All keynote presentations are free with the price of admission. MREA Members, volunteers, and kids 12 and under get in for free. Keynote presentations will be delivered on our Clean Energy-Powered Main Stage! Discounted tickets on sale from April 1 – May 15.
2022 Keynote Speakers
Main Stage – Friday, June 24th @ 1 p.m.
Friday, June 24
John Farrell is a co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and directs the Energy Democracy Initiative. Widely known as the guru of distributed energy, he has received accolades for his vivid illustrations of the economic and environmental benefits of local ownership of decentralized renewable energy. He hosts the Local Energy Rules podcast, telling powerful stories of local clean energy action, and frequently discusses the ownership and scale of the energy system on Twitter, @johnffarrell.
John authored Energy Self-Reliant States, a state-by-state atlas of renewable energy potential highlighted in the New York Times, showing that most states don’t need to look outside their borders to meet their electricity needs. He’s also written extensively on the economic advantages of Democratizing the Electricity System and community renewable energy, published a rich interactive map on solar grid parity, and polished the policies (like Minnesota’s solar energy standard) necessary to support locally owned renewable energy development.
John provides data-rich presentations on local renewable energy for the common citizen, and has wowed crowds from Presque Isle, Maine to San Francisco to Berlin. He’s keynoted conferences like Solar Energy Focus in Washington, DC, and the Midwest Energy Fair.
John’s work appears most regularly on Energy Self-Reliant States, a blog with timely and compelling analysis of current energy discussions and policy. The posts are frequently enriched by charts, translating the complex economics of energy into tools for advancing local energy ownership and have been regularly syndicated at Grist, CleanTechnica, and Renewable Energy World.
What does decentralized ownership of renewable energy really look like and why does it matter? We sat down with John Farrell to find out.
John Farrell is a co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and directs the Energy Democracy Initiative. Widely known as the guru of distributed energy, he has received accolades for his vivid illustrations of the economic and environmental benefits of local ownership of decentralized renewable energy. He also hosts the Local Energy Rules podcast, telling powerful stories of local clean energy action.
Main Stage – Friday, June 24th @ 5 p.m.
Friday, June 24
Shimekia Nichols is the Executive Director of Soulardarity and the leading organizer for the Work For Me, DTE! Campaign – developing community leadership and representing the campaign in the media. She is dedicated to growing Black leadership in environmental justice work and ensuring that the pursuit of clean energy is just, equitable, and democratic.
Learn more about Shimekia’s work in Highland Park with Soulardarity to, quite literally, bring light into their community, by watching this video featured on the Today Show.
When the streetlights were removed from their community, Shimekia Nichols and her fellow citizens didn’t wait for a change; they made it and brought light back in the dark; they worked to bring light back to Highland Park, MI.
Shimekia Nichols is Executive Director of Soulardarity, an environmental non-profit based in Highland Park, Michigan. Soulardarity’s mission is to build community power in Highland Park through community-owned solar streetlights. In their talk, Shimekia explains the origins of Soulardarity, how she came to be involved, and highlights the work Soulardarity had done and continues to do in its community.
Main Stage – Saturday, June 25th @ 5 p.m.
Saturday, June 25
Kyle Whyte is the George Willis Pack Professor of Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan. Kyle’s research addresses moral and political issues concerning climate policy and Indigenous peoples, the ethics of cooperative relationships between Indigenous peoples and science organizations, and problems of Indigenous justice in public and academic discussions of food sovereignty, environmental justice, and the Anthropocene. He is an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.
Kyle currently serves on the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council. He has served as an author for the U.S. Global Change Research Program and is a former member of the Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science in the U.S. Department of Interior and of two environmental justice work groups convened by past state governors of Michigan.
Kyle is involved with a number of organizations that advance Indigenous research and education methodologies and environmental justice, including the Climate and Traditional Knowledges Workgroup, the Sustainable Development Institute of the College of Menominee Nation, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, Pesticide Action Network, and Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga New Zealand’s Māori Centre of Research Excellence.
Kyle’s work has received the Bunyan Bryant Award for Academic Excellence from Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, Michigan State University’s Distinguished Partnership and Engaged Scholarship awards, and grants from the National Science Foundation.
Read Kyle’s work:
“Time as Kinship” Written December 19, 2019
How do kinship and knowledge sovereignty impact our lives, and what roles do they play in advancing the Just Energy Transition? We sat down with Kyle Whyte, 2022 Energy Fair keynote speaker, Professor of Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan, and member of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, to find out.
