The diverse energy economy that we need: reflections on Black History Month
Updated: Jan 10, 2022
As Black History Month comes to a close, I wanted to take a moment to shine a spotlight on how Black people's contributions, ingenuity and leadership are trailblazing a path to the diverse energy economy and sustainable future that our world so desperately needs.
So in today's blog post, I’d like to highlight a few people I think you should know about—most of whom you can follow on LinkedIn—just click on their name linked in their bios.
Ugwem I. Eneyo
Co-Founder & CEO of SHYFT Power Solutions
Ugwem Eneyo, a Stanford MS/PhD in Civil & Environmental Engineering grad, explored how we use tech to create ‘grids of the future’ especially in emerging markets.
This question is what led her to create SHYFT Power Solutions, an award-winning tech company pioneering the use of Internet of Things (IoT), software and big data to improve access to clean, reliable and affordable energy solutions in markets that struggle with grid resiliency. (Image credit: ForbesWomen)
President & Co-Founder of Dream Corps: Green for All
Van Jones is a social entrepreneur and best-selling author who was appointed the green jobs advisor to President Barack Obama in 2009, where he helped run the process that oversaw $80 billion in green energy spending.
Dream Corps: Green for All is a national NGO that lifts the voices of low-income families and people of colour in the climate movement through strategic communications and storytelling. (Image credit: University of Tennessee)
Former U.S Secretary of Energy
Hazel O’Leary was the first African American Secretary of Energy who was a trailblazer in advancing energy policy in the US towards renewables and making the connection between energy, health, and the environment.
During her tenure, she fought for the importance of renewable energy and energy efficiency. (Image credit: Energy.gov)
Paula R. Glover
President & CEO of American Association of Black in Energy (AABE)
Paula R. Glover has 15 years in the energy industry and in her current role as President of the AABE, she ensures that African Americans and other minorities have input into the discussions and development of energy policy, regulations, and environmental issues. (Image credit: American Association of Blacks in Energy)
Dr. Tony G. Reames
Director of the Urban Energy Justice Lab
Dr. Tony Reames is Associate Professor of Energy Justice at the University of Michigan and Director of the Urban Energy Justice Lab. His research seeks to connect the areas of technological advancement, policy process, and social equity.
He is currently exploring disparities in residential energy generation, consumption, and affordability- focusing on inequalities by race, class, and geography. (Image credit: thegreenscholar.com)
Jessica O. Matthews
Founder & CEO of Unchartered Power
Jessica Matthews is CEO and CTO of Unchartered Power. She not only holds multiple patents for MORE (Motion-based, Off-grid, Renewable Energy) technology but raised $7 million in seed funding, the largest amount ever raised by a Black female founder.
Her company is a power access company paving the way for smart and sustainable infrastructure development. (Image credit: Forbes Woman Africa)
Founder & CEO of Energy Electives
Jason Carney became the first African-American in the entire state of Tennessee to obtain the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certification.
He was the former Clean Energy Program Manager with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy before creating Energy Electives, an energy company that provides raw materials and services to help homeowners save money and conserve energy. (Image credit: NPR)
Dr. Robert D. Bullard
Distinguished Professor at Texas Southern University
Dr. Robert Bullard, also known as the “Father of Environmental Justice Movement, is a professor of urban planning and environmental policy. He has written 18 books on how environmental policies underserve minority communities and other important climate topics.
In 2020, the United Nations honoured Dr. Bullard with the Champions of the Earth Lifetime Achievement Award, the UN’s highest environmental honour which recognizes leaders from government, civil society, and private sector whose actions have a transformative impact on the environment. (Image credit: climateone.org)
A long way to go
Sharing these stories of success is just one way to recognize the importance that the Black community has made in our industry—but doesn’t convey the challenges and inequities that continue to persist.
According to Senior Energy Analyst Sarah Golden, racism exists even in the clean energy sector. In her piece titled “How racism manifests in clean energy”, she reflects on the ways racism continues to rear its ugly head even today.
Golden concludes by saying that even though clean energy technologies exist to reverse the problem, the “missing piece is getting them deployed at scale in the communities most affected.”
Despite much progress, we clearly still have a long way to go. We currently live in a time of great upheaval and social unrest as institutions are challenged and uprisings are being witnessed all across the world, even here in Canada.
Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned is that racism impacts everybody, regardless of race, and that we all have an important role to play before racial inequities are completely abolished.
A friend recently told me that the best way to influence change is to become a better ally to the Black community. Becoming an ally is a process that includes having self-awareness, sharing stories, engaging in discussions, listening and continuous learning.
As our society continues to wrestle with issues of systemic racism, I think the world would be a better place if we all endeavoured to be a better ally every single day—and didn't just wait until the month of February to be reminded.
Written by Susie Ho, former Senior Advisor at the Nuclear Innovation Institute.