Congratulations to the recipients of the 2020 Energy News Network 40 Under 40 awards!
The Energy News Network’s 40 Under 40 awards program highlights emerging leaders and their work in the United States’ transition to a clean energy economy.
Michigan Technological University
Adewale Adesanya is a young energy expert and researcher with zest for clean energy systems development in the context of technology, management and policy dimensions. He is currently a PhD student at Michigan Technological University in the Environmental and Energy Policy Program with research on multi-level perspectives to and feasibility of 100 percent renewable electricity in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Adewale has more than seven years of industrial working and researching experience across the globe, including in the U.S., Germany, Scotland, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Tuvalu in the oil and gas, renewable energy and public service regulatory sectors. He has published and is still publishing in energy journals on clean and renewable energy adoption for households, industrial, community, regional and national applications. He holds a Master of Engineering degree in energy and environmental management from Europa Universität Flensburg, Germany and a Bachelor of Science degree in industrial and production engineering at University of Ibadan, Nigeria.
Co-founder and General Manager
Cooperative Energy Futures
Timothy DenHerder-Thomas is the co-founder and General Manager of Cooperative Energy Futures, an energy efficiency and community-owned clean energy cooperative serving members across Minnesota since 2009. Timothy has also helped build local control over energy decision-making in Minneapolis through the Minneapolis Clean Energy Partnership as a member of the partnership’s Energy Vision Advisory Committee and supports energy democracy nationally through the People’s Solar Energy Fund and the PowerShift Network.
Passionate about pushing forward the energy transition and driving technological changes, Damien Despinoy has over 15 years of experience in the global energy and material industry. Damien is the CEO of Volexion, a Chicago-based disruptive nanomaterial material battery company. In his role, Damien develops the company’s vision and leads business development and partnership efforts. Prior to Volexion, Damien was the Director of Market Intelligence at Energy Foundry, where he was in charge of identifying cleantech trends and of evaluating the potential of investments targets. Damien’s past experiences include three years strategy consulting for McKinsey, and 10 years with Energy Major Total where he led the design, construction and optimization phases of energy assets, including leading multiple initiatives that improve the company’s environmental footprint. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Insead (France/Singapore), a Master of Science in chemical engineering from IFP School (France) and a Master of Science in chemistry from the Paris Institute of Technology.
Lake County Outreach Director
Faith in Place
Celeste Flores is a child of immigrants who was born and raised in Lake County, Illinois, and has been a lifelong member of Most Blessed Trinity Parish in Waukegan. While a student at Bellarmine University in Kentucky, she saw the devastation of mountaintop removal and became involved in environmental justice. When she returned to Lake County, where she learned about local environmental justice efforts to ensure a just transition for the Waukegan coal-fired plant on the shore of Lake Michigan. Celeste began as a volunteer with Clean Power Lake County (CPLC) working to develop a transition plan for the coal-fired plant in Waukegan along the shore of Lake Michigan. Celeste’s work with frontline community members has drawn national attention to the environmental injustices associated with corporate polluters in Lake County. As Co-Chair of CPLC, she has built strong relationships with varied coalition partners and elected officials and has continually championed the need for environmental justice and frontline communities to be part of the conversation and policy decisions to work toward an equitable clean energy future.
Natalie has a master’s degree in development practice from the University of Arizona. In 2014 she established Care About Climate, a nonprofit that empowers, educates, and unites people for climate action on a global scale. She moved to St. Louis, Missouri, in 2016 and joined StraightUp Solar as a Solar Support Specialist in 2017. She was elected to the Sierra Club Board of Directors in 2017, and was elected to the secretary position in 2019. She is passionate about doing everything she can do address the climate crisis, and sees renewable energy as a tool to transform our economy and people’s lives for the better with an emphasis on justice.
