CELS alumna leads the way on energy policy in Rhode Island as new commissioner on RIPUC

RIPUC“Being a good leader requires motivating others and thinking strategically about the future,” says Abigail Anthony, whose proven track record recently earned her a nomination to the Rhode Island Public Utility Commission (RIPUC). An alumna of the University of Rhode Island College of the Environment and Life Sciences (CELS), Anthony will continue to advance the State’s clean energy economy and work towards positioning Rhode Island as a national leader in energy efficiency.

She joins the RIPUC as the third female member on State’s regulatory agency, the only all-woman utilities commission in the country. The RIPUC is responsible for overseeing operations, pricing, and commercial activities of Rhode Island utilities, including electric and natural gas companies. Anthony’s appointment is the culmination of a decade-long career helping Rhode Island reshape its energy efficiency policies and rank among the top five most energy efficient states since 2014.

A native of Jamestown, Rhode Island, Anthony earned a Ph.D. in Environmental and Natural Resource Economics in 2009. She received both her bachelor’s and master’s in Economics from the University of Montana, where she focused on land-use issues and open-space preservation.  It wasn’t until she came to URI to pursue her Ph.D. at CELS that she began thinking about the important connection between economics and energy in the context of a changing climate.

“The most critical experience I had was at URI when I had the chance to be a part of the Coastal Institute Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship program,” says Anthony of the National Science Foundation’s flagship training initiative designed to provide doctoral scientists with interdisciplinary skills and collaborative research experience.

“It is very important for Ph.D. students to have examples of people who are outside of academia; we need highly qualified and knowledgeable people working across the realm of places to influence decisions,” reflects Anthony on the value of her IGERT experience, which provided her with professional skills and real-world experience working with experts across disciplines.

Anthony credits CELS faculty and staff for their invaluable guidance and mentorship, including her academic advisor, Professor James Opaluch, who both challenged and supported Anthony during the rigorous four-year doctoral program.

After completing her dissertation, Anthony joined Acadia Center, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization where she has been leading the way on clean energy and energy efficient policies across New England as director of Acadia’s Rhode Island office. She’s also headed the organization’s Grid Modernization and Utility Reform program, which focuses on the need to change regulatory and economic incentives in order to achieve a sustainable and consumer-friendly energy system.

“I’ve watched energy efficiency go from being a nice thing that the utility did in a limited way to being the centerpiece and cornerstone of Rhode Island’s energy policy,” explains Anthony of the progress she has witnessed over the past 10 years at Acadia. As commissioner Anthony looks forward to building on her success, helping Rhode Island transform its energy system in a way that maximizes benefits for Rhode Islanders.

Anthony has also served as Vice Chair on the State’s Energy Efficiency and Resource Management Council (EERMC), a stakeholder body that oversees the implementation of Rhode Island’s energy efficiency policies and programs. Anthony’s dedicated leadership spanning different sectors across the energy field underscores the important role that stakeholders play in influencing decision-making and driving change.

“There is momentum at the state and community level,” she says of her hopes to achieve a clean energy future. “Communities and citizens can take control of their energy future and lead on climate action.”