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February 28, 2020

Spotlight: WRISE Leadership Forum 2020 Takeaways

By: Grace Morrissey, Senior Analyst, Renewables

This was my fourth year attending the Women of Renewable Industries and Sustainable Energy (WRISE) Leadership Forum, and year over year, the opening remarks of many speakers have a strong echo:

“It’s so powerful to speak to a room full of women!”

“I’m often the only woman in the room – this is a rare opportunity – speaking with you all today.”


Sitting in the audience, I feel it as well; the atmosphere is different when you are surrounded by four-hundred professionals, each an expert in her field. The gravity of this conference comes from a multitude of forces all converging in Austin for four days: attendees are women, yes, but they are also entrepreneurs, renewable energy developers, brokers, advisors, academics, lawyers, manufacturers, safety inspectors, engineers, policy analysts, scientists, human resources directors, construction managers… The WRISE Leadership Forum highlights the breadth, depth, and interconnectedness that comprises the wide world of renewables.

Especially in a rapidly dynamic industry, there is often a need to specialize and drill down into that specialization in order to achieve the overarching goal – that of your team, company, or the energy sector as a whole. As a result, your world narrows to a specialist size. That expertise dictates day-to-day interactions with the market, reinforced by niche conferences and networking events. Sector- and topic-specific opportunities serve an essential purpose, but WRISE fulfills a different need. WRISE invites attendees to be stewards of their departments, companies, and disciplines while bringing the relative industry periphery into focus. It is precisely because attendees are experts in their field that this conference is fruitful.

The Leadership Forum was the largest it’s ever been this year, and the event sold out before the agenda was announced. It’s an honor for Edison Energy to sponsor this event. With the intent to share WRISE’s mission and insight, we’ve distilled the conference into three takeaway categories:

  1. Industry
  2. Networking
  3. Professional development

Industry takeaways

  • When it comes to risk, if you are not taking steps toward mitigation, you are setting yourself up for disaster control, which often is more impactful and harder to address. The best methods to manage risk are to reduce it, transfer it, or control it, keeping in mind the costs to do each. Reach out to our team to learn more about risk mitigation strategies.
  • ERCOT’s energy-only market is equipped with a scarcity pricing mechanism cap of $9,000/MWh, due to limited reserves on the grid at moments of high demand. 88% of capacity currently being studied in ERCOT’s queue is wind and solar, with over 60,000 MW of solar alone. ERCOT is currently developing a hybrid interconnection study for solar + storage and is expected to be integrated quickly into the study process.
  • When considering grid resilience and national security, more flexible systems such as solar + storage and microgrids can recover more quickly.
  • 2020 Election tip: review candidates’ voting records; many candidates may include renewables in their platform but may not have voted in the industry’s favor.
  • The Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) Member Federal Lobby Day is being held on March 31st in Washington DC; The American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) Wind Power on Capitol Hill opportunity is takes place at the end of April. Emphasis on job training and transitioning will be a focus of talks with legislators and both activities continue to be integral to grow public support for renewables.

Networking takeaways

  • Before a conference, meeting, or event, center yourself. Breathe in and out in counts of four, and “get below your shoulders”. Consider what you need to let go of to be fully present in the upcoming circumstance. Consider what you aim to get out of the upcoming event. Writing these thoughts down can aid in being fully present and gaining the most from the experiences you encounter.
  • Networking works best if you approach others with the attitude of: “what can I offer?” as opposed to “what can you give me?”
  • Use your network for others. Challenge yourself to think of who might benefit from the conversation you are having. That’s how networks grow and progress is made.

Professional development takeaways

  • Intersectionality is a lens through which we can better understand social categories of which we are all a part. Everyone has various elements that make up their personhood: race, gender identity, religion, sexual orientation, veteran status, work experience, parental status, educational experience, ethnicity, among many others. Each individual brings all of their identities to the table, including all of those experiences and perspectives. Diversity and inclusion require attention paid to all of these categories, and all of these categories as they exist together, not in a vacuum. Further, true diversity in the room leads to better discourse, valuable problem solving, and more profitability. (Look up Gap’s diversity and inclusion efforts as an example of these principles in practice. To learn about Demetria Miles-McDonald’s Table of Diversity, check out her company, Decided Diversity.)
  • Create an environment that will attract and retain diverse top talent. Be mindful of your team members’ burnout status; employees who experience burnout are more likely to need a sick day and are more likely to leave their employers. Factors that impact burnout include workload, control, reward, community, fairness, and value.
  • Plan meetings with time to spare. Make a point to ‘time-box’, creating blocks of time where you are or are not working. Strive to end meetings five minutes early so that people can snag a coffee refill or use the restroom before their next meeting. Respecting people’s time builds healthy working relationships and a strong company culture.
  • Lead by example. Leaders must identify the culture-carriers in their organizations. Act in the manner you wish your team to act to show them that it is possible. Culture shifts require adoption, not just execution.
  • Use your voice. Silence is an endorsement, as people will assume you agree if you say nothing.

And lastly, the overarching takeaway from the WRISE 2020 Leadership Forum is this: you may be the first of your representation in a room, but you cannot intend to be the last. We have a duty to uplift others so that more voices can be heard.


If you are in the Boston area, be sure to reach out to Grace Morrissey or Lindsey Cohen, the co-chairs of the WRISE Boston Chapter. If you are located elsewhere, reach out even still! We’d be happy to get you in touch with the WRISE Chapter in your area, as we have a passionate team in offices across the nation.

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