IES Speaker Series

The Institute for Energy Studies speaker series convenes energy experts from on and off campus and connects the Western Washington University and Bellingham energy communities. Speakers will explore the diverse fields of energy research and development, and also debate timely issues that connect public policy and business thinking to emerging knowledge in energy science and technology.

For Winter 2022, the Energy Speaker Series is offered as a class to WWU students in a hybrid format. Students may register for ENRG 391 and receive 1 credit. These weekly presentations are also open to the community to attend virtually on Zoom. Please use this Zoom link to watch the presentations each Tuesday at 4 p.m. When attending the presentations, we ask that all audience members please remain muted unless called upon to speak.  The lectures are free and open to the public. Students may register for ENRG 391 and receive 1 credit. Questions?


1/11 - Sharon Shewmake, 42nd-district Washington State Representative and Associate Professor at WWU in the Institute for Energy Studies

Rep. Sharon Shewmake is a professor of environmental economics, urban economics, and energy policy at Western Washington University in Bellingham, and a children’s book author, spouse, and mother of two young boys. She completed Bachelor’s degrees in Economics and in Environmental Science and Policy at Duke University, and continued her education at the University of California at Davis, earning her Ph.D. in Agricultural and Resource Economics. Before moving to Washington, Sharon taught environmental economics, econometrics, labor economics, and conservation policy at UC-Davis and Vanderbilt University, and in Botswana (through the Experiment in International Living). These areas of academic focus dovetail nicely with her appointments to the House Capital Budget Committee and the Environment & Energy Committee, and her position as vice chair of the House Committee on Rural Development, Agriculture & Natural Resources — key concerns for Whatcom County and the entire state.  Sharon is committed to involving people of all perspectives and parties to make data-driven policies that preserve our land, support our families, and ensure everyone has the opportunity to succeed.

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Tarika smiling in front of grey background

1/18 - Tarika Powell, former Project Manager at Spark Northwest in Seattle, WA.

Tarika will be presenting on “Energy and Environmental Justice in the Northwest’s Fight Against Fossil Fuel Facilities”. Tarika is an environmental policy expert specializing in the pollution impacts of fossil fuel facilities. Her research was instrumental in defeating several large-scale liquified natural gas and petrochemicals facilities in Washington and Oregon over the last 10 years. She has a law degree from Vanderbilt Law School, as well as a Master's in Education and undergraduate degrees from Oberlin College. Her advocacy work includes mental health access for low-income communities and raising awareness about the diagnostic disparities and lived experiences of Black autistic women. 

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Simon smiling in front of a tree.

1/25 - Simon Vickery, Climate and Energy Policy Manager at RE Sources

Simon advocates for equitable and inclusive climate and energy policy. Simon attended law school at the University of Colorado, and previously developed environmental policies for several nonprofit and government entities addressing renewable energy, as well as water quality, water adjudication and endangered species. Growing up on the coast of Maine, he came to care deeply about the impacts of climate change on waterfront communities and natural areas. When he’s not advocating for renewable and sustainable environmental solutions, Simon spends his time rock climbing, biking or solving crossword puzzles.

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Kaylee and Ellyn smiling

2/1 - Ellyn Murphy, Senior Program Manager at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Kaylee Galloway, Whatcom County Councilmember-elect

Kaylee and Ellyn both volunteer together as members of the Whatcom County Climate Impact Advisory Committee and are both co-authors of the new Whatcom County Climate Action Plan. In their presentation, they will discuss the Climate Action Plan and provide an undertanding of how this Plan fits into the clean energy transition at the regional and national level. 


Kaylee Galloway (Whatcom County Council) - Kaylee has spent the last decade serving our community at all levels of government. In 2021, she was elected as Whatcom County's youngest ever County Councilmember and has also worked as staff for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, and Washington State House of Representatives. In addition, she volunteers on the City of Bellingham Community Development Advisory Board, where she has supported the City in funding critical projects and programs for affordable housing and human services.  Kaylee graduated from the University of Washington Bothell with her Master of Arts in Policy Studies, where she published research on sustainable community development and relevant local, state and federal policy. She earned her Bachelor of Arts from Western Washington University majoring in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics with minors in Energy Policy and Law, Diversity & Justice.  


