I’m at the center of a triangle that has business, science, and law at the corners and energy at the center. This is a unique place to be, and I’m doing some meaningful work in energy policy because of it.”
Keith Dennis says he switched from using one side of his brain to the other when he began the Vermont Law School MSEL (now MELP) program. "I stopped reading equations and started reading books," he says. "I started researching, analyzing, and writing. Things turned from black and white to shades of gray."
The payoff for Dennis, who had earned three engineering degrees before VLS, is work at the Department of Energy that encompasses legal, political, and regulatory components far beyond the usual technological scope of an engineer. "My work as a lead energy project specialist is very interdisciplinary-analyzing technological issues for policy implications and making arguments that can have a real impact on energy efficiency and, ultimately, climate change."
Dennis's wife, Allison Dennis, is also a 2005 graduate of the MSEL/MELP program. Sharing his passion for energy, she works as communications director for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Green Power Partnership, a voluntary program that encourages governments, educational institutions, and businesses to use renewable power sources.
Keith Dennis has always capitalized on his interests. Accomplished at math and science in high school, engineering was a natural for him in college. After earning undergraduate and professional degrees in environmental science at Dartmouth's Thayer School of Engineering, he focused on the business side of engineering in the school's Master of Engineering Management program, with classes taught by faculty of the Tuck School of Business. He was also one of the first students active in VLS's Institute for Energy and the Environment, which lead to his publication of an independent research project in The Electricity Journal.
"Now, after studying environmental law and policy at VLS," he says, "I'm at the center of a triangle that has business, science, and law at the corners and energy at the center. This is a unique place to be, and I'm doing some meaningful work in energy policy because of it. I love where I am in my career."
Since joining the Department of Energy, Dennis has worked in several major areas, including the Energy Star program, auditing and verification of greenhouse gas reduction by private sector businesses, greenhouse gas reduction programs in India and Mexico, energy efficiency, clean energy-all issues ultimately aimed mitigating climate change. A lot of the department's work in this area has been funded by The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009-a.k.a. "the stimulus package"-which provides grants to state and local government to implement energy efficiency and create jobs.
But for Dennis some of the most exciting work is his recent detail working with the White House. "I continue to work for the Department of Energy," he says, "but a portion of my time is spent providing guidance on greenhouse gas accounting for the Council of Environmental Quality.
"There's no question that I'll continue working with emerging technologies in the energy space," says Dennis, "but not in a narrow research environment. My future took a big turn through my experience at VLS. I learned to analyze and envision the policy implications of technology. Because of that my work will really be more about real-world deployment of technologies, and I expect the results will change the world."