featured, NewsComments Off on Duluth’s Energy Future

Duluth Energy Future Photo

Over the past year, the Energy Transition Lab has been involved in research regarding Duluth and Northeast Minnesota’s Energy Future. By integrating renewables such as bioenergy and solar along with Combined Heat and Power (CHP) systems and energy efficiency into Northeast Minnesota’s existing energy system, the region will be able to increase local resiliency while also having positive impacts on the local economy and environment. In total, this research included bioenergy, solar, energy efficiency, district energy systems and CHP projects to show the pathways that could be involved in developing a truly integrated hybrid energy system.

In September, 2016 Ellen Anderson and Research Assistant Megan Butler traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico to present the Energy Transition Lab's work on Duluth's Energy Future at the Energy Policy Institute's 6th Annual Energy Policy Research Conference.

In September, 2016 Ellen Anderson and Research Assistant Megan Butler traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico to present the Energy Transition Lab’s work on Duluth’s Energy Future at the Energy Policy Institute’s 6th Annual Energy Policy Research Conference.

The full Duluth’s Energy Future Report is composed of chapters focusing upon three main priority areas which were identified after an extensive stakeholder engagement process in Northeast Minnesota:

  1. An Economic Modeling of Proposed Biomass and Solar Opportunities in Northeast Minnesota 
    Read More
    Working with the Labovitz School of Business and Economics Bureau of Business and Economic Research, the Energy Transition Lab utilized an IMPLAN analysis to model the economic impacts of clean energy projects in the region. This research shows that transitioning from fossil fuels to local and regionally-sourced bioenergy and other clean energy resources has the potential to create jobs and economic growth in the city of Duluth and the heavily forested northeast “Iron Range” region of Minnesota.
  2. Strategies for Transforming Building Stock to Zero Energy 
    Read More
    Partnering with the University of Minnesota’s Center for Sustainable Building Research, we developed a prototype for measuring the impact of energy efficiency measures on public buildings. Using this model we demonstrated how to transform an existing public building into a Net Zero Energy/Carbon building. This research allowed us to provide building owners with actionable, cost-effective strategies for reducing the energy footprint of existing building stock. Using this experience, we worked with local partners to develop recommendations for using energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies to transform the existing building stock in Duluth.
  3. Combined Heat and Power Barriers and Opportunities in Northeast Minnesota. 
    Read More
    CHP is far more efficient than conventional power production, which wastes up to 60% of the energy value of the fuel. If we can capture the heat or thermal energy released during electricity production, it can be a valuable energy resource instead of being released to the atmosphere as wasted heat. Through interviews with organizations that have recently converted to CHP in Minnesota as well as organizations in Northeast Minnesota currently considering CHP, the Energy Transition Lab evaluated and developed recommendations for the legal, regulatory, siting, and other platforms that will enable CHP’s development. 

Read the Full Report

Together, these three areas of research serve to provide a valuable resource for the City of Duluth and Northeast Minnesota to engage key stakeholders in a conversation about how they envision Northeast Minnesota’s energy future. This research will help the city of Duluth take some transformational steps towards a cleaner, more sustainable energy system. In this way Duluth, a blue-collar, industrial, coal-dependent, and extreme climate city in America’s heartland, can also serve as a model for energy transition in the United States by showing that it is possible to transition to cleaner energy systems and benefit the local economy.

Cover Photo Credit:  Jim Brekke

Energy Storage in Minnesota and Beyond

May 27, 2016Megan ButlerEvents, FeaturedComments Off on Energy Storage in Minnesota and Beyond

On Thursday February 11th, the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society (MRES) hosted the Energy Transition Lab Executive Director Ellen Anderson and Research Assistant Megan Butler for a presentation on Energy Storage in Minnesota and Beyond. The full presentation can be seen below:

The presentation provides an overview of the current work being done on Energy Storage in the state as well as how energy storage can fit into Minnesota’s future energy system. The talk also provides a broad overview of current applications for energy storage technology as well as how policy, technology, regulatory and market drivers affect the future of energy storage in Minnesota and how people can get involved in the new Minnesota Energy Storage Collaborative.