As an Indigenous philosopher and movement builder, Kyle works to weave trust, consent, and reciprocity into the Just Energy Transition. Throughout the podcast he talks about Indigenous knowledge, what communities need to address environmental justice, and the importance of repairing relationships in order to solve the climate crisis.
Main Stage – Saturday, June 25th @ 1 p.m.
Saturday, June 25
A member of the Oglala Lakota tribe, Chef Sean Sherman was born and raised in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Cooking in kitchens across the United States and Mexico for over 30 years, Chef Sean is renowned nationally and internationally in the culinary movement of Indigenous foods. His primary focus is the revitalization and evolution of Indigenous foods systems throughout North America. His extensive studies on the foundations of Indigenous food systems have led to his deep understanding of what is needed to showcase Native American cuisine in today’s world.
In 2014, Chef Sean opened the business, The Sioux Chef, designed to provide catering and food education in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul area. He and his business partner, Dana Thompson, also designed and opened the Tatanka Truck, which featured 100% pre-contact foods of the Dakota and Minnesota territories.
In October 2017, Sean and his team presented the first decolonized dinner at the prestigious James Beard House in Manhattan. His first book, The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen, received the James Beard Award for Best American Cookbook for 2018 and was chosen one of the top ten cookbooks of 2017 by the LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle and Smithsonian magazine. That same year, Chef Sean was selected as a Bush Fellow and received the 2019 Leadership Award from the James Beard Foundation. Chef Sean currently serves on the leadership committee of the James Beard Foundation Investment Fund for Black and Indigenous Americans and was recently awarded The Ashoka Fellowship. In July 2021, Chef Sean and his partner Dana opened Owamni by The Sioux Chef, Minnesota’s first full-service Indigenous restaurant, featuring healthy Indigenous food and drinks.
The Sioux Chef team continues with their mission to help educate and make Indigenous foods more accessible to as many communities as possible through their non-profit arm, North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems (NĀTIFS) and the accompanying Indigenous Food Lab professional Indigenous kitchen and training center. Working to address the economic and health crises affecting Native communities by re-establishing Native foodways, NĀTIFS imagines a new North American food system that generates wealth and improves health in Native communities through food-related enterprises.
In season three of the Rise Up podcast, we’re pulling back the curtain and inviting you into the world of MREA’s Annual Energy Fair. Designed to give you a sneak peek at the work that goes into hosting the nation’s longest-running event of its kind, our season opener features exclusive interviews with Celia Sweet, coordinator of The 2022 Energy Fair, and Sean Sherman—Sioux chef, cookbook author, and 2022 keynote speaker.
Throughout the episode, our host, Nick Hylla, chats with Sean about what it means to decolonize foods, the work he does at his restaurant, Owamni, and his non-profit, the North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems. Nick also sits down with MREA Events Manager Celia Sweet to give listeners a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the Fair.
What exciting new attractions and forward-thinking speakers will be joining us in Custer, WI, this June? You’ll have to listen in to find out.
Main Stage – Sunday, June 26th @ 11 a.m.
Sunday, June 26
Robert Blake is the owner of Solar Bear, pronounced Gizis-o-makwa in Ojibwe, a solar installation company located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Robert is also the Executive Director of Native Sun Community Power Development, a Non-Profit likewise located in Minneapolis. Robert is a member of the Native Governance Center’s Native Nation Rebuilders 12th Cohort. Robert is a tribal citizen of the Red Lake Nation. His passion is spreading the word about renewable energy through communication, cooperation, and collaboration.
You may also recognize Robert as a member of the MREA Board of Directors. We’re inspired by his work with the country’s Tribal Nations.
What can American’s energy future look like with the country’s 573 Tribal Nations taking a leadership role in renewable energy? We sat down with Robert Blake to find out.
Robert Blake is a tribal citizen of the Red Lake Nation with a passion in spreading the word about the value of renewable energy through communication, cooperation, and collaboration. Blake is the owner of Solar Bear, pronounced Gizis-o-makwa in Ojibwe, a solar installation company, as well as the Executive Director of the Non-Profit Native Sun Community Power Development, both located in Minneapolis. Robert is a graduate student enrolled in the University of Minnesota’s Carlson Executive Master of Business Administration (CEMBA) program.