2020 Year in Review

2020 Year in Review


2020 was a challenging year in many ways. From the COVID-19 pandemic which completely changed our lives to rampant wildfires across California and Australia, and yet another year or record-breaking temperatures and record sea ice loss, it was a difficult year for people across the globe.

But one thing shone brightly as a beacon of hope through these difficult times—the incredible strength, cohesion and resilience of our growing Leaders in Energy community. And a critical silver lining was that many of our 2020 events were held online, which meant that we were able to include an even wider audience and involve panelists and participants from across the world—and in a nearly-carbon free manner!

Leaders in Energy is proud to connect people to learn from each other, develop new collaborations, and inspire leaders of all generations to move towards a cleaner, greener future.

Executive Director Janine Finnell and the rest of our Leaders in Energy team and wider community are working hard to grow our global action network, promote sustainability and clean energy solutions, and celebrate opportunities and successes in the green economy and green jobs; the circular economy; multigenerational leadership; and sustainable communities.

Our highly active and engaged international network has a reach of over 8,000 individuals, with over 3,500 members in our LinkedIn group (Leaders in Energy Research, Communications, Policy & Analysis – LERCPA), our email marketing and other social media platforms—and counting!

As Leaders in Energy’s Director of Communications, I’m delighted to share some of our most exciting activities and accomplishments in 2020. From our 6th Annual Green Financing Forum to the widely anticipated 7th Annual Four Generations Awards, and everything in between, let’s take a look back at all we achieved as a community, and what we have to look forward to next year.


Greening the Economy

In January, Leaders in Energy teamed up with Potential Energy DC (PEDC) to host the 6th Annual Green Financing Forum. The theme for the 2020 edition was “Green Project Financing for Growth,” and the event quickly sold out. The venue was generously provided by Arlington Economic Development (AED), a part of the Arlington County Government dedicated to the development of an economically profitable and sustainable community.

The event featured two informative panels:

Update on Regional Green Banks Efforts was moderated by LE Executive Director Janine Finnell, and featured Tom Deyo, CEO, Montgomery County Green Bank; Alex Kragie, Director, American Green Bank Consortium; and Cheryl Chan, Green Bank Program Analyst, DC Green Bank.

Case Studies: Project Financing for Growing Small & Medium-sized Companies was moderated by PEDC Executive Director Dave McCarthy, and featured Timothy Effio, Market Director, Fluence  & Commissioner, Environment and Energy Conservation Commission, Arlington County; Maria Goravanchi, Director, US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), formerly Overseas Private Investment Corporation; and Jack K. Sterne, Esq., Principal, Lumenant LLC.

You can read more about the two panels in Agustin Cruz’s recaps, Clean Energy Project Funding Opportunities Highlighted at Green Financing Forum: Part 1, and Clean Energy Project Funding Opportunities Highlighted at Green Financing Forum: Part 2,


Celebrating Clean Energy & Sustainable Solutions

In February, Leaders in Energy held our 6th Annual Clean Energy & Sustainability Extravaganza at the University of Maryland. The Extravaganza was held in partnership with the Association of Energy Engineers National Capital Chapter and Council on Women in Energy & Environmental Leadership (CWEEL), and featured four distinct parts:

A keynote presentation by Dr. Reinhard Radermacher, Director for the Center for Environmental Energy Engineering (CEEE) at the University of Maryland, who discussed exciting advances in clean energy and sustainability innovation at the UMD.

A Council on Women in Energy & Environmental Leadership (CWEEL) luncheon panel on advancing gender equity in the energy industry, moderated by Ida Namur, AECOM and AEE NCC; featuring panelists Janine Finnell, LE Executive Director; Janine Helwig, The George Washington University; Ben Rupert, BJR Energy Management; Laurie Wiegand-Jackson, Utility Advantage and CWEEL Board and Moderator. You can read more about the panel, which was generously sponsored by Edison Energy, in Anne Kirby’s “Perspectives on Advancing Gender Equity in the Energy Industry” (CWEEL panel).

