Midwest Energy News’ 40 Under 40 awards program highlights emerging leaders throughout the region and their work in America’s transition to a clean energy economy.
Senior Manager, Midwest Clean Energy, Environmental Defense Fund
Ellen spent five years working as a legislative aide for Chicago Alderman Ed Burke and then served as the Sustainability Manager for a global food manufacturer, providing an excellent mix of expertise on the both the City of Chicago and energy efficiency. She has an M.A. in American Government from Loyola University Chicago and is Secretary of the Illinois chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council.
Director, New Markets Initiative, Elevate Energy
Angelina Benson-Glanz is the Director of New Markets Initiative leading Elevate’s effort to expand affordable multifamily energy efficiency programs in Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio. She develops tools, templates and processes to provide technical assistance to partner organizations starting up multifamily energy efficiency programs as well as business planning support to develop strategies to expand the reach of Elevate Energy programs.
Senior Program Officer, The Kresge Foundation
Jessica Boehland is a Senior Program Officer on The Kresge Foundation’s Environment team, which helps U.S. cities implement comprehensive and equitable climate-resilience strategies. Jessica leads the Foundation’s work on climate change mitigation and energy resilience. Prior to joining Kresge in 2008, Jessica served as Managing Editor of Environmental Building News and Editor of GreenSource magazine. Her writing has appeared in these and numerous other publications. Jessica holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Oberlin College and a Master’s in Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, where she focused on climate policy and climate justice.
State Energy Office Manager – Energy Efficiency and Operations; Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources
Prior to her current role, Jessica was the Conservation Improvement Program Supervisor at the Minnesota Department of Commerce. From 2008-2011 she was an Energy Analyst/Project Manager for Energy Insight, an energy efficiency implementer in Minnesota, developing, managing, and implementing utility demand-side management programs for utilities throughout rural Minnesota. Jessica also serves as a Board Member of the Association of Energy Service Professionals – Midwest Chapter, and holds a Bachelor of Arts and MBA from Iowa State University.
Associate Principal and Senior Mechanical Engineer, Interface Engineering, Inc.
Craig Burton, PE, LEED AP BD+C is an Associate Principal and Senior Mechanical Engineer at Interface Engineering. He brings over 13 years of analyzing and integrating high-performance design strategies for new and existing buildings and urban places. Craig serves as Secretary on International Building Performance Simulation Association, Chicago Chapter and served on the Competitions Organizing Committee for the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. In 2014, Craig was named one of ENR’s “Top 20 Under 40” design and construction professionals in the Midwest.
VP, Rates and Regulatory Affairs, Xcel Energy
Aakash Chandarana is the Regional Vice President of Rates and Regulatory Affairs–Minnesota. He is responsible for Xcel Energy’s regulatory filings with the utility commissions in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, including rate, resource acquisition and service quality filings. He represented Xcel Energy in regulatory proceedings before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and handled most issues related to rate cases, renewable energy and long-term power purchase projects and supported retail product and programs, including conservation improvement programs. Prior to joining Xcel Energy, Aakash was a partner at the law firm of Briggs and Morgan. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in biology and business management in 1999 from Washington University in St. Louis and earned his law degree from Washington University in 2005.
Chief Executive Officer, Vibrant Clean Energy
Dr. Christopher Clack is the CEO of Vibrant Clean Energy, a software and consulting firm that investigates the transition of the energy system from fossil to clean resources. He has pioneered the co-optimization revolution in planning models that can incorporate numerous objectives to determine complementary benefits to technologies. Christopher also showed that weather resources can be used effectively if planned properly. He continues to advance the field and assist industry to evolve, adapt, and implement.
Staff Attorney, Earthjustice
Thom Cmar joined Earthjustice in 2012 as a staff attorney for the Coal Program. Prior to joining Earthjustice, Thom was an attorney for six years with the Natural Resources Defense Council, specializing in energy and water issues, and an Adjunct Lecturer at Northwestern University. Thom also worked as an attorney with the International Labor Rights Fund, and as a law clerk for U.S. Magistrate Judge Debra Freeman of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. He is a 2004 graduate of Harvard Law School and has a B.A. in Politics & Philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh.
Senior Planning Director, Minnesota Public Utilities Commission
With the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission Tricia has managed a wide variety of dockets including new generation and transmission need determinations, transmission and pipeline route permits, wind and power plant site permits, thermal and renewable power purchase agreements, utility resource acquisitions, resource planning, and externality costs of power generation. She has provided Commission representation to the Governor’s Office, the state legislature, on conference panels, and in various media outlets. Tricia holds a B.S. in environmental science from the University of Minnesota.
