Line drawing by Jacqueline Oakley
John Nielsen Celebrates 25 Years at WRA
The energy picture in the West looked very different when Clean Energy Program Director John Nielsen joined WRA in 1995 fresh out of a graduate program in economics. Since then, the Clean Energy Program has, through advocacy in state legislatures and public utility commissions across our region, helped spur a transition in the West from coal and gas to wind, solar, and battery storage. This year, Nielsen celebrated his 25th anniversary with WRA. He reflected on his tenure and the changes he has helped oversee.
How did you come to work at WRA?
After I finished graduate school, I knew I wanted to come back West. People kept telling me about a position at this new organization. I’m glad that they pointed me in this direction. The person who really sold me on it was Rudd Mayer [former green marketing program director]. She had this energetic, persuasive way. I remember after I interviewed, she ran out the door and stopped me on the deck of the building and told me how great the organization was and how they were getting things done. And I left hoping they would hire me.
In 1996, you helped WRA write a report that highlighted the threat of climate change. Has it gotten easier to work on these issues since then?
I think there’s greater recognition today than 25 years ago of the environmental challenges we face, especially around climate change. For the most part, there’s more public and political will. I feel like the pace of change is accelerating, and we are making real progress. But there’s still lots of work to do.
What are you proudest of?
It’s been very rewarding to work with this crew. I’m proud of the fact that WRA as an organization has stuck to this issue for three decades. We were instrumental in developing the policy foundations for a clean energy transition at a time when not a lot of people were focused on that. And it really has laid the groundwork for the changes we are seeing now.