Melissa Orsen
General Business

Orsen Becomes First Woman to Chair NJ Utilities Association

The Board of Directors of the New Jersey Utilities Association is welcoming the association’s first female operations leader as chair in its 109-year history.

Melissa Orsen, senior vice president of South Jersey Industries and president of South Jersey Industries Utilities, has been named the first woman chair of the New Jersey Utilities Association (NJUA). She replaces Mark Kahrer, vice president – regulatory affairs, at New Jersey Natural Gas.

According to Rich Henning, president and CEO of the NJUA, “Melissa’s breadth of knowledge and experience bring a fresh perspective to the numerous opportunities and challenges facing our company and our industry. She is the right person at the right time to further the NJUA’s mission to provide education and advocacy to our stakeholders.

“We are eager to work with Melissa on many statewide utility challenges, such as maintaining energy affordability and reliability, water quality and broadband access for all as New Jersey utilities work to improve the lives of our residents and business community.”

Orsen brings vast experience in state government and the utilities industry to the post. She joined SJI in 2017 as senior vice president, general counsel, responsible for advising the Board of Directors and executive team on legal matters, overseeing all corporate legal and government affairs. Shortly after her arrival, Orsen was appointed to president and chief operations officer of South Jersey Gas. In 2021, she was named to her current position as president of SJI Utilities and continues to maintain her role as senior vice president, SJI.

Before joining SJI, Orsen served as the CEO of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, where she directed more than $1 billion in economic development activities across the state. Earlier in her career, she served as chief of staff to the former lieutenant governor, secretary of state, and as deputy commissioner to the Department of Community Affairs, where she focused on the state’s recovery after Superstorm Sandy. Orsen was also a deputy attorney general, with a focus on federal and appellate litigation.

“I am deeply honored to serve as chair of the New Jersey Utilities Association,” Orsen said. “Together, we will work diligently to continue commitment to innovation, sustainability, and service excellence in the utility sector. I look forward to our collaborative efforts and the progress we will achieve together.”

As the new NJUA chair, Orsen said she is pleased that so many dedicated professionals are committed to driving innovation and excellence in the utilities industry. “I am excited about what we will accomplish together during my tenure,” she said. “There are many issues that require a strong, unified voice from the NJUA membership.”

Orsen noted, for example, the state is working on the latest iteration of the Clean Energy Master Plan, as well as the modernization of the grid to prepare for the future. The NJUA is also focusing on PFAS compliance as well as ensuring fair and equitable broadband access for all.

“We are also working together on identifying the next generation of renewable energy and ensuring that the members of the NJUA continue to be industry leaders,” she added.

An alumna of University of Delaware, Orsen earned her undergraduate degree in criminal justice and holds a Juris Doctor from Widener University Delaware Law School. She is a member of the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey Board of Directors and Junior Achievement of New Jersey.

She has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors over the years including being named to the 2024 Power 100 and Leading Women in Business lists by NJBiz; the 2023 Women of Achievement Award by the New Jersey Chapter of the Professional Women in Construction; and the 2022 Walter Rand South Jersey Award by the NJ Alliance for Action.

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