Orsen eager to assume role as chair of N.J. Utilities Association

There is the latest iteration of the Energy Master Plan and the modernization of the grid to prepare for the future.

There is solar, wind, nuclear — and a whole host of other new technologies.

There is a desire to make access to energy — and broadband — fair and equitable.

These are just some of the reasons why Melissa Orsen is so eager to get started as the chair of the New Jersey Utilities Association.

Orsen, senior vice president of South Jersey Industries and president of South Jersey Industries Utilities, took the gavel at the 109th-annual NJUA conference last week in Long Branch.

She is the first female chair in the NJUA’s 109-year history — but, she’s more concerned about moving the industry forward at a time of tremendous change.

“I am deeply honored to serve as chair of the New Jersey Utilities Association,” she 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.”

Orsen said she is pleased that so many dedicated professionals are committed to driving innovation and excellence in the utilities industry.

“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 said. “I am excited about what we will accomplish together during my tenure.

“There are many issues that require a strong, unified voice from the NJUA membership.”

NJUA CEO Rich Henning said he is thrilled to have Orsen leading the charge.

“Her breadth of knowledge and experience bring a fresh perspective to the numerous opportunities and challenges facing our company and our industry,” he said. “Melissa Orsen is the right person at the right time to further the NJUA’s mission to provide education and advocacy to our stakeholders.”

Orsen is an accomplished leader with vast experience in state government and the utilities industry. 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 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 and 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 also was a deputy attorney general, with a focus on federal and appellate litigation.

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.