The University Showcase Panel, which highlighted clean energy and sustainability initiatives taking place on campuses, was moderated by Dr. Elvin Yuzugullu, Project Manager, General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT), Adjunct Professor at The George Washington University’s Engineering Management and Systems Engineering Department. The panel featured Greg Farley, George Mason University Director of University Sustainability; Tanvi Gadhia, UMD Sustainability Outreach Coordinator; Marta Woldu, Sustainable Transportation and Bicycle Coordinator at UMD’s Department of Transportation Services (DOTS); Guy Kilpatric, Lead Agricultural Technician at UMD Terp Farm; and University of Maryland Students Pat Fox and Drew Nixon.

The speakers shared their various perspectives on university-level initiatives including development of new technologies, promoting behavioral changes, incorporating sustainability into course curricula, and student sustainability funding initiatives. Read more in Silvia Lucero’s “University Campuses as Living Laboratories, Encouraging Behavioral Change, Reducing Greenhouse Gases, and More”.

The Business Showcase Panel highlighted various clean energy and sustainability solutions being applied by governments, commercial and industrial organizations, universities and other stakeholders. The Business Panel was moderated by Cara Martin, the Chief Operating Officer of Optimized Thermal Systems, and featured Sean Casey, an Energy Engineer with AECOM; Tom Horner, VP and Co-Founder of Water Management, Inc.; Aakansha Lam, the Founder and Managing Director of Energy Scalable, Inc.; Mike Makofsky, the Northeast Regional Manager with Shannon Global Energy Solutions; and Eric Oliver, the Founder of Earthwide LLC. Additionally, a number of innovative companies and organizations had exhibits at the Business Showcase, sharing a wide-ranging energy and sustainability solutions with attendees. Learn more in Anne Kirby’s “Businesses Applying Solutions in Energy Planning and Efficiency, Carbon Emission Reduction, Water Efficiency, Microgrids, & More” (University Showcase Panel)

See here for the presentations:

The Role of Universities in Affordable Clean Energy by Aakansha Lam, Energy Scalable, Inc.  (Business Showcase Panel)

Consolidated Presentations from the Extravaganza including the three panels – CWEEL, University and Business Showcase Panels

Keynote Address presentation by Dr. Reinhard Radermacher


LE is grateful to our 2020 Extravaganza Sponsors and Exhibitors:


Closing the Loop for a Circular Economy

In 2018, Leaders in Energy developed a Circular Economy Working Group, which currently meets every 4th Wednesday of the month. The Working Group is dedicated to promoting principles of the circular economy and highlighting opportunities for local implementation.

In June, Leaders in Energy Circular Economy Working Group together with DC EcoWomen and the Aspen Institute Green Team held a virtual event, moderated by Dr. Clifford Deaton, the Co-Chair of the Aspen Institute Green Team; and featuring Danielle Nkojo, Manager, Global Sustainable Products at Kontoor Brands and the Circular Economy Club Washington, DC Coordinator; Stephanie Potter, Executive Director of the Sustainability and Circular Economy Program at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Corporate Citizenship Center; and Shengyin Xu, Global Sustainability Manager at World Resources Institute (WRI). The panelists highlighted how they have incorporated circular economy principles in the workplace through various targeted initiatives.

Read more in Jess Parker’s “Working Circular: Incorporating Circular Economy Principles at Work”, and watch the event recording here.

Numerous speakers made presentations at the Circular Economy Working Group meetings throughout the year.  These can be viewed on our Circular Economy webpage here and include “Is the Building World Ready for the Circular Economy,” by Joel Oronato, Architect and Engineer, Hickok Cole and Circular Economy Group Member  — Presentation at Circular Economy Happy Hour meeting on September 9. 2020 and accompanying article.

Leaders in Energy also participated in the Boston GreenFest Virtual 2020’s Green Business Summit on August 20-21Janine Finnell, our Executive Director, moderated the Circular Economy panel titled “Getting Around to the Circular Economy Now” oFriday, August 21st from 11 AM-12 PM.  Lara Ilao, our Leaders in Energy Circular Economy Working Group Director, participated as a panelist along with Storm Cunningham and Muthaiya Panneerselvam.


