Institute for Energy Studies 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.

* Tuesdays at 4 PM in AH 004
* The lectures are free and open to the public
* Students may register for ENRG 391 and receive 1 credit

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Date Winter 2019 Speakers Organization & Bio

Jan 15, 2019

Colleen Unema
"Do you see what I see? How a small company is making a big splash in the wash world"

Laundromats have been in existence for over fifty years. A laundromat generation is between 20 and 25 years. Brio Laundry is at the forefront of the next generation of the self-serve laundry industry. Brio is strategically designed, built and operated using data and real time monitoring to conserve natural resources. This approach is an industry-disrupting paradigm. Brio continues to perform in the top 1% as compared to other laundromats in the USA and Canada. The upcoming sister company, Brio Cleaners is poised to be a major disrupter of the dry cleaning industry.

Colleen, a Whatcom County native, earned her BA degree in Biology / Science Education from Calvin College in 1983 and completed graduate school at Michigan State University. Graduate studies focused on freshwater invertebrates as keystone species. She earned her Master’s Degree in Education from Grand Valley State University. She then taught high school science for 15 years in Michigan and Washington; several years of college biology classes in Michigan at her alma mater, Calvin College. She earned her National Certification in Biology Education in 2012 and promptly retired to open her first laundromat. 

Colleen, as sole owner of the Northwest Laundry Company has operated Brio Laundry since June 2013. Coming in March of 2019 Colleen is opening a next-gen professional garment care facility, called Brio Cleaners.

Jan 22, 2019

Max Scherr
“Salesforce’s Energy & Carbon Strategy”

In this talk Max Scher will provide an overview of Salesforce’s climate and energy programs,  followed by a detailed look at the company's renewable energy purchasing strategy, outcomes,  and lessons learned. Salesforce is the world’s #1 customer relationship management (CRM)  platform, with over $10B in annual revenue and 30K employees. It was ranked the #1 company  to work for in 2018 by Fortune and the #2 most sustainable company by Barron’s.

Max Scher is a senior member of Salesforce’s sustainability team where (among other things) he heads the company’s climate change mitigation programs. Since starting at Salesforce in 2015, Max has largely been focused on helping Salesforce meet and maintain its 100% Renewable Energy and Carbon Neutral Cloud goals. At Salesforce he has also developed and executed programs related to water security, supplier engagement, and impact investing. After graduating from WWU with a BA in Economics/Environmental Studies and minor in Energy Policy he began his career in sustainability at Sea-Tac international Airport. He then migrated to the Bay Area where he lead the environmental programs at Nutiva (an organic super foods company). He recently relocated back to Seattle where he’s enjoying the green, grey, and disc golf. 

Jan 29, 2019

Chris Bruntlett
“Building the Cycling City – The Dutch Blueprint for Urban Vitality”

With 22.5 million bicycles for a population of 18 million, the Netherlands is undoubtedly the world’s top cycling nation. However, there remains an erroneous belief that – while the Dutch can provide encouragement – their methods are unrepeatable, and their results unattainable. Miles of separated cycle tracks, dedicated bike streets, and off-street paths are something that only works for “them” and not “us.” But even they started somewhere. Can the country that has spent decades building comfortable cycling infrastructure provide a blueprint for North American cities such as Bellingham?

Chris Bruntlett is the co-founder of Modacity; a creative agency using words, photography, and film to inspire happier, healthier, simpler forms of mobility. Together with his partner Melissa, he works with a variety of organizations—including municipal governments, transportation agencies, non-profits, and corporate clients—to address the evolving needs of cities large and small, and enable a variety of mobility options as a way to create successful and more livable regions. Their new book “Building the Cycling City: The Dutch Blueprint for Urban Vitality” is now available from Island Press.
Feb 5, 2019

Eileen Quigley

Clean Energy Transition Institute

Feb 12, 2019

Nancy Hirsh



Feb 19, 2019

Brad Liljequist

40% of all energy used in the United States is used in buildings.  If every building were zero energy, with a well-integrated energy trading grid this number could be reduced to zero.  Brad will give an introduction to zero energy building, the latest trends, discuss the latest hot project, Catalyst in Spokane, and wrap up with thoughts about education, and career in advanced energy efficiency and saving the Earth.

Brad Liljequist is the Zero Energy Program Manager for McKinstry. He is a zero energy pioneer and thought leader, with deep experience in leading the design and development of the world's most efficient buildings and communities. He was the developer of zHome, the first multifamily zero energy community in the United States, located in Issaquah, WA. For McKinstry, he leads zero energy design for individual projects, and continues to help the building industry become radically more efficient. Recently, he has managed zero energy elements for the Catalyst project, currently under construction in Spokane, which at completion will be the largest zero energy building in the Pacific Northwest, and one of the largest in the world.

