21 May 2018

Who’s Who in Cleaner Energy in Virginia

Written by Jim Pierobon

A Who’s Who of Cleaner Energy in Virginia

The pace of changes enabling cleaner energy for Virginia is quickening and dozens of individuals have played integral roles in crafting policy, interpreting regulations, doing deals and educating the public. Some of them will likely be attending or participating in this Wednesday’s annual Virginia Energy Conference in Richmond sponsored by the Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

If I had to identify a tipping point, I would nominate the November 2013 election of Terry McAuliffe as the single most significant change over the past 20 years or so that set in motion initiatives and responses that are advancing renewable energy, energy efficiency and carbon mitigation for the common wealth of all Virginians.

Many of Virginia’s energy thought leaders gather for an annual summit this Wednesday, May 23, 2018 in Richmond sponsored by the Virginia Chamber of Commerce. CREDIT: Virginia Chamber of Commerce

Below is my initial tally individuals who have served and /or continue to serve game-changing roles in influencing – or inhibiting – advances in energy efficiency and renewable energy. Consider it a Who’s Who of Clean Energy in Virginia.

I’ve alpha-organized my initial nominees in eight categories: Academics, Activists, Attorneys, Business Leaders, Government Officials, Elected Officials, Non-Profits and Utility Executives. For every person I spotlight here with a brief description and link to relevant background, there is likely at least another energy professional and volunteer in each category who deserves to be on this admittedly subjective list. Please do email me your thoughts and ‘nominations’ for future updates to jim [at] jimpierobon.com or comment on this post.


Cale Jaffe, Director, Environmental and Regulatory Law Clinic, University of Virginia Law School, Charlottesville; known best for previously leading a ground-breaking and unanimous victory at the U.S. Supreme Court over Duke Energy’s efforts to mitigate power plant emissions regulated by the Clean Air Act; https://content.law.virginia.edu/faculty/profile/caj5f/1176168

Stephen Nash, Research Fellow-Environment, University of Richmond; an award-winning author on global warming and environment reporter previously for The New York Times and The Washington Post; https://journalism.richmond.edu/faculty/snash/

Damian Pitt, Associate Professor, School of Government and Public Affairs, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond; leader and author of several probes into how local governments adopt, or avoid, efficiency and renewable energy initiatives;  https://wilder.vcu.edu/people/faculty/damian-pitt.html

Vivian Thomson, Professor, Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia (retired), Charlottesville; author of a book that detailed the behind-the-scenes actions of the state’s Air Control Board in combating a new coal-fired power plant; Charlottesville; http://politics.virginia.edu/vivian-thomson/


Glen Besa, former Executive Director, Virginia Chapter of The Sierra Club, Richmond; helped establish Virginia a key national battleground for cleaner energy;   https://www.styleweekly.com/richmond/virginia-sierra-club-director-reflects-on-nearly-20-years-of-environmental-activism/Content?oid=2333604

Irene Leech, leader, Virginia Citizens Consumer Council and Associate Professor of Consumer Studies, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; the outspoken consumer advocate whose views seldom  garner half the respect they are due; https://vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2014/08/082614-clahs-ireneleech.html

Ivy Main, prominent and entertaining blogger with a unique skill at explaining energy and utility law as Renewable Energy Chair of the Sierra Club in Virginia, McLean; https://powerforthepeopleva.com/author/ivymain/

Karen Schaufeld, founder, Powered By Facts, Leesburg; a wealthy farm owner willing to put devote her own money for a seat at an industry bargaining table over the future of solar energy in the Commonwealth; http://poweredbyfacts.com/tag/karen-schaufeld/


Will Reisinger, GreeneHurlocker LLP, Richmond; one of Virginia’s leading legal eagles advocating for clients who want to choose their power supplier; https://www.greenehurlocker.com/tag/will-reisinger/

Cliona Mary Robb, Christian & Barton Attorneys, Richmond; another leading legal eagle for clients who want to choose their power suppliers;  http://www.cblaw.com/cliona-mary-robb

Mark Rubin, Executive Director, Virginia Center for Consensus Building, Richmond; a mediator who’s skills help bring Dominion Energy and key stakeholders together in confidential “Rubin Group” meetings seeking ways to advance solar policy; https://ocpe.vcu.edu/who/vccb.html


Hayes Framme, Government Relations Manager, Orsted-Southeast, Richmond; the former McAuliffe appointee now spearheading wind energy off the state’s Atlantic coastline; https://www.linkedin.com/in/hayes-framme-1389333/