Central Region Director and Counsel
Solar Energy Industries Association
Nakhia Morrissette is Central Region Director & Counsel at the Solar Energy Industries Association, a national trade association dedicated to solar advancement, advocacy, and education. In her role, Nakhia leads the industry’s efforts to grow solar markets in the region. She previously worked for the Illinois Commerce Commission, where she served in various roles within the agency and was instrumental to its implementation efforts from the Future Energy Jobs Act. Prior to the ICC, she worked in private practice at Schumacher Electric Corporation and as a law firm owner serving entrepreneurs. Nakhia is passionate about empowering minorities, women and youth in both legal and STEM careers. She currently serves as Vice President of the Board of Directors at The Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Greater Chicago, Inc., a Founding Associate Board Member of Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago/Northwest Indiana, and member of the Women’s Energy Network and WRISE. Nakhia earned her B.S. in Journalism/Mass Communications from North Carolina A&T State University and her J.D. from Thomas Jefferson School of Law. She is a 2020 Fellow of the Chicago Urban League and University of Chicago Booth School of Business IMPACT Executive Leadership Development Program.
Shimekia Nichols leads organizing of the Work For Me, DTE! campaign for Soulardarity, developing community leadership and representing in the media. She has spoken out on DTE’s practices on Channel 7, on the front page of the Detroit Free Press, and at Michigan Radio outside of a public hearing on DTE’s 15-year energy plan. She is dedicated to growing Black leadership in environmental justice work and ensuring that the pursuit if clean energy is just, equitable, and democratic. When Shimekia joined Soulardarity in 2007, she was new to energy work. In the past years, she has become a transformative and visionary leader for energy democracy. Now in her role as Deputy Director, Shimekia has trained and supported dozens of community members to engage in energy-focused activism, and contributed greatly to the 3000 public comments our campaign submitted on DTE’s Integrated Resource Plan.
Senior Policy Associate, Midwest
Theodora Okiro currently works to expand access to solar at Nexamp. She works to advocate for innovative and equitable policy solutions to drive the clean energy transition, particularly for vulnerable populations. She believes that the clean energy transition must include all voices and communities. Prior, she held roles at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau where she developed federal policies to ensure access to credit for unbanked families; the UPENN Kleinman Center for Energy Policy where she advanced economic development initiatives for displaced coal producing towns in rural Pennsylvania; the City of Chicago where she helped nearly 100 customers successfully advocate for and participate in energy assistance; and at the United Nations, where she researched and published a noted report on protecting aid workers. She is a corporate board member for Polished Pebbles, a girls mentorship program in Chicago. She holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Ashley Palladino has a lifelong passion for environmental and animal rights and has built a 12-year career supporting clean energy. Born and raised near Burlington, Vermont, Ashley is now a proud Chicagoan. She currently oversees the delivery of all residential energy efficiency programs for Resource Innovations, which includes designing and implementing residential programs that integrate innovative approaches to meet the needs and goals of communities across the Midwest — especially underserved communities. She has also actively contributed to increasing sustainability awareness throughout Chicago by completing the Chicago Conservation Corps Sustainability Leadership training and working to initiate community-based sustainability projects.
Director of Engineering
Katherine Peretick is the Director of Engineering for NRStor, a leading energy storage project developer at the forefront of the growing electrical storage industry. In the agile and progressive majority-women company, Katherine directs technical aspects for a wide range of projects, from utility-connected commercial facilities to remote northern-community microgrids. Previously the Project Engineering Manager at General Compression, a high-tech compressed air energy storage startup company, Katherine led the project engineering effort for the company’s first-ever commercial machine. Previously a part of the leadership development program at Vestas, the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturer, she identified and successfully pitched a technical redesign for both performance improvement and cost savings on the conditioning system for the new 8MW offshore wind turbine. Katherine holds a Master of Science in energy systems engineering and a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering, both from the University of Michigan.
