Nick Britton '21

Meet the Class of 2021

"It's amazing how quickly progress can happen when people are putting the effort in."

Nicholas Britton '21
Hometown: Manchester, NH
Major: Environmental Studies 

Nick Britton came to Dartmouth intending to be a physics major. He had always been interested in renewable energy and while he wasn't sure exactly what career path he might take, he thought a physics degree would be relevant to that work. During his first year, however, he took an Environmental Studies course focused on the transition to a low-carbon society and realized his true passion was on the policy and social side of energy. 

Around that time, Nick met some upperclass students who were organizing an undergraduate energy club — what would become the Dartmouth Energy Alliance (DEA). He also participated in a focus group (which included Irving Institute Advisory Board Chair Scott Fisher as well as students from Tuck and Thayer) on developing student programming for the Irving Institute. He says the experience "showed me the potential of the energy space at Dartmouth and beyond." Soon Nick was on a path toward an environmental studies major with a government minor as well as being an active participant in Dartmouth's energy community. 

The pandemic has made staying connected over the past year challenging, but Nick is impressed at the level of student participation in the DEA. He says the club has managed to attract some "really awesome students who are passionate and ready to learn about energy and grab any opportunities they can get." And it's not a coincidence that there are so many energy-focused students at the College, he notes. "I had a chance to speak on an energy and climate-focused Admissions panel during summer 2020 representing the Sustainability Office and talking about some of the work I've done with the Irving Institute. It's pretty amazing to see how many students are looking at Dartmouth as a place for energy." 

Another formative energy experience for Nick came while he was working as Sustainability Office intern during his sophomore year, when he worked as a student researcher on the campus energy transition project. In addition to tracking campus emissions, he worked with a range of project stakeholders. "I got to meet with campus operations, the Hanover subcommittee on energy... I got a really great hands-on experience that helped me see what it takes to make this kind of transition." 

During the summer of 2020, Nick was also a student research assistant on the Irving Institute-led project analyzing the impact of COVID-19 on regional transmission organizations (RTOs). In addition to giving him real-world research experience, he was interested to see how the project reconnected him with some of the people he had worked with at a clean energy consulting firm in Washington, DC during his junior winter. This reconnection made Nick feel that "the industry isn't as big or intimidating as you might think and there is this core of really passionate people" who are working on these critical challenges.

That junior year internship also set the stage for Nick's next steps. "I realized there's a really interesting clean energy space in DC right now, with its connections to Congress and government agencies. There are a lot of really great opportunities, so that made me want to look there for work." His search was successful, and after graduating, Nick will be working at the Energy Futures Initiative, a clean energy think tank in DC.

Nick says that while the world's climate challenges can be depressing, he is also hopeful for the future. "Energy draws people with the right intentions. I feel like these people in the energy space at Dartmouth and beyond are working in it because of a bigger picture … it's for the common good…we're all hoping to move to something more sustainable so it's a better world for everyone. It's amazing how quickly progress can happen when people are putting the effort in."