Francis Hodsoll, CEO, SolUnesco, Reston; a farsighted and practical solar developer able to engage Dominion Energy in policies that are boosting the adoption of solar energy in Virginia; http://www.Solunesco.com;

Charley Juris, founder, Energy House, Alexandria; launched a collaborative residential clean energy solutions center under one roof since suspended; https://energynews.us/2016/09/01/southeast/virginia-homebuilder-pursues-a-center-for-zero-energy-makeovers/

Matthew Meares, Principal, Virginia Solar, LLC, Richmond; one of a small cadre of private solar developers who recognized selling solar systems to Dominion Energy would become a viable business model in utility-dominated Virginia; https://energynews.us/2016/11/17/southeast/signs-point-to-slowdown-in-virginia-for-utility-scale-solar-projects/

Vanessa Miler-Fels, Renewable Energy Project Manager, Microsoft, Redmond, WA; the voice of the company’s demands for cleaner energy for its data centers whether utilities want to supply it or not; http://www.euromoneyseminars.com/15th-renewable-energy-finance-forum-wall-street/speaker-details/a0rd000000himsgmat/vanessa-miler-fels.html

Sandy Reisky, Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer, Apex Clean Energy, Charlottesville; built Apex into a national leader of wind and solar energy systems and later launched Generation 180 as a movement to build awareness for cleaner energy and more sustainable lifestyles; https://www.apexcleanenergy.com/leadership/

Scott Sklar, consultant, The Stella Group, Arlington; a founder of the now influential Solar Energy Industries Association and the Virginia chapter it spawned; http://www.thestellagroupltd.com/scott-sklar/

Brad Smith, President, Microsoft, Redmond, WA; the executive with the final authority over how much renewable energy the software giant wants for its data centers; https://cleantechnica.com/2018/03/23/microsoft-signs-largest-us-ppa-315-megawatts-virginia-solar-farm/

Tony Smith, CEO, Secure Futures, Staunton, a leading thinker / financier for developing solar systems for schools and other non-profits; http://www.theenergyfix.com/2015/08/25/at-the-tip-of-the-spear-for-solar-energy-in-virginia-tony-smith/#sthash.4JQMm1Tq.dpbs


Del. Mark Keam, D-Fairfax, Virginia House of Delegates; a prolific co-sponsor of clean energy proposals; https://powerforthepeopleva.com/2017/07/25/who-leads-on-climate-and-energy-in-the-general-assembly-and-how-to-get-your-legislators-to-up-their-game/

Terry McAuliffe, Governor 2013-2017, now an oft-mentioned prospect for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, Richmond; http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/362460-mcauliffe-seriously-considering-2020-run

Del. Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City, Chair of the Labor & Committee in the Virginia House of Delegates; if current efforts to break a logjam over Medicaid funding prove fruitful, his energy-related efforts could serve gain similar traction; https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/rural-republican-legislator-from-southwest-va-comes-out-for-medicaid-expansion/2018/02/15/f2924950-1276-11e8-9570-29c9830535e5_story.html?utm_term=.47e74b000329

Sen. “Chap” Petersen, D-Fairfax, Virginia Senate; known most for challenging the once infamous “rate freeze / rate review” law that protected Dominion Energy from regulatory oversight; https://powerforthepeopleva.com/2017/07/25/who-leads-on-climate-and-energy-in-the-general-assembly-and-how-to-get-your-legislators-to-up-their-game/

Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, Virginia House of Delegates; has succeeded in making coal-dependent Southwest Virginia a key stakeholder in saving the region’s faltering economy;   https://www.richmondsunlight.com/legislator/srasoul/

Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, Virginia Senate; the most outspoken and practical advocate for responsible solutions to Virginia’s coal ash disposal challenges; https://powerforthepeopleva.com/2017/07/25/who-leads-on-climate-and-energy-in-the-general-assembly-and-how-to-get-your-legislators-to-up-their-game/

Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, often considered the most influential lawmaker on energy and utility policy in the Virginia General Assembly as Chair of the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee; https://apps.senate.virginia.gov/Senator/memberpage.php?id=S60

Sen. Jennifer Wexton, D-Leesburg, Virginia Senate; running to represent the state’s 10th Congressional District; https://powerforthepeopleva.com/2017/07/25/who-leads-on-climate-and-energy-in-the-general-assembly-and-how-to-get-your-legislators-to-up-their-game/


Al Christopher, runs day-to-day operations as Director of the Energy Division at the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, Richmond; http://www.csg.org/events/webinar/documents/AlChristopherbioedited.pdf

Richard Dooley, is leading the adoption of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing programs as the Community Energy Coordinator in Arlington County;   https://energynews.us/2017/02/14/southeast/after-eight-years-pace-program-poised-to-launch-in-virginia/