Brad has three decades of experience catalyzing change in the fields of planning, environmental policy, urban design, construction management, lean operations, and sustainable building. Early in his career, he was a key member of the team implementing one of the first urban growth boundaries in the United States, which stands to this day. In the late 90s and early 00s, he was one of the main practitioners of neotraditional urban design in the Pacific Northwest, designing walkable communities for thousands of residents. In 2000, he established and managed the first municipal green building program in the Northwest outside of a major city. He directed the development of the Petal and Net Zero Energy Certified zHome, the first multifamily zero net energy community in the United States, as well as Issaquah Fire Station 72, the world’s most energy efficient fire station and recipient of the international 2012 ASHRAE Technology award. More recently, he was the Zero Energy Director for the International Living Future Institute, where he created energy thought capital for the Institute, including new Zero Energy and Zero Carbon certifications, as well as a process for applying offsite renewables to zero energy buildings. At the ILFI, he was also launch director for the Living Community Challenge.

He is the author of The Power of Zero: Learning From the World’s Leading Net Zero Energy Buildings. His work has been covered by The New York Times, the BBC, the Wall Street Journal, national NPR, The Seattle Times, Engineering News Record, Architectural Review, GreenBiz, and many other media. He was educated at Georgetown University, the University of St. Andrews, the University of Washington Evans School, and Seattle Central College.

Feb 26, 2019

Josh Warner

Josh plans to give an overview of BPA, the agency’s Strategic Plan and highlight a few active initiatives including energy efficiency, use of non-wires solutions and a demand response pilot program.


Josh Warner is the liaison with public interest organization for the Bonneville Power Administration. In this position he interacts with groups interested in BPA’s role in the region on many issues including energy efficiency, renewable energy integration and fish and wildlife. Prior to this role he was the Planning and Evaluation Manager for Energy Efficiency at BPA.  Josh also led the multi-year, public process to shape BPA’s Post-2011 energy efficiency framework. Before joining BPA, Josh worked at an energy efficiency consulting firm as well as a land use planner. He holds degrees from the University of Iowa and the University of Minnesota.

Mar 5, 2019


Nancy Hirsh

Transforming the energy sector is critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving environmental and community health, and stimulating new economic opportunities. Yet, market-based solutions alone have not been sufficient to start, maintain, or accelerate this transition. Policy and regulatory leadership is an essential component in driving innovation in technology and consumer demand. Advocacy organizations build momentum, create acceptance, and illustrate the vision of what the new energy economy looks like and the path for getting there. Nancy Hirsh, executive director of the NW Energy Coalition, will talk about the Coalition, its roots in advocacy, examples of successful policy campaigns that have shaped the clean energy landscape and the hot clean energy issues before policymakers and regulators today.

Nancy Hirsh is Executive Director for the NW Energy Coalition. Nancy directs the Coalition’s efforts to enhance investments in energy efficiency, renewable resources, and low-income energy services through work with utilities, commissioners, regulators, and legislators. She serves on the board of Renewable Northwest. From 1996 through 2014 she served as the Coalition’s policy director. Before joining the Coalition, she spent twelve years in Washington, DC working on national energy policy issues for the Environmental Action Foundation and the National Wildlife Federation. She lives in Seattle with her husband, children, and dog. When not advocating clean energy solutions, she is an avid backpacker and hiker. The NW Energy Coalition is an alliance of more than 100 environmental, civic, and human service organizations, progressive utilities, and businesses in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and British Columbia. We promote the development of renewable energy and energy conservation, consumer protection, low-income energy assistance, and fish and wildlife restoration on the Columbia and Snake rivers.

Mar 12, 2019

David Mills 
"Operational issues facing distribution utilities."


David Mills is Senior Vice President of Policy and Energy Supply for Puget Sound Energy. Mills leads a team that is responsible for managing PSE's generation and natural gas resources, energy trading and transmission services, product development and growth, regulatory and government affairs, and strategic initiatives.

Mills served as Senior Vice President of Energy Operations from 2015 to 2018; prior to that, he was Vice President of Energy Supply Operations. Mills joined PSE in 2002 as the director of Energy Supply & Planning, responsible for power and natural gas trading, generating plant dispatch, merchant transmission issues, and the company’s long-term integrated resource planning. His team also managed integrating renewable resources in to PSE’s generation portfolio.

Prior to joining PSE, Mills was the trading floor manager for the Bonneville Power Administration in Portland, Ore. He has more than 25 years of experience in energy operations, transmission and energy trading. Mills is currently the vice chair of the Pacific Northwest Utilities Conference Committee and serves on the executive committee of Columbia Grid, the executive committee of the Western Systems Power Pool, and the National Board of Directors for Hire America’s Heroes.

Mills earned a degree in economics from Portland State University. He also served in the U.S. Navy.