Board Members

Richard Cowart

Board Chair

Richard is a Principal in Energy and Climate Policy with the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP). He sits on the Executive Committee of the IEA’s Demand-Side Management program and the Environmental Advisory Committee of the New York ISO. With deep experience on energy and environmental issues in the US, China, Brazil, and the European Union, and with a particular focus on climate policy, Richard is a highly experienced regulator. He served as chair of the Electricity Advisory Committee of the US Department of Energy for three terms, as commissioner and chair of the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) for thirteen years, as president of the New England Conference of Public Utility Commissioners, as chair of the US Regulators’ Committee on Energy Resources and the Environment, and on many other national energy boards. Richard received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Davidson College and his Juris Doctorate and master’s in city planning from UC Berkeley.


Nancy Owens

Vice Chair

Nancy is a leader in the affordable housing field.  She became the President of Housing Vermont in 2008 and leads the organization in helping communities advance critical housing, economic, energy and environmental goals. Nancy began her career as a developer in Seattle, Washington creating housing for the homeless, then returned to Burlington, Vermont as the Director of Development at Cathedral Square. In 2009 Nancy formed Vermont Rural Ventures, a subsidiary of Housing Vermont. Nancy Owens is a newly appointed member of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston’s Community Development Advisory Council. She has served as the President of the National Association of State and Local Equity Funds, the Chair of the Intervale Center, and is a graduate of Achieving Excellence, a leadership program of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and NeighborWorks. Nancy holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Vermont.

Nick Richardson

Board Treasurer

Nick serves as the President of the Vermont Land Trust (VLT), a statewide nonprofit conservation organization. Nick joined VLT in 2012 as the Vice President for Enterprise and Finance and was named President of the organization in December 2017. He has helped accelerate the Farmland Access Program, led efforts to make forest carbon offsets viable for more Vermont forestland owners, and increased VLT's access to capital for land conservation by expanding partnerships. Prior to his time at VLT Nick worked for Encore Redevelopment, now Encore Renewable Energy. He also held a position with VEIC in 2009 managing the Vermont Energy Education Program (VEEP). Before moving to Vermont Nick spent several years in Boston and Providence working for nonprofits focused on youth leadership and education reform. He received a bachelor's degree from Sarah Lawrence College and a Master's of Business Administration from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.

Janet G. Besser

As Managing Director of Regulatory Innovation & Utility Business Models, Janet Gail Besser leads two closely integrated pathways for SEPA. She brings to this role broad energy industry experience as a regulator, clean energy business association leader, utility executive, developer, consultant, and consumer advocate. Previously, she was Executive Vice President of the Northeast Clean Energy Council (NECEC), Vice President, Regulatory Strategy and Policy at National Grid, Chair of the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, where she led electric industry restructuring, and an executive and expert consultant at Analysis Group and Lexecon. She also held senior staff roles at the Massachusetts Energy Office and New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission, served as policy director for a DC-based national independent power association, and began her career as a small hydro developer and low-income consumer advocate. Janet is a nationally recognized expert on a wide range of energy policy issues with deep relationships across the industry. She earned a Master in Public Policy degree from the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University and a B.A., magna cum laude, from Williams College.

Michael Dworkin

Michael is a Professor of Law and Founder of the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School. He has been a utility regulator, an appellate litigator, and management partner in an entrepreneurial telecommunications engineering firm. Michael is also the Vermont Low Income Trust for Energy's nominee to the Board of VELCO, which manages Vermont’s electricity transmission system. In the past he has been Chairman of the Vermont Public Service Board, a board member on the executive committee of the Electric Power Research Institute, and a director of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. He was received multiple awards for his work in the environmental field. Michael earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Middlebury College and his Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School.


Isabelina Nahmens

Isabelina is an Associate Professor of Industrial Engineering and the Industrial Engineering Program Director at Louisiana State University. Her research interests and efforts are centered in Process Improvement Theory and its application in the fields of healthcare and construction. Isabelina’s work explores and introduces advanced homebuilding production technologies into industry and improves home energy performance. She is a certified Master Black Belt and an active member of the Institute of Industrial and System Engineering (IISE), and Society for Health Systems (SHS). Isabelina holds a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Central Florida.

Colin Owyang

Colin has served as Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary at the Vermont Electric Power Company (VELCO) since February 2016. Colin previously served as the Deputy Attorney General in Massachusetts, overseeing the criminal bureau and the public protection bureau. Colin worked for nearly eleven years at National Grid, including six as Senior Vice President and U.S. General Counsel. Colin's public-sector experience also includes serving as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Boston, a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney in Washington, DC, and as a Trial Attorney in the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice. Colin received a bachelor's and master's degree from Yale University, and a Juris Doctor degree from University of Michigan Law School.


Tony Pickett

Tony is the Chief Executive Officer of Grounded Solutions Network, working to advance housing accessibility, affordability, and equity. Prior to this role he was the Senior V.P. of Master Site Development for the Urban Land Conservancy, leading efforts to plan, finance and construct multiple equitable transit-oriented development initiatives. Tony was also the founding Executive Director of the Atlanta Land Trust Collaborative. Tony’s experience includes planning, creating and using local tax increment financing districts to leverage private investments in combination with additional federal and state funding sources to revitalize distressed communities. He is a graduate of the Cornell University School of Architecture, Art and Planning and a strong advocate for holistic and equitable neighborhood development efforts. 


Dianne Dillon-Ridgley

Environmental and Human Rights Activist, Dianne has worked for thirty years on issues of the environment and sustainability, and gender and CSR, both domestically and internationally. Currently the Executive Director of WNSF, the Women's Network for a Sustainable Future she is also on the board of the National Wildlife Federation, former president of Population Connection, was the first female to chair the River Network board and was CEO of WEDO (the Women's Environment and Development Organization). Since 1997 she served as a director at Interface, Inc., global manufacturer of modular carpet and a leader in sustainable design. She was a director at Green Mountain Energy for the first six years and still chairs the Environmental Integrity Committee for the company. She lives in Iowa City, Iowa. 


Elizabeth Wilson

Elizabeth is a Professor of Environmental Studies at Dartmouth College and the inaugural Director of the Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society. She studies how energy systems are changing in the face of new technologies and new societal pressures. Her work focuses on the implementation of energy and environmental policies and laws in practice. Prior to joining Dartmouth College, Wilson was a Professor of Energy and Environmental Policy and Law at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. Previously she worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She holds a doctorate in Engineering and Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University.

Ellen Zuckerman

Ellen is a leading consultant on energy efficiency who has worked on behalf of clients that include Fortune 100 companies, government entities, large foundations, and nonprofits. Through this work she has helped to design, implement, market, evaluate, and improve energy efficiency programs and policies in dozens of states. Ellen's career in energy efficiency started in Vermont, where she helped award grants to efficiency efforts through the Vermont Community Foundation. She went on to gain hands-on experience performing audits and working with contractors at the Association for Energy Affordability in New York City. Since then she has worked on state energy efficiency policy around the country as a Senior Associate at the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project and as an independent consultant. Ellen received her bachelor's degree from Princeton University and a master's in Environmental Law and Policy Law from Vermont Law School.

Non-Voting Members

  • Jim Madej, CEO
  • Kurt Janson, Corporate Secretary
  • Beth Sachs, Director Emeritus