IES Speaker Series

The Institute for Energy Studies Speaker Series convenes energy experts from on and off campus, connecting the Western Washington University and Bellingham energy communities. Speakers will explore the diverse fields of energy research, development, science, public policy, equity, and more.

For Spring 2022, the Energy Speaker Series is offered as an in-person class for WWU students. Students may register for ENRG 391 and receive 1 credit. These weekly presentations are also free and 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 remain muted unless called upon to speak. Questions?

Marial smiling at camera

4/5 - Mariel Thuraisingham, Clean Energy Policy Lead at Front and Centered

Mariel is an environmental law and policy specialist leading Front and Centered’s commitment to advancing the clean energy interests of frontline communities in Washington that are historically disproportionately harmed by climate change. After completing her law degree she worked on justice sector strengthening and rule of law in Central America, Central and Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, and West Africa, where she observed the important interplay of communities, institutions and infrastructure in supporting resilient and equitable socioeconomic systems. Through coalition-building, outreach and advocacy, Mariel works at the intersection between progressive policies and their translation into an effective and enforceable legal and regulatory framework for environmental justice, climate change mitigation, and sustainable living. She enjoys gardening.

Zoom Link:

Joel smiling in a black suit.

4/12 - Joel Swisher, Director of the Institute for Energy Studies at Western Washington University

Joel N. Swisher, is Director of the Institute for Energy Studies and Research Professor of Environmental Science at Western Washington University. The Institute offers interdisciplinary education and training related to the science, technology, policy and business aspects of the conversion and use of energy. Previously, Dr. Swisher was Consulting Associate Professor at Stanford University, where he introduced new, interdisciplinary courses, such as Carbon Neutral Design, Electricity Resource Planning, and Greenhouse Gas Mitigation. Updated versions of these courses are now in the WWU energy course catalogue.

Dr. Swisher was formerly CTO at Camco International and Econergy, two carbon offset developers. During 2000-08, he was at Rocky Mountain Institute, a prominent clean energy think tank, where he was Managing Director of Research and Consulting. At RMI, he led research and consulting work for electric utilities and manufacturers of goods ranging from semiconductor chips to potato chips.

Dr. Swisher earned BS, MS and PhD degrees in Stanford’s School of Engineering and is a registered Professional Engineer. His PhD dissertation topic was carbon offsets, which led him to work on problems that range from the costs of reducing carbon emissions in a US electric utility to the potential for saving carbon in conservation and forestry projects in Central America. He has since worked extensively in Brazil, southern Africa and Scandinavia and speaks five languages.

Zoom Link:

Mary smiling in front of a brick wall

4/19 - Mary Anderson, Transit Planner at Whatcom Transportation Authority

Mary Anderson, AICP, TDM-CP, is a Transit Planner at the Whatcom Transportation Authority. Mary has over 15 years of experience managing and implementing sustainable transportation projects. Mary envisions a future where everyone in Whatcom County has access to safe, healthy, and affordable transportation options. A firm believer in practicing what you preach, Mary rides her bike or takes the bus to work and for daily trips. In her spare time, Mary enjoys building Legos with her son and going to consignment stores with her daughter.

Presentation Title: Can Transportation Really Be Sustainable?

We rely on transportation to connect us to work, groceries, education, health care and social activities. The mode of transportation we choose (if we even have a choice) makes a difference in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, roadway congestion, and energy use, amongst other things. Are electric vehicles a better choice? Should we all bike everywhere? Is telework the answer? This is a complex topic with no easy answers (sorry!). Attend this presentation to get a high-level view of the energy used in the transportation sector, the realities of converting a bus fleet to electric and how active transportation falls into the mix.  

Zoom Link:


Alex smiling in front of grey background

4/26 - Rep. Alex Ramel, Democratic Member of the Washington State House of Representatives

Rep. Alex Ramel was appointed to the legislature in January of 2020. Over the past three sessions, he has introduced bills to:

- Create Washington’s scenic bikeways program, a bill that passed with broad bipartisan support.

