Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Shannon pursues interests in energy policy

Sam Shannon


After graduating in 2013, Sam Shannon became a water and sewer rates analyst with the Wisconsin Public Service Commission.

Student wins energy fellowship

Second-year student Sam Shannon received the Bunn Distinguished Graduate Fellowship in from the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies for the 2012-13 academic year. This full fellowship is for University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate students in the Energy Analysis and Policy Program.

Students win policy challenge with ideas on solar energy incentives

Two La Follette School students won the U.S. Department of Energy portion of the Startup America Policy Challenge with their proposal about how to make solar energy more affordable. Read more

After a few years with Madison health-care software company Epic, Sam Shannon started thinking about his next career move.

He wanted to get into the electricity business but lacked background in engineering. "So, I decided to focus on the policy side," says Shannon, who is working on a Master of Public Affairs and a certificate in energy analysis and policy.

That policy emphasis paid off in May when Shannon and classmate Sam Harms went to Washington, D.C., to discuss their solar energy policy proposal with a senior advisor in the U.S. Department of Energy. Through the Startup America Policy Challenge, Shannon and Harms submitted their idea for the federal government to encourage utilities to lease solar photovoltaic modules to businesses and homeowners and thus reduce the costs of adopting small-scale solar technology.

This summer, Shannon is focusing on energy efficiency while on a fellowship with the Environmental Defense Fund doing energy efficiency analysis for the government of Ocean County in New Jersey.

At La Follette, Shannon has found the interdisciplinary approach to be very helpful as he pursues his interests in energy policy. "The La Follette School's program exposes us to a variety of fields," he says. "We get to see how different subjects come at energy programs from different perspectives."

The quantitative courses are another benefit. "For energy work, there's a lot of interaction with the engineering side," Shannon says. "I think it's important to be sure of the facts and have a solid numbers foundation for doing analysis to meet engineering standards."

After Shannon graduates, he hopes to work for a state public utility commission, the U.S. Department of Energy or a private utility.

As he would eventually like to end up in academia, Shannon sought to serve as the program liaison for the La Follette School Student Association for the 2012-13 academic year. "The position seemed like a good way for me to get more exposure to the administrative side of being a professor," he says.

— updated November 11, 2013