“Ted” Jung Woo Seo
Chief Technology Officer
Ted Seo is currently the Chief Technology Officer of Volexion, Inc., and an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education Fellow and technical representative of Volexion for the Chain Reaction Innovations startup incubator program at Argonne National Laboratory. Under this cooperative research agreement supported by the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Manufacturing Office, Ted is overseeing Volexion’s technical commercialization efforts to drive the widespread adoption of next-generation Li-ion technologies for clean energy applications. Ted is also leading a Small Business Technology Transfer grant funded by the National Science Foundation as Principal Investigator, where he coordinates large collaboration of research efforts between university and industry partners in the Midwest region. He received his Bachelor of Science and Ph.D. in materials science and engineering from Northwestern University with a second major in economics, in addition to completion of the Management for Scientists and Engineers Program from the Kellogg School of Management. He is a co-author on more than 20 publications with over 1,000 total citations and a co-inventor on five issued and pending patents on nanomaterial processing and scale-up technologies.
Cherish Smith is an associate director in Guidehouse’s Energy, Sustainability, and Infrastructure segment based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. As a passionate clean energy advocate, she works with utilities to continuously improve program offerings and address complex challenges with regulators in an evolving energy landscape, developing innovative and effective solutions to better meet their needs. Cherish has 10-plus years of experience in the energy industry, with expertise in energy efficiency program evaluation and design, regulatory support, stakeholder engagement, market research, and project management. Prior to Guidehouse, she was an energy engineer and identified opportunities for energy conservation measures in government, K-12, and commercial facilities, and managed energy project guarantees, measurement and verification, and consulting strategies. Cherish serves as the membership chair for Advancing Women in Energy. She is a Certified Energy Auditor and holds a Master of Engineering degree in environmental engineering and a Bachelor of Science in civil and environmental engineering, both from Cornell University.
Energy Services Manager
As an Energy Services Manager with WPPI Energy, Anna Stieve brings energy efficiency, renewable energy, and sustainability solutions to nonprofit utilities and the communities they serve. On the lookout for innovative solutions, she often leads the development and deployment of new initiatives across the WPPI membership. She challenges traditional business models by motivating local governing officials to enact formal municipal energy management policies and implement community-based behavioral energy efficiency programs. One notable project initiated and led by Anna is a pilot to make an emerging smart thermostat technology affordable for residents with expensive electric baseboard heat. In a recent demonstration of her broad talents and versatility, Anna illustrated and co-authored a children’s book, “If I Were A Lineworker,” to promote careers in energy, electrical safety, and the local utility. Anna earned her undergraduate degree in civil and environmental engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is a licensed Professional Engineer, a Certified Energy Manager, and a LEED Accredited Professional.
Owner, Architect & Certified Passive House Consultant
Elizabeth Turner builds resilient communities through high-performance architecture, education, and public advocacy. An architect and Certified Passive House Consultant, she pushes the envelope with ground-breaking process and projects, including Minnesota’s first passive house certified multifamily building. In 2017, responding to the social, economic, and ecological justice issues of today, she established Precipitate, where her team provides architecture, sustainable design consulting, and resilience planning services. Elizabeth is an advocate for systemic change in the building industry and understands that demonstration projects are not enough. She is a member of the City of Minneapolis’ Energy Vision Advisory Committee, meets with state code development officials and building material vendors, and volunteers with the American Institute of Architects Minnesota to support workforce diversity and energy efficiency policy and design process. She received her undergraduate degree from St. Olaf College and Master of Architecture and Master of Science in sustainable design from the University of Minnesota.
