Fresh Energy has a commitment to nurturing talent and building new clean energy leaders. In honor of our 25th anniversary, we are profiling a handful of “Fresh Energy Alums” who worked with us early in their career.
This month, Fresh Energy’s senior engagement specialist Alexis Williams spoke with Jeremy Schreifels, branch chief at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and visiting fellow at Resources for the Future about his time at Fresh Energy and how it shaped his career. Jeremy joined Fresh Energy in 1997 as the first intern when the organization was still known as Minnesotans for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
When did you work at Fresh Energy and what did you do?
Jeremy: I interned with Fresh Energy in 1997 when the organization was then called Minnesotans for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ME3). At that time, the only other Fresh Energy staff were Michael Noble and J. Drake Hamilton. During my time at Fresh Energy, I wrote a report that put forward preferred environmental externalities values for carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, and lead after the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission case that decided there was a cost for global warming. These externality values were to be factored into resource planning decisions.
What were you doing prior to your internship and what motivated you to come intern at Fresh Energy?
Jeremy: I started a graduate degree at Bemidji State University in environmental policy, but in the middle of my first year the university eliminated the program. Rather than shift my focus to another area of study, I decided to start my job search. When I moved to the Twin Cities in 1996, I was working at Anderson Consulting (now called Accenture) as a business systems engineer working in software development, but I had an unfulfilled interest to learn more about the environment and environmental policy. I looked for an opportunity to work with an organization that would help me learn about environmental issues facing Minnesota. I met with J. and Michael at Fresh Energy, learned more about the externalities case at the Public Utilities Commission, and joined on as the organization’s first intern.
Tell me more about your career path following your internship at Fresh Energy?
Jeremy: After interning with Fresh Energy, I went back to graduate school at Duke University and earned my Masters of Environmental Management in Resource Economics and Policy, focused on climate change. I then did an internship with the Intel Corporation in their environmental, health, and safety department looking at the climate impacts of their products from manufacturing of chips to impacts of using computers—both the energy consumption and potential energy savings (e.g., video conferencing to reduce travel). When I graduated from Duke, I joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as an analyst in their Office of Air and Radiation’s Clean Air Markets Division.
When I started at the Environmental Protection Agency in 1999, I was part of a team that designed and implemented emission trading programs to reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from U.S. power plants. I was also invited to help China and other foreign governments design and implement their clean air policies. That led to the 2007 U.S.-China Joint Economic Study that assessed the costs and benefits of reducing emissions from the power sectors in both countries. Then in 2009, I was offered a spot at “China’s MIT,” Tsinghua University, where I did my Ph.D. studying pollution control opportunities in China’s power and industrial sectors, which I completed in 2014. Two years later, I became a branch chief at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency managing power plant emission monitoring, reporting, and verification programs. At the beginning of this year, I also joined Resources for the Future as a visiting fellow where I conduct research on China’s energy, economic, environment, and climate policies.
Was there anything you learned during your time at Fresh Energy that helped guide your career in energy policy and where you are now?
Jeremy: My internship at Fresh Energy exposed me to the issue of climate change and the role that economics can play in addressing it. It was this experience working at Fresh Energy and the externalities report that led me to go back to graduate school. Without that internship, I don’t believe I would have followed the same career path.
My career has largely been an extension of that first internship, analyzing and addressing the externalities of power plant air emissions. Throughout my career I have often remarked about the policy in Minnesota and the externalities study that we did in 1997. In many ways, the Minnesota case is unique in terms of its impact on power sector planning and it is a model that I’ve been able to discuss with Chinese leaders to help them think about how they could factor environmental externalities into their decision making process.
Anything else you would like to add about Fresh Energy or your time here?
Jeremy: My internship at Fresh Energy was a really foundational experience for me. It led me to decisions about the direction I wanted to take my career. For that, I’m forever grateful. I learned a lot through my experience at Fresh Energy and the opportunity to work alongside other energy experts, primarily Michael and J. Following that 1997 internship, I have had many wonderful opportunities to explore a subject that continues to interest and excite me. For that, I owe a lot to Fresh Energy. Michael and J. nurtured that spark and pointed me down an amazing path.