Celebrating Black History Month: Renewable Energy Leaders

Dr. Robert Bullard
  • Feb 2, 2022

This Black History Month, we’d like to celebrate some of the incredible Black leaders who are advancing renewable energy. Through their hard work, passion, and achievements, they are moving the nation forward, towards a cleaner, more sustainable future: 

1. Gilbert Campbell and Antonio Francis, Co-Founders of Volt Energy—Francis and Campbell’s company Volt Energy is one of the largest minority-owned solar energy development companies. Volt Energy finances and develops solar energy projects, with clients such as Subaru, The Cheesecake Factory, Howard University, Wake Forest University, U.S. Army, and the District of Columbia. Campbell, with a B.B.A. in Finance from Howard University, and Francis, with a B.S. in Biology from Howard University and a Masters in Biotechnology from Columbia University, also provide youth mentorship opportunities and promote STEM and renewable energy education in underserved communities. Campbell was recognized as a Champion of Change for Climate Equity by the Obama White House and a Grist 50 innovator for his work with Volt Energy. Follow them on Twitter @gilbertcampbell and @Volt_Energy, and read more about their work in HuffPost.

2. Jason Carney, Founder and CEO of Energy Electives—Carney founded the renewable energy company Energy Electives in 2010 and was the first African American in Tennessee to obtain the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certification for renewable energy professionals. Carney is committed to making clean energy accessible to all communities and helped start a community solar project at a majority-Black, low-income public school outside of Nashville.Carney is the former Clean Energy Program Manager at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) and currently serves as President of the Tennessee Solar Energy Association (TSEA). Follow Energy Electives on Twitter @EnergyElect, and read more about Carney in NPR and Sierra.

3. Mark Davis, Founder of WDC Solar—A former NBA player with the Washington Bullets, Davis founded his company WDC Solar in 2009 when he realized that many of the communities and families who would benefit the most from solar energy could not afford it. Davis worked with the District of Columbia Sustainable Energy Utility to create a program providing low-income residents with free rooftop solar panels, helping families save up to $500 a year on energy costs. Davis has also trained and hired numerous low-income D.C. residents as solar installers. In 2016, President Obama honored Davis and his work bringing solar power and jobs to low-income communities by inviting him to be a special guest at his State of the Union address. Read more about Davis in Sierra and CNN.

4. Kristal Hansley, CEO of WeSolar—When she officially founded WeSolar on Juneteenth in 2020, Hansley made history as the first Black woman to launch a solar company. WeSolar provides affordable power to low- and moderate-income families and makes clean energy accessible to all communities through community solar. The Howard University grad formerly served as the Program Manager for the Senate Democratic Diversity Initiative before launching WeSolar. Follow her on Twitter @KHansley_ or @WeSolar_Energy, or read more about her in Vogue, Bloomberg, or Blavity.

5. Lisa Jackson, former EPA Administrator—As the first Black woman to serve as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, serving under President Obama from 2009 to 2013, Jackson worked to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, limit carbon pollution at power plants, and take action to fight climate change. Jackson now serves as the Vice President of Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives at Apple, where she works to decrease Apple's environmental footprint by advancing renewable energy and energy efficiency and adopting other innovative sustainability solutions. Follow her on Twitter @lisapjackson

Lisa Jackson as EPA Administrator

6. Jessica O. Matthews, Founder and CEO of Uncharted—In 2011 Matthews founded Uncharted, a tech company that uses sustainable infrastructure data to improve access to resilient, cost-effective energy. She has since grown it into a wildly successful business, with more than 15 global patents and millions of dollars in capital raised so far. Matthews' company began by introducing the Soccket—an energy-harnessing soccer ball—and now strives to achieve universal access to clean, affordable power. A Harvard Business School graduate and dual citizen of Nigeria and the United States, Matthews has been featured in Forbes, Business Insider, Entrepreneur, and Inc. and even introduced the Soccket to President Obama. Follow her on Twitter @jessomatt.

7. Hazel O’Leary, former U.S. Secretary of Energy—O’Leary was the first Black Secretary of Energy, serving under President Clinton from 1993 to 1997. She advocated for renewable energy and energy efficiency, increased funding for the research and development of renewable energy technologies, worked to improve the energy efficiency of American appliances, and highlighted the connections between energy, environmental quality, and human health. O’Leary later led the Ambassadors for the Minorities in Energy Initiative, part of the Department of Energy’s Office of Economic Impact and Diversity. Read more about O’Leary here.

8. Dr. Tony G. Reames, Director of the Urban Energy Justice Lab—Dr. Reames currently serves as the Deputy Director for Energy Justice at the U.S. Department of Energy, where he leads the new Office of Energy Justice Policy and Analysis. Prior to being appointed to that role in 2021, he was an assistant professor at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability. He founded and led the university’s Urban Energy Justice Lab, which studies energy through the lenses of justice and equity. Dr. Reames has been named a Grist 50 Fixer and was appointed to the Michigan Climate Justice Brain Trust to ensure the state’s transition to carbon neutrality by 2050 is framed around justice and equity for communities disproportionately affected by climate change.Follow him on Twitter @tgreames.

At CleanChoice Energy, we envision a world free of catastrophic climate change for all. We are grateful for the hard work of these leaders and so many others who are working alongside us to fight climate change and lead the clean energy revolution.

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