Public Utilities Engineer
State of Michigan, Michigan Public Service Commission
Joy Wang earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in biosystems engineering from Michigan State University. Joy first worked as a sustainability engineer focusing on energy modeling, building commissioning, and greenhouse gas inventories. She helped complete the City of Atlanta’s first greenhouse gas inventory in 2009. Later, Joy earned a Ph.D. in public policy, focusing on energy and environmental policy, from the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she was a U.S. EPA STAR Graduate Fellow. While there, she modeled the impacts of energy efficiency and renewable energy policies in the southern U.S. using the National Energy Modeling System and studied behavioral effects on residential energy use. At the Michigan Energy Office, Joy developed, implemented, and managed grant projects on diverse energy topics and was a lead author of the study “Electric Vehicle Charger Placement Optimization in Michigan: Phase I – Highways,” a roadmap for locating EV charging stations along highway corridors. In March 2019, she joined the Michigan Public Service Commission as a public utilities engineer. In her current role, Joy reviews rate cases for smart grid and information technology issues and is a member of the electric vehicle, demand response, and cybersecurity teams. She leads the Energy Programs and Technology Pilots workgroup of the MI Power Grid initiative, where she engages stakeholders and staff in reviewing pilot best practices and learnings.
MusiK LLC & Battery Tour LLC
Born and Raised in the Ivanhoe community of Kansas City, Missouri, AY Young is a producer, writer, rapper, and singer/songwriter who uses concerts, events, and experiences to connect to communities at a local level. AY founded the Battery Tour, a platform that educates people on practicing sustainability, raising awareness, sustainable solutions; builds a network of change makers and gets the world plugged in to the larger company vision of getting the world access to renewable energy. Performing nearly 900 solar-powered shows, AY has opened for artists such as Flo-Rida, Wiz Khalifa, SHAGGY, and Wyclef Jean, and has now reached international audiences via his trip to Honduras with SELF. So far AY has reduced approximately 1.6625 kg CO2(e) per 10 hour concert, with 1330 kg CO2(e) reduced to date.
CEO and Co-founder
Omeed Badkoobeh has worked tirelessly to solve the missing link for energy storage on commercial and industrial solar rooftops. With 10 years of experience in the solar photovoltaic (PV) industry, Omeed has developed over $10 million in revenue of new energy technologies from home batteries to electric vehicles. He founded Yotta Solar, which is developing a modular energy storage device, SolarLEAF — battery storage integrated with PV installation designed to reduce cost and expand development of energy storage and grid resiliency on commercial buildings. Yotta was named Solar Startup of the Year at the North American Smart Energy Week startup challenge in 2019.
New Economy Program Manager
Chelsea Barnes holds a Bachelor of Arts in biology from the College of Wooster and a Master of Environmental Management from Duke University. Chelsea has worked for more than 12 years on solar energy policy, beginning work on clean energy policy, education, and outreach at NC State University on the DSIRE project, and eventually launching EQ Research, a policy consulting business, with her colleagues in order to advance strong renewable energy policies across the country. Chelsea joined Appalachian Voices in 2019 and is based in the Norton, Virginia, office, where she works to address barriers to solar energy in the coalfield region of Virginia, build a solar industry in the region as an economic development tool, and reclaim abandoned coal mine lands for community and economic development.
Northern Virginia Community Organizer
Mothers Out Front
Tiziana Bottino founded the Greater Prince William Climate Action Network in 2018, after realizing her county was one of the only municipalities in Northern Virginia that was not acting on climate.
After becoming a Community Organizer for Mothers Out Front that same year, she successfully led a team of moms and students to get the county’s school board to unanimously approve the boldest climate resolution ever passed by a local Prince William authority. After this huge victory, Tiziana and her team joined the community to stop an asphalt plant from being built right by an elementary school, and are now working to pressure the County Board of Supervisors to commit to a county-wide 100% clean energy plan. Tiziana also organized a team of moms in Fairfax County to work with the School Board to commit to electrify the county’s school bus fleet by 2030, the second largest in the U.S. The team also worked with a state delegate to introduce a bill creating a program to help school districts across the entire state of Virginia to electrify their school bus fleets. Tiziana was appointed to the Solid Waste Citizen Advisory Group, where she advocated for solar panels on the county’s landfills. She was also elected as Vice Chair of the Virginia Young Democrats Environmental Caucus and was elected in 2019 as one of the Directors of the Prince William County Soil and Water Conservation District. She obtained her Bachelor of Science in international business in 2009 from Brunel University London, and her Master of Science in energy policy and climate from John Hopkins University in 2018.
Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
American Conservation Coalition
Danielle Butcher is a conservative political executive who aids organizations in developing and implementing their national strategies. Danielle currently serves as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the American Conservation Coalition and on the Advisory Board of the British Conservation Alliance, where she merges her love of leadership with her passions for free-market capitalism and the environment. Danielle was recently named to 2020’s Forbes 30 Under 30 list. She has spoken at several prominent conservative events, including the Conservative Political Action Conference; appeared as a frequent guest on Fox News Radio and NPR; and has had her work featured in publications such as The Times, The Hill, The Washington Examiner, Vox, and more. Prior to joining the American Conservation Coalition, she served in leadership roles at various conservative nonprofits and organizations. Danielle attended Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she studied political science and rhetoric communications.
Senior Director of Operations, Energy Solutions
Community Housing Partners
Chase Counts leads a team of experts dedicated to implementing and executing weatherization and utility-sponsored energy efficiency programs serving vulnerable and low-income households in Virginia and the Southeastern U.S. He achieves this by building relationships with electric and gas investor-owned utilities, rural electric cooperatives, and municipal utilities; energy efficiency and housing advocates; local and state legislators and government officials; program administrators and evaluation, measurement, and verification providers; national and state trade associations; peer weatherization providers, and workforce development advocates. Chase is a Clean Energy Leadership Institute alumnus, active in several industry organizations, and serves as the U.S. Director of Outreach for Weatherizers Without Borders and on the Board of Directors for the Association of Energy Conservation Professionals. Chase holds a Bachelor of Science in environmental policy and planning from Virginia Tech. He is a Certified Energy Manager, BPI HEP Quality Control Inspector, BPI HEP Energy Auditor, BPI Healthy Home Evaluator, and Virginia Licensed Residential Building Energy Analyst.
Secretary-General’s Youth Advisor on Climate Change
Sophia Kianni is an 18-year-old climate activist, specializing in media and strategy. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Climate Cardinals, an international nonprofit with over 5,500 volunteers translating climate information into more than 100 languages. She was selected to represent the United States as the youngest member on the inaugural United Nations Secretary-General’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change. Sophia’s activism has been featured in news outlets including Forbes, CNN, The Guardian, CNBC, and even on the front page of The Washington Post. She was previously a fellow with PBS NewsHour and has written for news outlets such as MTV News, BuzzFeed, Teen Vogue, Refinery 29, and Cosmopolitan. Sophia has been commended by the Congressional Committee on the Climate Crisis and the United Nations Foundation for her advocacy. She is an adamant public speaker and has spoken to people around the world from Doha, Qatar, to Cambridge, Massachusetts.
General Counsel and Director of Policy
North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association
Peter Ledford leads advocacy work for the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association, which includes advocacy before both the North Carolina Utilities Commission and the North Carolina General Assembly. Peter graduated from the University of North Carolina in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in geography and from the Wake Forest University School of Law in 2011. He is licensed to practice law before all state courts in North Carolina and before the Supreme Court of the United States and is certified as a specialist in utilities law by the North Carolina State Bar. Peter’s advocacy work has helped keep North Carolina as the No. 2 state in the nation for solar by creating new markets for utility scale solar and expanding the market for rooftop solar.
DJ Polite started as a volunteer with Climate Parents at the Sierra Club having an interest in marrying his previous K-12 teaching career with an environmental cause. After considering his options in what he called the everlasting game of environmental “whack-a-mole,” he accepted a position as the volunteer team lead for a local campaign called 100% Clean Energy School Districts. In tandem with the two staffers, he decided to target Richland School District 1 and ask the school board to pass a resolution committing the school district to 100% clean, renewable energy. DJ is a dedicated father, husband, friend, organizer, student and teacher, raising his family while completing his doctoral work in history at the University South Carolina.