Photo Credit: Sandia Labs (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The Minnesota Energy Storage Alliance (MESA)

May 20, 2016Megan ButlerFeaturedComments Off on The Minnesota Energy Storage Alliance (MESA)


About the Minnesota Energy Storage Alliance (MESA)

The Minnesota Energy Storage Alliance (MESA) was formed by interested volunteer stakeholders, based on the shared view that our state and region will be a strong market for energy storage.  We aspire to be a Midwest forum to share knowledge; connect industry, utilities, researchers, policymakers, regulators, experts, and clean energy advocates; and advance smart policies to support energy storage. MESA is convened by the University of Minnesota’s Energy Transition Lab with support from the McKnight Foundation.

Our Mission

To lead in accelerating the development of energy storage in Minnesota and the Midwest Region. Click Here to Read More About Our Vision and Principles.

What We Do

    Our Structure

    Steering Committee

    The Steering Committee represents a broad cross-section of energy stakeholders and experts.  Current members include:

    Ellen Anderson, Convenor                                Massoud Amin, U of MN

    Holly Lahd, Fresh Energy                                 Christine Andrews, Attorney

    Hari Osofsky, U of MN                                     Laureen Ross McKalib, Great River Energy

    Ralph Jacobson, IPS Solar                               Brent Bergland, Mortenson Construction

    Bria Shea, Xcel Energy                                     Lise Trudeau, MN Department of Commerce

    W. John Frederick, Energy Consultant                Matt Prorok, Great Plains Institute

    Phyllis Reha, Par Energy Solutions                    Beth Soholt, Wind on the Wires

    Jenny Edwards, Center for Energy and Environment (CEE)

    John Kearney, MN Solar Energy Industry Association (MNSEIA)

    Rao Konidena, Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO)


    • Policy & Markets Barriers and Solutions Committee, focuses on overall energy storage legal, regulatory, policy, and market issues.
    • State Policy Sub-Committee focuses on the Public Utilities Commission and State Legislature.
    • Regional Markets Sub-Committee, focuses on MISO rules and wholesale market policies.
    • Committees in Formation:  Knowledge Sharing and Outreach Committee, Industry & Research Development Committee


    Minnesota Energy Storage Alliance (MESA) funding is provided by the McKnight Foundation and the Energy Transition Lab.  The Energy Transition Lab (ETL) is funded by the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, the Office of the Vice President for Research, and the Law School, as well as by grants from the McKnight Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy.  ETL is actively seeking additional funding to support MESA’s work.

    Click Here to contact MESA

    Watch Catching The Sun, A Documentary About the Race to Clean Energy, May 26th in Minneapolis

    May 20, 2016Megan ButlerFeatured, NewsComments Off on Watch Catching The Sun, A Documentary About the Race to Clean Energy, May 26th in Minneapolis

    Catching the Sun
    Come see Catching the Sun, a documentary about the race to clean energy, in Minneapolis on Thursday  May 26. Catching the Sun tells the story of the global energy transition from the perspective of workers and entrepreneurs building solutions to income inequality and climate change with their own hands. The documentary is coming to Minneapolis as part of its National Screening Tour which aims to spark new conversations in over 30 cities across the United States! 

    Time: Thursday, May 26 7:00PM – 8:28PM

    Location: St Anthony Main Theater. 115 SE Main St, Minneapolis, MN, US, 55414

    Get Your Tickets here: Read more →

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    The Energy Transition Lab is a strategic initiative of the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment in partnership with the Law School.
    Funding for the Energy Transition Lab is primarily provided by the Institute on the Environment. Other funders include McKnight Foundation, Energy Foundation, Carolyn Foundation, US Department of Energy, Wind Energy Foundation and the University of California Berkeley Energy and Climate Institute. Support for energy storage work is provided by the Minneapolis Foundation, Great River Energy, Mortenson Construction, AES Corporation, Next Era Energy Resources, and General Electric. Funders have no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of any manuscript.