Director, Delta Institute
Kevin oversees and implements Delta’s energy and buildings strategy, which includes managing Delta’s green building portfolio and residential and commercial behavioral energy programs. Kevin’s passion is finding new, innovative connections, and technology-based solutions that make permanent market change and enable partners and clients to be leaders in sustainability innovation. Born in Atlanta and raised in Cincinnati, Kevin has a B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Cincinnati, and a M.A. in Geography & Environmental Studies from Northeastern Illinois University. In his spare time, Kevin plays several musical instruments, cooks, gardens, goes on nature excursions, designs software, and occasionally keeps bees.
Christian Coalition, Ohio State Director
Tyler Duvelius brings a wealth of political experience from working on campaigns at the local, state, and federal levels in Ohio. He was a 2015 and 2017 recipient of the John Kasich Award for Outstanding Male Ohio Young Republican of the Year. Tyler’s main focus with the Christian Coalition of Ohio is educating its grassroots supporters and political leaders about the importance of clean energy to Ohio’s families and our national security. Tyler is a graduate of The Ohio State University, with a dual degree in Business Administration and Spanish.
Candidate for Governor, Michigan
As Executive Director and Health Officer for the Detroit Health Department, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed brought a new focus to the ways fossil fuels are negatively impacting the health of city residents, particularly for low-income and minority populations. In his time overseeing the department, Abdul has gone toe-to-toe with industry players that dominate the industrial landscape of Southwest Detroit, winning concessions over air pollution from Marathon’s Detroit refinery as well as opposing plans to store coal byproducts uncovered along the Detroit River. A native of metro Detroit, Abdul previously held a tenured position as a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University. He earned degrees from the University of Michigan, Columbia University, and also is a Rhodes Scholar.
Technology Innovation Strategist, Argonne National Laboratory
At Argonne Diego’s role is to support the creation and sustainment of laboratory partnerships and programs that promote innovation and entrepreneurship, and foster collaboration within the regional startup community. Among the programs Diego has managed are the DOE sponsored Energy I-Corps and National Laboratory Accelerator programs. Previously, Diego worked as a scientist conducting research in solar energy and artificial photosynthesis, and previously in gravitational-wave astronomy within the LIGO project; his work for LIGO contributed to the historic first detection of gravitational waves in 2016, which led to the award of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics. Diego serves on the Advisory Board for the Cleantech Open Midwest and as Chicago Metro Director for the startup accelerator program. Diego has served as associate for the Innovation Fund Associates Program at the Polsky Exchange and he has been a pro-bono mentor and consultant with the Clean Energy Trust, helping several early-stage startups secure seed funding and develop a successful go-to-market strategy. Diego has a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Bologna, Italy.
Partner, Weber Johnson Public Affairs
Mike Franklin is a Minnesota government affairs professional and attorney with nearly two decades of experience in building political and grassroots networks. He has organized projects for political candidates, nonprofit organizations, multinational corporations and grassroots-level community interests. Recently, Mike was named the President of the Minnesota Conservative Energy Forum. Along with his volunteer leadership, Mike is working to create a robust, authentic, and passionate argument for clean energy among those on the political Right. Mike is serving his first term as an elected member of the Jordan, Minnesota City Council where he lives with his wife Amanda and four children.
Senior Policy Manager, Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance
Julia Friedman serves as MEEA’s Senior Policy Manager, responsible for advancing state and federal energy efficiency policies and developing strategic relationships with other advocacy, utility and industry partners. Most recently, Julia served as a Program Director for the National Association of State Energy Officials, where she oversaw the organization’s work on comprehensive energy planning, renewable energy grid integration, industrial energy efficiency and established the organization’s transportation program. Prior to her work at NASEO, Julia worked for the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC). She has secured and managed federal grants from U.S DOE, Homeland Security and U.S. EPA. She earned a Master’s of City and Regional Planning from Rutgers University and a B.A. from the University of Chicago.
President, Werner Electric
Ben Granley is the President of Werner Electric, a Minnesota based electrical wholesale company headquartered in Minnesota serving the Industrial Automation, Electrical Construction, and Solar Energy markets. He has been with Werner for 12 years holding various roles from Operations Manager through President. As President he has helped lead the significant investment in their Solar, Renewable, Efficiency, and Water Remediation business growth. Ben holds degrees in Electrical Design, Business Management, and Master’s of Business. He currently serves on the board of directors for the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and The Business Enterprise Center.