- Increase the affordability of homes built using the state’s generous multi-family tax exemption.

- Reduce fossil fuel pollution from our homes and buildings while creating a path to a clean energy future.

Raised near Denver, Colorado, Rep. Ramel has called Bellingham home for the last 20 years. He is a graduate of Western Washington University’s Huxley College of the Environment with a B.A. in Environmental Policy and Planning.

Zoom Link:


Amory smiling in a blue suit.

5/3 - Amory Lovins, Co-founder and Chairman of Rocky Mountain Institute, energy advisor, author

Amory Lovins, MA Oxon. spec. resoln, DSc h.c. mult., is a physicist, cofounder of Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and global practitioner of advanced energy efficiency, renewable integration, and innovative public policy and business strategy since the 1970s. Working in many disciplines, he has taught at ten universities on three continents, was an Oxford don, advised scores of firms and governments, and received many of the world’s top energy and environmental awards. Dr. Lovins has been an energy luminary since his landmark article “Energy Strategy: The Road Not Taken,” which reframed the energy debate in 1976, and helped turn energy efficiency from an abstraction into a global resource and one of the pillars of today’s energy decarbonization pathways. He teaches the course, Extreme Energy Efficiency, as Adjunct Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering at Stanford University, with the aim to engage students on scaling integrative design for radical energy efficiency, both in entrepreneurial pursuits emerging from the academy and in executive education that reaches broader audiences in the public and private sectors.

Zoom Link:

Shanon smiling in front of blurred background.

5/10 - Shannon Wall, Advisory Services Principal at HDR; formerly at Tacoma Power

Shannon Wall, PE, is an Advisory Services Principal at HDR, Inc. She is a licensed electrical engineer with over 31 years of experience in the utility industry. Shannon’s experience ranges from technical engineering to senior management roles and she has worked in the public utility sector and in private consulting. For the past 15 years she has been leading asset management program development, focused on infrastructure investment planning with incorporation of best practices asset management principles such as life cycle risk-based asset strategies, governance and organizational development, and ensuring support and alignment with strategic priorities and initiatives. Shannon is passionate about working in a field that provides a service that is essential to our quality of life. She is dedicated to mentoring and supporting aspiring leaders and building a more diverse and equitable workforce in the utility industry.

In her presentation, Shannon will discuss the changes happening in the energy industry, including grid modernization, transportation electrification, carbon-free goals, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives that create new opportunities for individuals and our communities.

Zoom Link:

Emily smiling in front of brick wall

5/17 - Emily Larson-Kubiak, Energy & Green Building Program Manager at Sustainable Connections

Emily Larson Kubiak is the Energy and Green Building Program Manager at Sustainable Connections, a non-profit that connects and supports local businesses to create thriving communities. She has worked in the energy management field since 2009 and holds a Certified Energy Manager certification from the Association of Energy Engineers. Emily is committed to making energy efficiency affordable and accessible for local businesses through innovative programs and partnerships, and is a proud advocate for climate action initiatives in her hometown of Bellingham, WA.


During her presentation, Emily will provide an overview of the current energy landscape in Bellingham, focusing on the work being done at Sustainable Connections to support local businesses in becoming more energy efficient and resilient. She’ll discuss how these efforts fit into regional efforts to transition to a clean and equitable energy future, and share opportunities to join the conversation.

Zoom Link:

Maggie smiling

5/24 - Maggie Huang, Senior Associate at Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI)

Maggie is a Senior Associate at RMI’s Carbon Free Buildings team, supporting both the REALIZE and Portfolio Energy Optimization initiatives. Her work with the two initiatives is helping facilitate zero-carbon retrofits in the residential sector through advanced building construction, and disrupt the commercial building retrofit market by enabling financial and energy analytics at scale. Prior to joining RMI, Maggie worked on streamlining low-income housing garage retrofit projects in East Palo Alto, CA.


5/31 - WWU Institute for Energy Studies alumni panel.

More information to come.