Ellyn Murphy - Early in her career Ellyn worked as a reforestation forester on the Oregon Coast. After grad school, she spent most of her career as a research hydrologist, division director and senior program manager in the Energy and Environment Directorate at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a U.S. Dept. of Energy National laboratory in Richland, WA. Her research focused on ground­water chemistry, bioremediation, and geologic carbon sequestration. Retiring to Bellingham, Ellyn’s primary interests are in climate change and its impact on fresh water and forests, as well as building sustainable communities. She has an M.S. in Forest Science and a Ph.D. in Hydrology.

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markus smiling on a mountain

2/8 - Markus Virta, Director of Sales & Business Development at Western Solar

In his presentation, Markus Virta will give a brief overview of emerging climate technologies as well as career pathways in the decarbonization/energy transition space. Markus has over a decade of experience in the Washington State solar industry. Having first joined Western Solar in 2010 Markus has since grown to manage the company’s business strategy, sales, and policy development goals. As board president of the Washington Solar Energy Industries Association (WASEIA), Markus is proud to guide the Washington Solar industry’s legislative/policy efforts. Markus is passionate about fostering a balanced and affordable access to renewable energy. He values integrity and transparent business practices and he strongly believes that our community is strongest when united. Native to Bellingham, he can be found climbing, hiking, biking, skiing, playing hockey and soccer or exploring the PNW outdoors.

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Garrison talking in front of others

2/15 - Garrison Marr, Senior Manager of Power Supply at Snohomish County PUD

Garrison Marr’s presentation will be about “Embracing the Clean Energy Future at Snohomish PUD” and will share the process and results for Snohomish PUD’s recently adopted Integrated Resource Plan and Clean Energy Implementation Plan. Together these plans lay the foundation for how Snohomish PUD plans to keep electricity affordable and reliable, while showing regional leadership on clean energy investment.


Garrison is an economist whose career in public service has focused on the intersections of energy, sustainability, and public policy that affects the cost of living for families. Marr started his career by growing a one-year post-graduate fellowship with the City of Savannah, Georgia into six years of service developing green, affordable housing and establishing the City’s Sustainability program. Marr then moved west to join Snohomish County’s Office of Sustainability, managing the energy costs and consumption of the County’s real estate portfolio, and administering residential energy retrofit financing programs. The last several years Marr has served in multiple roles planning and managing the Power Supply of Snohomish PUD, a community-owned electric utility serving nearly a million customers. In his current role as Senior Manager of Power Supply, Marr leads a talented team of economists who together manage the policy, cost and reliability aspects of the PUD’s power supply. Marr holds a BA in Economics from WWU, a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Public Administration at Valdosta State University.

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2/22 - Chris Heimgartner, General Manager at Whatcom County PUD starting February 1, 2022; formerly General Manager of Henderson Municipal Power and Light in Western Kentucky

Chris was recently selected as the new General Manager of the Board of Commissions of Public Utility District No. 1 of Whatcom County. As part of the Speaker Series, his presentation will focus on an overview of the electric utility industry and his predictions for what it will look like in the future. Chris has over 35 years of engineering, public utility management and leadership, including development of broadband and renewable energy projects. Most recently, Heimgartner was the General Manager of Henderson Municipal Power and Light located in Western Kentucky where he oversaw the transition of electrical generation capacity to renewable energy including the closure of a coal fire power plant, and oversaw the development of the utility’s telecommunication operations. Prior to working at Henderson Municipal Power and Light, Heimgartner served at Snohomish County PUD as the Assistant General Manager in charge of Distribution and Engineering Services, and at Seattle City Light as the Customer Service and Energy Delivery Officer.

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Xi smiling with mountains in the background

3/1 - Xi Wang, Assistant Professor at the Institute of Energy Studies and in the Department of Urban and Environmental Planning and Policy (UEPP) in the College of the Environment at WWU

Xi's presentation will focus on the electricity sector in China. Xi's Ph.D. Xi's Ph.D. work examines coal-led industrialization in post-Opening Up and Reform China to understand the pressing present-day issue of coal generation overcapacity. Not only does building too many coal power plants severely constrain our future emissions pathways, but has also had severe labor, social, and health consequences, especially for already-marginalized groups in China. Xi graduated from Cornell University with a BA in English literature. Xi holds an M.S. in Environmental Studies and a Ph.D. in Geography, both from the University of Colorado-Boulder. Outside of academia, Xi has also worked in community organizing for food, environmental, and social justice in Washington D.C., for the consulting firm Booz Allen, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

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3/8 - IES Alum Speakers

This session will feature a panel of alumni from the WWU Institute for Energy Studies who are now working in the energy field. Details coming soon!

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