John Morrill, the leader of the state’s most pro-active local jurisdiction for cleaner energy as Arlington County’s Energy Manager; https://www.linkedin.com/in/john-morrill-673bb91/

Angela Navarro, Deputy Secretary, Virginia Department of Natural Resources; a sought-after speaker for current Gov. Ralph Northam on clean energy; Richmond; https://www.courthousenews.com/virginia-airs-plan-to-dramatically-reduce-carbon-emissions/

John Warren, gaining credibility and visibility for the roles the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy can serve in executing clean energy initiatives that also help grow the state’s economy, Richmond; https://www.linkedin.com/in/john-warren-a305217/


Corrina Beall, a key strategist on legislative policy as Political Director of the Sierra Club in Virginia, Richmond; https://www.sierraclub.org/virginia/blog/2018/02/dominions-power-wanes-state-capitol-rate-freeze-bill-amended-reformists

Will Cleveland, a sharp defender of environmental protection as a Staff Attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, Charlottesville; https://www.southernenvironment.org/news-and-press/press-releases/virginia-scc-defends-rights-of-renewable-customers

Harrison Godfrey, an articulate advocate for carbon free solutions and the upside potential for energy efficiency as the Virginia chapter director of Advanced Energy Economy, Washington, DC; https://www.aee.net/articles/virginia-aee-lauds-microsoft-s-investment-in-500-mw-solar-project

Chelsea Harnish, a skilled balancer of multiple competing interests as Executive Director of the Virginia Energy Efficiency Council; https://energynews.us/2018/04/27/southeast/virginia-efficiency-programs-get-windfall-under-new-law-but-will-it-be-well-spent/

Walton Shepherd, policy advocate-Virginia, Natural Resources Defense Council, Washington, DC; a politically savvy advocate for net gains in the annual struggle for lowering Virginia’s carbon emissions;  https://www.nrdc.org/experts/walton-shepherd/fresh-start-clean-energy-virginia

Mary Spruill, executive director, National Energy Education Development Project, Manassas; leads teams educating K-12 students in Virginia and throughout the country about the energy choices they can make; http://www.need.org/executive-director

Aaron Sutch, director, Solar United Neighborhoods of Virginia; lauded as the energizer-bunny for residential solar rights as a part of the rapidly Community Power Network; Richmond; https://www.renewableenergyworld.com/articles/2017/05/as-utility-solar-grows-in-virginia-so-do-tensions-with-rooftop-installers.html


Robert M. “Bob” Blue, CEO of Dominion Energy’s Power Delivery Group, Richmond; widely considered to be the real “brains” behind Dominion’s legislative strategy in Virginia; https://www.dominionenergy.com/library/domcom/media/about-us/who-we-are/leadership/dominion-officers/blue.pdf

Katharine Bond, senior director, public policy and state & local affairs, Dominion Energy, Richmond; a front-line spokesperson helping navigate rapidly shifting policy winds in Virginia for her employer; https://www.millennialpolicyinitiative.org/climatechange.

Diane Corsello, vice president, business development-generation, Dominion Energy, Richmond; the “face” of Dominion’s deep dive into large-scale solar systems for key clients such as Microsoft and Apple; https://energynews.us/2016/11/17/southeast/signs-point-to-slowdown-in-virginia-for-utility-scale-solar-projects/

Thomas F. Farrell, II, Chairman and CEO of Dominion Energy, Richmond; widely considered to be The Most Powerful business leader in Virginia whose views on energy cannot be ignored; http://www.richmond.com/news/special-report/dominion/a-man-of-influence-dominion-energy-chairman-and-ceo-s/article_5485772a-ae9c-11e7-8a7d-eb84b48e60e5.html

Ronald Jefferson, manager of external affairs, Appalachian Power, Richmond; sees to it that
APCo collaborates with Dominion Energy in preserving certain monopoly privileges of regulated utilities; https://www.appalachianpower.com/info/news/viewRelease.aspx?releaseID=537

Mike Keyser, CEO, BARC Electric Cooperative, Milboro; a far-sighted leader who led development of Virginia’s first-ever, genuine, community solar system; https://energynews.us/2016/06/27/southeast/qa-the-origins-of-virginias-first-community-solar-project/

Bill Murray, vice president, state and electric public policy, Dominion Energy, Richmond; an ardent defender of Dominion’s natural-gas-first policy of meeting future power demand; https://www.linkedin.com/in/william-%E2%80%9Cbill%E2%80%9D-murray-92798aa8/

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