Theresa Garcia Robertson
Conservatives for Clean Energy-Georgia
Theresa Garcia Robertson is a native Georgian with a strong background as a conservative consultant, writer, and speaker. She currently serves as the Executive Director of Conservatives for Clean Energy-Georgia. She has worked with and for candidates and elected officials for over a decade, with campaign volunteer experience spanning twenty years. She managed former State Sen. Josh McKoon’s first campaign and served five years as a regional Field Representative for U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland. She also worked for the Georgia Department of Economic Development as the Region 8 Project Manager under Commissioner Chris Carr. Theresa served three years as the Executive Director of the Steeplechase at Callaway Gardens Presented by Southern Living. Theresa serves on the Board of Directors for the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, the President’s Theater in Manchester, Georgia, F.O.C.U.S. in Harris County, the Harris County Chamber of Commerce, and the Columbus State Theatre Department Riverside Theater Society.
Eastern Region Co-Director, Energy Efficiency for All
Natural Resources Defense Council
Dawone Robinson rose to prominence as policy director for Virginia for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network in the four years previous to his tenure at the Natural Resources Defense Council. As a result of that work, Dawone was appointed to the Virginia Solar Development Authority and the Commonwealth’s first Advisory Council on Environmental Justice. He has become a respected and influential leader in Virginia policymaking and now directs advocacy coalitions in four northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, with a focus on energy and environmental equity. Dawone grew up in the small town of Waterloo, Iowa, and earned a bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University and a law degree from Drake University Law School.
Natural Resources Defense Council
Ben Stacey is the Orlando Climate Advisor for the Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge, where he supports the city in achieving ambitious climate action goals through clean energy, green buildings and transportation. Ben earned a dual-master’s degree at the University of Michigan’s School for Environmental Science and College of Urban Planning. During that time, he was a graduate researcher at the Urban Energy Justice Lab, EDF Climate Corps Fellow, Dow Sustainability Fellow, Paul D. Coverdell Fellow, awardee of the UM Poverty Solutions research grant and Sussman Environmental Fund. Ben has published several papers and case studies focused on energy and equity. Ben began his career in sustainability serving as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Oriental Mindoro, Philippines, from 2010-2013, where he led initiatives restoring coastal ecosystem productivity in partnership with local governments, academic institutions, NGOs and fisherfolk organizations. Ben is a father, and an avid runner and cyclist.
Senior Program Manager, SolSmart Technical Assistance Program
The Solar Foundation
Toyah Barigye is the Senior Project Manager for The Solar Foundation’s SolSmart program. She works with communities to reduce solar soft costs, lower barriers to solar energy and streamline planning, zoning, permitting and inspection processes aligned with industry best practices. Prior to joining The Solar Foundation, she worked as a Renewable Energy Specialist at Arcadia Power, recruiting solar and wind energy clients. She holds a Master of Science in sustainability management with a focus on renewable energy from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Connecticut. Toyah is a member of the Women’s Council on Energy and Environment, where she has been an author of several solar related articles. She recently served as a judge for the Department of Energy’s Solar District Cup Collegiate Design Competition, evaluating nine student solar and storage proposals focusing on conceptual layout and optimization strategies for the University of New Mexico.
Co-Founder and Vice President of Outreach and Sales
Madeleine Barr approaches her work with belief that we can use renewable energy to achieve a cleaner and more equitable future. Resonant Energy is a community-based solar provider in Boston, Massachusetts, specializing in bringing custom financing options to nonprofit organizations, affordable housing, and houses of worship. Madeleine joined the founding team at Resonant Energy in 2016 with a background in program design and implementation and managing community-wide programs to promote the rapid adoption of solar PV, electric vehicles, and energy efficiency services.
Maine Governor’s Energy Office
Dan Burgess was appointed Director of the Maine Governor’s Energy Office by Gov. Janet Mills in March 2019. Prior to his return to his home state of Maine, Burgess spent eight years working in leadership roles at the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources and the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. Burgess has a business degree from the University of Maine Orono and a master’s degree in public administration from Northeastern University.