Principal and Founding Member, Inova Energy Group
Bill Haas is a Principal and Founding Member at Inova Energy Group where he holds responsibilities for overall business management, company growth, and project execution. He is an energy and sustainability professional with over 14 years of experience in environmental science, policy, and management in the nonprofit, government, and private sectors. Most recently Bill led teams to develop both the Iowa Energy Plan and the Missouri Comprehensive State Energy Plan. In addition, he has directly managed over $500 million in energy incentive funds for utility, state, and local government clients and overseen the delivery of 2.5 billion kWh in annual energy savings to more than 1.6 million customers throughout the Midwest.
Chris Todd Hittinger
Associate Professor of Genetics, University of Wisconsin—Madison
Chris Todd Hittinger earned his Ph.D. in genetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2007, where he is currently an associate professor of genetics and an affiliate of the Wisconsin Energy Institute. With the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, he leads research on bio-designing yeast to improve the economics of sustainably produced biofuels. By developing and deploying genetic tools, Chris engineers yeast strains that more efficiently convert cellulosic biomass to fuel. He is a 2013 recipient of an NSF CAREER award and a 2014 Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences.
Sustainability Program Coordinator, City of Milwaukee Environmental Collaboration Office
Elizabeth Hittman is the Sustainability Program Coordinator at the City of Milwaukee Environmental Collaboration Office. She serves as president of the board of directors for the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, she is past president of the board of directors of the Milwaukee Environmental Consortium and current at-large board member there, and she serves on the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences Masters Advisory Board. She has a B.A. in Natural Resource Management from UW-Stevens Point and a Master’s degree from UW-Milwaukee in Urban Geography.
Vice President, Business Development, Invenergy
Michael Kaplan has spent the past seven years developing wind projects in the Midwest. In 2017 Michael led Invenergy’s acquisition and closing of the largest wind project in the United States, and the second largest in the world, Wind Catcher Energy Connection in Oklahoma. This transformative project is 2000 MW—showing that renewable energy can be sized to compete with the capacity of traditional generation. Michael has a B.A. from the University of Kansas and an MBA from DePaul University.
Environmental Policy Manager, Cummins
Lauren Kastner is responsible for emerging energy and environmental public policy trends, risks, and opportunities and formulates strategies to ensure that Cummins’ business decisions consider the implications of energy and environmental policy. Lauren joined Cummins in 2013 and launched the Company’s global environmental employee engagement program, enabling more than 55,000 employees in over 190 countries to reduce their environmental footprint at work, at home, and in the community. She also leads Cummins’ diversity council to foster the right work environment and promote diversity and inclusion as a core value. Lauren lives in Indianapolis, Indiana and serves on the Board of Directors for Earth Charter Indiana, a nonprofit organization committed to advancing sustainable, just, and peaceful living and is currently helping cities across the state adopt climate resiliency plans. Lauren led a delegation of U.S. youth leaders to the United Nations COP21 climate talks in Paris in 2015 and in Lima in 2014. In 2017, Lauren was named to GreenBiz’s 30 Under 30 list as an emerging leader in sustainable business. Lauren earned degrees in journalism and public affairs from Indiana University-Bloomington and studied in Hyderabad, India, Eldoret, Kenya, and at the University of Oxford.
Senior Staff Attorney, Environmental Law & Policy Center
Margrethe Kearney is a Senior Staff Attorney working in ELPC’s Grand Rapids, Michigan office. Margrethe was previously a Counselor at the Latham & Watkins firm in the Environment, Land & Resources Department, focusing on environmental enforcement, environmental litigation, and advising on environmental aspects of corporate and finance transactions. She represented clients on cases involving the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, CERCLA and valuation of environmental claims in bankruptcy proceedings. Before law school, she worked as an associate research economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
Engineering Group Manager & Special Projects Lead, Leidos, Inc.
Working for Leidos as the prime contractor to implement the energy efficiency portfolio for Ameren Illinois, John has led his team to achieve energy savings that benefit not only Ameren Illinois customers, but the environment as a whole. John first joined Leidos, Inc. as an Energy Engineer, and now serves as the Engineering Group Manager and Special Projects Lead. John is also the president of the St. Louis Chapter of the Association of Energy Engineers where he plans and organizes meetings to demonstrate new technologies and site visits of local companies to share best practices. John’s work ethic and his hands-on community involvement bring benefits to his company, and to his wider community.
Clean Energy Attorney, Ohio Environmental Council
Prior to joining the OEC, Miranda was in private practice for several years where her practice focused on litigation, natural gas utility issues, and utility-scale wind farm permits. Miranda holds a B.A. in Law, Letters & Society from The University of Chicago, and a J.D. from The Ohio State University Michael E. Moritz College of Law.
