Midwest Energy News’ 40 Under 40 award program highlights emerging leaders throughout the region and their work in America’s transition to a clean energy economy. The cohort of 2016 recipients are being announced on Sept. 28, Sept. 29, and Sept. 30.
Director of Programs, Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (MEEA)
Will Baker began his career in the clean energy economy in Uganda. He started by teaming with farmers to install improved cook stoves and biogas digesters, and later convinced microfinance institutions to develop energy lending products. After earning a degree in international energy management and policy from Columbia University, Baker moved to Chicago to begin work at MEEA, where he served as a Residential Program Associate and Program Manager before being named Director of Programs. Baker also serves on the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center’s Advisory Board.
Regulatory Affairs Manager, Midwest, FirstFuel Software
Brian Bowen manages regulatory affairs and market development in the Midwestern United States and Canada at FirstFuel, a leading provider of utility-scale customer intelligence. Bowen works with stakeholders, regulatory staff, and legislators to promote analytics-enabled energy efficiency and customer engagement programs across the Midwest. Bowen previously worked in the demand response, smart home, and community solar sectors. He is a Switzer Environmental Fellow and holds a master’s degree in city planning from MIT and a B.A. from Yale University. Bowen lives in Chicago.
Associate Director, Mayors Innovation Project
James Irwin is a Senior Associate at COWS and Associate Director of the Mayors Innovation Project. He works on high road local policy, energy efficiency, and green infrastructure projects, including running the Efficiency Cities Network. Before joining COWS, Irwin advised the campaign of former Seattle Mayor Michael McGinn. Irwin worked as Conservation Program Manager for the Sierra Club in Washington State, focusing especially on transportation and clean energy issues. He led the Sierra Club team that in 2007 defeated a road-heavy transportation package and in 2008 helped secure $18 billion for the expansion of light rail in Seattle. Irwin has a B.A. from Brown University.
Deputy Director, Beyond Coal Campaign, Sierra Club
Nachy Kanfer is Deputy Director for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in the Central Region. He previously served as the Beyond Coal Campaign’s organizer in Ohio, joining Sierra Club in 2008 to lend support to Ohio activists fighting back two proposed coal plants. Before the Sierra Club, Kanfer worked for several different environmental organizations in the Middle East, including the Small Grants Programme of the Global Environment Facility in Damascus, Syria, and the Applied Research Institute in the West Bank of the Palestinian Territories. Kanfer graduated from Yale University and is currently enrolled in the University of Michigan’s Executive MBA program. He lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Managing Director, Energy Storage Solutions, Edison Energy
Madeleine Klein has spent over ten years driving clean energy businesses and policies forward. Over the last year, she has been focused on developing energy storage projects with Edison Energy. Prior to that, Klein held various leadership roles at Edison-affiliate SoCore Energy, where she was responsible for understanding policy and market dynamics that impact the solar industry. Klein was also a Senior Policy Advocate with the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Chicago from 2009-2012, where she was involved in renewable energy policy development across the Midwest. Throughout her career, she is proud to have fostered the growth of up-and-coming professionals in the clean energy community. Klein holds a master’s of environmental management from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and a B.A. from Carleton College.
Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Daniel Ludois received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2012. He serves as Assistant Professor of electrical and computer engineering in UW–Madison’s College of Engineering, Associate Director of the internationally renowned Wisconsin Electric Machines and Power Electronics Consortium (WEMPEC), and is an affiliate of the Wisconsin Energy Institute. In 2015, Ludois received an NSF CAREER award, one of the highest honors at the beginning of a scientific or engineering career. He is also cofounder and Chief Science Officer of C-Motive Technologies, a startup business dedicated to producing innovative, energy- and cost-efficient electrostatic motors.
Chief of Sustainability, City of Cleveland
Jenita McGowan advises the City of Cleveland on policies related to sustainability. She coordinates the Sustainable Cleveland 2019 program, developing new strategies that allow the city to use sustainability as an innovation engine for economic growth while reducing the city’s ecological footprint and saving money. McGowan previously held several positions related to sustainability and community engagement at organizations including Urban Community School, Neighborhood Connections, and the office of Councilman Joe Cimperman. She also served as a Cleveland Executive Fellow. McGowan holds a B.S. in journalism and a B.F.A. in dance performance from Kent State University. She holds a master’s degree in nonprofit management from the Mandel Center for Nonprofit Organizations and the Weatherhead School of Management and earned a certificate in appreciative inquiry from Case Western Reserve University.
Director of Investments and State Strategy, The Solutions Project
Tyler Nickerson has nearly a decade of experience in philanthropy, strategic communications, and public policy. Before working with The Solutions Project, he served as a program manager at the Dyer-Ives Foundation and founded Motu Communications. He has advocated for stronger housing policies in Michigan, and has consulted on more than 20 electoral campaigns. Nickerson holds a bachelor’s degree with honors from Grand Valley State University in Michigan. He serves on the board of the Michigan Environmental Council and on the steering committee of the Washington, D.C., chapter of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy.
Director of Innovation, Environmental Law & Policy Center
As Director of Innovation with the Environmental Law and Policy Center, Jamie Ponce accelerates groundbreaking energy and climate solutions that protect the environment while driving sustainable economic growth throughout the Midwest. From 2012-16, Ponce led energy efficiency and related efforts in Chicago and across a network of global megacities through the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group as an embedded official in the office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Previously, he spent 10 years with A.T. Kearney, a management consulting firm, including work with the Rocky Mountain Institute, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Packard Foundation. Ponce holds a B.A. from Indiana University, an M.P.A. from the John F. Kennedy School of Government, and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.
Sustainable Operations Manager, Metropolitan Council
Sara Smith’s professional vision is to help bridge the gap between policy and the world of science and engineering, focusing her efforts on ensuring clean air and water for future generations. Smith has worked for the Metropolitan Council for nine years. In her tenure at the council, she has worked on drinking water supply, energy conservation, energy renewable, fleet concerns, and waste management projects and policy for both the Twin Cities metro region and entire state of Minnesota. Smith holds a B.A. in geology from Carleton College and an M.S. in science, technology, and the environment from the Hubert Humphrey Institute of Public Policy at the University of Minnesota.
Erin Stojan Ruccolo
Policy and Strategic Issues Management Advisor, Midcontinent Independent Service Operator (MISO)
Minnesota’s strong solar policy owes much to Erin Stojan Ruccolo’s effort and determination. As Electricity Markets Director for Fresh Energy she was a driving force behind the development of Minnesota’s landmark solar legislation, including the creation of community solar gardens and the value of solar tariff. Stojan Ruccolo negotiated with stakeholders on community solar gardens, analyzed competing legislative drafts, and helped coordinate coalition positions for clean energy and jobs.
Staff Attorney, Natural Resources Defense Council
As NRDC’s energy-policy lead for the states of Ohio and Minnesota, Samantha Williams advocates for clean energy and climate policies before public utilities commissions, state legislatures, and utility companies. Previously, she worked as a policy adviser at the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, where she assisted the Kentucky Department of Energy Development and Independence in formulating a comprehensive energy-efficiency policy. Before that, she litigated on behalf of citizens’ groups in California to enforce the Clean Water Act. Williams holds a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from Mount Holyoke College and a J.D. from Vermont Law School. She is based in Chicago.