Director, Center for Climate-Aligned Finance and Manager, Global Climate Finance
Rocky Mountain Institute
Radhika Lalit is the Director of the Center for Climate-Aligned Finance, a center of expertise to help financial institutions and the industries they serve to understand and overcome the practical barriers to climate-aligned lending and investment. The center is part of a global partnership to accelerate the decarbonization of sectors and also focuses on the development of global frameworks that connect financial sector initiatives with financial regulation. Previously at the Rocky Mountain Institute, Radhika led the development of a global innovation prize “Global Cooling Prize” to spur innovation in the air conditioning industry and was also engaged with an initiative which helped scale clean energy and energy efficiency financing within the U.S. residential sector. She has also worked on projects with the U.S. Department of Energy to promote deep energy efficiency retrofits in federal buildings using Energy Savings Performance Contracting arrangement. Prior to joining the Rocky Mountain Institute, Radhika worked as a sustainability strategy consultant in India.
Deputy Commissioner and Chief of Staff
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
Shawn LaTourette helps to lead the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, shaping environmental policy, regulation and the clean energy transition in New Jersey. He leads the department’s senior staff, providing policy advice and direction to each of the programs responsible for protecting New Jersey’s air, land and water, and its natural and historic resources. In private practice, Shawn guided clients through the responsible development of infrastructure, energy and brownfield redevelopment projects; litigated high-stakes environmental claims; and defended victims of toxic chemical exposure. A New Jersey native and avid hiker, Shawn is a graduate of Rutgers University and Rutgers School of Law, where he received highest honors and commendations for his writing on environmental issues, including the legal implications of the Exxon Valdez catastrophe and climate change.
Senior Manager, Public-Private Partnerships; Transit, Bikes & Scooters
Guillermo Peralta has spent his career working on public-private partnerships across transportation, housing, and utilities. He started in JLL’s public institutions group, working on structuring programs related to real estate. After JLL, Guillermo joined Corvias to develop the firm’s utilities and energy platform, leading the deal structuring and closing of a $325 million investment in Corvias’ housing portfolio, saving the portfolio over $8 million annually in utility expenses. From this work, Guillermo was selected from over 300 nominees as a “30 under 30 Leader in Sustainability” by GreenBiz. Guillermo recently joined Lyft as the public-private partnerships lead for transit, bikes and scooters. Guillermo has worked to integrate industry best practices into partnerships with cities and municipalities around transit integration, micromobility, and shared governance. Guillermo holds a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Yale University, and is currently completing a Master of Business Administration from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
Marcel is a sustainable urban development professional with experience in renewable energy, green design, human services, and international development. He has dedicated the past four years to developing and managing commercial and residential solar projects that benefit underserved communities across the US. Marcel directs Sunwealth’s low income community solar programs and partnerships in Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey — one project of which became the first operational project in eastern Massachusetts under the state’s SMART incentive program. Marcel holds a bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College.
National Rural Energy Program Coordinator
United States Dept. of Agriculture
Venus Welch-White serves as the National Rural Energy Program Coordinator in USDA’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service. In her current role she conducts stakeholder engagement, outreach, business strategy and development, policy support, and facilitates collaborations with internal and external partners in renewable energy, agriculture, biofuels, business development, and financial lending partners. She completed a detail assignment Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget, where she analyzed policy and budget legislation, developed congressional reports, and supported implementation of executive orders and administrative initiatives of across federal agencies. Prior to joining the USDA, she conducted work in agriculture food systems, biotechnology, business, international and state policy. Venus has industry experience with Pioneer Hi-Bred/DuPont and completed Harvard Business School’s Summer Ventures in Management Program. Venus was 2014 Presidential Management-STEM Fellow, holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Science and Ph.D. in integrative biosciences from Tuskegee University in Alabama.