Principal Consultant, Soltek LLC
Shawn has been heavily involved in renewables since early 2005 when he started building what would become 400 MW of wind projects with Mortenson Construction. In 2014 Shawn started his own consulting firm, Soltek, and helped build over 1000 MW AC of wind and solar projects over a three year period as a contracted head of construction. Projects included the 140 MW Northstar project in Minnesota as well as two projects in Indiana. Shawn is very focused on renewables and actively helping bring large utility power pricing to smaller municipal projects.
Manager, Data Privacy, CenterPoint Energy
Kevin Marquardt is the Manager of Data Privacy at CenterPoint Energy. In this role, he manages the company’s data privacy program, implements and maintains company privacy policies and procedures, mitigates data privacy risks, and administers privacy awareness and training to employees. He serves as the President and Founder of Young Professionals in Energy Twin Cities. He holds a M.S. in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota and a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Psychology from Iowa State University.
Director of Renewable Energy, Minnesota Farmers Union
Michelle grew up on a cattle farm in Forest Lake and has a stake in the farm. Michelle engages farmers and agricultural stakeholders statewide to be a resource of information and help them overcome obstacles. She leads Minnesota Farmers Union’s work in renewable energy, is fluent in Spanish, and is a graduate of the College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resource Sciences at the University of Minnesota.
Federal Project Director, U.S. Department of Energy
Dan Misch is a US Navy veteran and advocate for the adoption of a clean energy economy to mitigate the threat of climate change and ensure future national security through investments in technological innovation. As a fellow with the Atlantic Council, Dan initiated the Veteran’s Energy Seminar to educate other veterans on global energy security challenges. He is a Federal Project Director for the U.S. Department of Energy at Argonne National Laboratory where he performs project and program management oversight. His work supports the mission readiness of Argonne, contributing to the innovative ecosystem of world-class laboratories, universities and businesses in Chicago.
Assistant Director, Climate + Energy Project
Rachel Myslivy holds a Master’s in Religious Studies and Environmental Studies from the University of Kansas and Teaching Leadership Certification from the Kansas Leadership Center. Rachel co-founded the Kansas Women’s Environmental Network. As an oral historian and independent filmmaker, Rachel has produced videos for the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology and Kansas Rural Center, among others. KU designated Rachel a distinguished young alumni. In 2013, she received KU’s Sustainability Leadership Award, and in 2015, the Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Education Award for Excellence in the nonprofit sector.
Director of Energy & Air Quality, Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission
O’Keeffe connects communities to financial and program resources on air quality, transportation, housing, and energy. She leads more than 25 professionals to deliver $6 million in federal, state and private funds. Previously, O’Keeffe managed the State of Ohio’s energy office, worked on energy policy in the Southwestern U.S. and started her career with Green Energy Ohio that grew into a statewide organization during her tenure. O’Keeffe is a Certified Economic Development Finance Professional and holds a B.S. in Natural Resources and Economics from The Ohio State University. She lives in Columbus with her husband and two sons.
Sustainability Project Manager, Patrick Engineering
Dhruti Patel is the Sustainability Project Manager at Patrick Engineering Inc. She started her career at Patrick Engineering with Argonne National Laboratory. At Argonne, Dhruti is working with the Sustainability Program Manager to develop a robust portfolio of programs consisting of projects and initiatives to achieve Argonne’s vision of being a smart campus. Dhruti started her professional path within the power industry as a structural engineer designing power plants and then disrupted her career to seek opportunities within the field of energy, sustainability, and technology. Dhruti serves on the Board of Directors for the U.S. Green Building Council Illinois chapter. She is a guest lecturer at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), and a researcher and graduate mentor with UIC’s Energy Initiative. In 2015, Dhruti was recognized by Chicago Scholar’s 35 under 35 Young Professionals Making an Impact for her work in bringing sustainability concepts to middle and high school students.
Policy Director, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization
At LVEJO, Juliana analyzes, researches, and advocates for environmental justice in local, state, and national policy. Her work in energy focuses on advancing energy democracy and community self-determination in regulatory and policy arenas, creating just transition with meaningful collaborative and participatory management of shared environmental resources and centering frontline community leaders as generators of transformative policy ideas and governance models. Juliana was lead negotiator for programs serving economically disadvantaged communities in the 2016 IL Future Energy Jobs Act. Juliana serves on the Board of Directors of the Illinois Environmental Council and is a graduate of the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability, the University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and the University of Chicago. Prior to joining LVEJO, Juliana has contributed to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Great Lakes Commission, and the U.S.-China Chamber of Commerce, among others.
Manager of Member Services and Marketing, Great River Energy
David Ranallo leads the member services and marketing team and functions of Great River Energy including the strategy and delivery of marketing campaigns, demand-side management, energy efficiency and strategic energy innovation programs in partnership with Great River Energy’s 28 member-owners. Ranallo is also leading the cooperative’s efforts to stimulate the electric vehicle market. Ranallo holds a Master’s degree in organizational leadership and a B.A. in journalism and communications from the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
Senior Project Manager, SoCore Energy
Jonathan is a NABCEP certified PV Installation Professional and engineer working as a Senior Project Manager with SoCore Energy. To date, he has personally overseen the development, execution, and commissioning of 40+ MW of multi-site, nationwide Solar PV project portfolios valued at approximately $64 million. Jonathan is passionate about ongoing career opportunities involving the advancement renewable energy and energy efficiency, and serving as part of a team that has helped construct and achieve commercial operations for 94 MW of solar PV systems in 21 states. As a volunteer with Engineers Without Borders, Jonathan has traveled globally teaching, volunteering, and implementing renewable energy projects in countries including Brazil, Costa Rica, China, Egypt, Japan, Madagascar, Mali, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, Nepal, Panama, Pakistan and Peru.
Director of Venture Development, Clean Energy Trust
Paul Seidler is the Director of Venture Development at Clean Energy Trust (CET), a Chicago-based non-profit that provides venture services and seed investment to cleantech startups in the Midwest. Paul oversees the organization’s investment process and manages venture programming to support CET’s portfolio companies. He primarily focuses on startups in solar, storage, efficiency, and mobility, serving as a board director for GreenLancer and a board observer for AllCell, Idle Smart, Igor, Lotic Labs, Nexmatix, NETenergy, SPLT, and Sun Number. Prior to joining CET, Paul ran business development for ATFI, an advanced materials startup in Skokie, IL. He holds a B.A. from the University of Michigan and earned an MBA with honors from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Senior Investments Manager, GXP Investments
Ashwin currently works at GXP Investments, the corporate venture arm of Kansas City Power and Light. At GXPI, Ashwin is looking for and works with entrepreneurs and companies who are genuinely excited about being agents of change in the energy landscape. Prior to GXPI, Ashwin was an associate at OpenAir Equity Partners where his areas of interest included Internet of Things startups; aging in place technologies as well as advertising and digital media companies.
Assistant professor of life sciences communications, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Neil Stenhouse earned his Ph.D. in communication in 2015 at George Mason University where he conducted research with the Center for Climate Change Communication. He is currently an assistant professor of life sciences communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an affiliate of the Wisconsin Energy Institute. His research focuses on the intersection of science communication and the politics of scientific issues, especially energy and climate change, and aims to both broaden citizen participation in scientific issues such as energy and improve the work of groups already active in movements toward a clean energy economy.
Senior Energy Efficiency Program Manager, ComEd
Jacob Stoll is a Senior Energy Efficiency Program Manager at ComEd and manages a variety of residential-focused energy efficiency programs. In this role, Jacob helps ensure new and current programs align with ComEd’s utility of the future strategy. Most notably, Jacob has recently led an aggressive smart thermostat rebate program that aspires to have one million smart thermostats installed over five years. Before ComEd, Jacob worked in energy management for AEP Energy and before that worked for ICF International implementing energy efficiency programs for DTE and Consumers Energy. Jacob is a graduate of the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science.
Communication Manager, University of Minnesota’s Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs)
Dan Thiede is the CERTs Communications Manager with the University of Minnesota’s Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships and Extension. In this role, Dan is responsible for everything from goal-setting and big-picture strategy to the daily management of websites, social media, outreach and marketing, public relations and publicity, design and publications and communications interns. Dan has a Master’s degree in Strategic Communications from the University of Minnesota, and undergraduate degrees from the University of St. Thomas in geography and English.
Associate Professor, Iowa State University
Prof. Yue Wu joined Iowa State University as the Herbert L. Stiles Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering in 2014. He obtained his Ph.D. degree in Chemistry at Harvard University in 2006. He then received Miller Fellowship and performed postdoctoral research at the University of California at Berkeley. In 2009, Yue joined Purdue University to start his independent academic career. After receiving an early promotion to tenured associate professor in the School of Chemical Engineering at Purdue University in 2014, he accepted the position of the Herbert L. Stiles Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering from Iowa State University with a joint appointment in Department of Energy Ames National Laboratory. He has received numerous awards, including DuPont Young Faculty Award, Air Force Summer Faculty Fellowship, “Emerging Investigator” selected by Royal Society of Chemistry’s Journal of Materials Chemistry, “Rising Star” selected by the Council of Chemical Research Annual Meeting, and American Institute of Chemical Engineer Nanoscale Science and Engineering Young Investigator Award.