Energy and Sustainability Services Manager
City of Costa Mesa, California
As a dual citizen of Eritrea and Chile, Salem Afeworki is a proud citizen of the world who is passionate about sustainability, climate action, renewable energy technologies, and local community empowerment. She is the first Energy and Sustainability Services Manager for the City of Costa Mesa, where she is responsible for developing and implementing citywide sustainability programs that are inclusive and build resilient communities. Previously, Salem was a principal at Value Sustainability, which provides advisory services in sustainable business practices, clean energy and climate change. Salem started her career at the United Nations as a communication officer. Salem has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and communication from the University of Asmara, Eritrea, and a master’s degree in environmental management and auditing, specialized in renewable energy, from the Universidad de Leon, Spain. She also has completed highly specialized leadership programs, including a Climate Change Science and Solutions certificate from MIT.
Energy Innovation: Policy and Technology LLC
Sonia Aggarwal is Energy Innovation’s Vice President, leading the firm’s policy and modeling programs. She oversees EI’s Power Sector Transformation work providing tailored advice on the decarbonized power system transition for federal and state policymakers, as well as power market operators. Sonia also leads EI’s Energy Policy Solutions work designing and modeling energy policies to reduce emissions in the largest-emitting countries; directs strategy for EI’s California Climate Policy program supporting the state’s 2030 decarbonization goals; and contributes to the Urban Sustainability program helping Chinese policymakers design low-carbon cities. Before EI, Sonia managed global research at ClimateWorks Foundation, worked on the McKinsey carbon abatement cost curves, and advised the International Energy Agency’s “Accelerating Technology Transitions.” An Ohio native who worked in accident prevention design engineering at the state’s Perry nuclear plant, Sonia holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Haverford College in astronomy and physics, and a Master of Science degree from Stanford University in engineering.
Adam Bad Wound
Vice President of Philanthropy
Adam Bad Wound’s mission is to strengthen people and planet through philanthropy. As Vice President of Philanthropy at GRID Alternatives, Adam advances organizational strategies and cross-sector partnerships that expand equitable solar access and economic opportunity. At GRID, Adam founded the Tribal Solar Accelerator Fund, a tribal-led initiative that provides catalytic funding to tribes to support their renewable energy goals. In his own activism, Adam is the founder of Solardarity.org, a collective of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) working to build an equitable, anti-racist, and regenerative solar industry. Adam holds a bachelor’s degree from St. Olaf College, a master’s degree from Columbia University, and two master’s degrees from Stanford University, where he serves on the board of directors of the Stanford Alumni Association.
Director of Product Management
Brian Korgaonkar leads product management for Sunrun’s solar and battery storage offerings. He spearheaded Sunrun’s battery storage growth efforts, establishing the company’s portfolio as one of the largest residential storage fleets in the U.S. with over 10,000 batteries deployed. Brian and his team also created Florida’s first residential solar lease, which catalyzed the market’s expansion. Prior to Sunrun, Brian worked at Enphase, where he led the company’s core global product offering, and was a consultant at Bain in Boston, Massachusetts. Brian received his Bachelor of Arts magna cum laude from Brown University and his Master of Business Administration from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
ILLUME Advising LLC
Jes Rivas is a Principal at ILLUME Advising. She holds a master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Colorado Boulder and a bachelor’s degree in physics from Colorado College. Jes is known for her work with some of the largest utilities in the country in areas such as portfolio planning and market characterization of commercial, industrial, and residential end uses. With a reputation for exceptional project management, Jes is a trusted advisor who values client service and reliable, consistent, and authentic communication. She has led numerous projects, most recently with ComEd, Georgia Power, and CenterPoint Energy to help her clients solve complex problems. In addition to her understanding of building and physical sciences, Jes has an in-depth understanding of how technologies are meant to work, and what happens when they don’t. Jes is passionate about helping vulnerable communities save energy and has worked on large data-science and data-analytics projects.