Many thanks to PLNT Burger for its contribution to our circular economy event.  Our Circular Economy Working Group convened two Friends, Fun, & Fundraising Community Nights at PLNT Burger on Monday, March 9th and Tuesday, March 10th.


This new quick-serve plant-based offering located at the Whole Foods Market in Silver Spring in this Washington Post article on PLNT Burger Entrepreneur Seth Goldman discusses his new food venture and states: “This is more than good business. It is urgently needed business.” See the Post food review of PLNT Burger here.  Proceeds were used to support LE’s mission including conducting the Circular Economy event in June.


Receipt of Circular Economy Grant from Siemens Energy

In December, Leaders in Energy developed a one-minute video for the Siemens Energy Positive Energy Community campaign on a proposed roadmap to build a circular economy in the greater Washington area.  The campaign involved getting likes on the video.  Although Leaders in Energy did not win the contest, we were notified that we had received a small grant as a result of our participation.

Green Career Development and Employment Opportunities

Our 2020 Green Career Workshops, co-hosted by Leaders in Energy and Waterford, Inc., were held online in March. Led by LE’s Director of Training & Development Dr. Beth Offenbacker, we’ve had nearly 200 participants in our Green Career programs to date!

This year’s workshops were:

Green Career Workshop 1.0: What’s Your Green Career Plan? on Sat Mar 14

Green Career Workshop 2.0: What’s Your Green Search Strategy? on Sat Mar 28

These workshops were also offered on October 10th and 24th.

Two Green Career Momentum series were also conducted this year.  Leaders in Energy’s Green Career Momentum (GCM) with Waterford Inc. is a career development program and job network for those seeking new jobs and related opportunities.   The program consists of six (6) Group Coaching sessions, conducted weekly online via Zoom, that guide you in developing your Green Career Portfolio as part of your Green Career search.


You can learn more about Dr. Offenbacker in this interview with Miriam Aczel, Gaining Momentum on Your Green Career: An Interview with Dr. Beth Offenbacker


Our 7th Annual Green Jobs Forum was held online on August 27, allowing participants from both near and far to learn about the exciting opportunities in the growing green economy.

The 2020 Green Jobs Forum featured:

Small Group Networking Session:

Facilitated by Gaby Seltzer, Vice-Chair of the Leaders in Energy Circular Economy Working Group and Program Manager for DC Central Kitchen’s Healthy Corners Program; the session provided opportunities for attendees to connect with each other.

Jobs for a Just, Equitable, and Green Future:

Moderated by Janine Finnell, featuring two keynote speakers: Martin Ogle, founder of Entrepreneurial Earth LLC, and Justine Burt, CEO of Appraccel and the author of The Great Pivot: Creating Meaningful Work to Build a Sustainable Future. Ogle and Burt shared their valuable insights on how to transform our greatest challenges into employment opportunities, with justice and equity at the core of the green transition. You can learn more in Dr. Elvin Yuzugullu’s piece “Creating an Intentional Sustainable Economy with Career Opportunities for All”


Green Hiring Opportunities:

Moderated by Dr. Beth Offenbacker, Founder and Principal of Waterford Inc. and Director of Training and Education, Leaders in Energy; featuring Catherine McLean, Founder of Dylan Green; William R. Ellis, Sr. Portfolio Manager, Energy Efficiency, Pepco Holdings, An Exelon Company; and Florence Navarro, Chief Empowerment Officer, Kichocheo, LLC. Attendees had the chance to hear from hiring managers, recruiters, and others about opportunities in the growing green job market.


Tips on Landing or Creating a Green Job:

Attendees heard from Leaders in Energy members who recently landed or created a green job, featuring Shelli Bond, Battery Engineer at Panasonic Energy of North America; Sansanee Dhanasarnsombat, Analysis Manager, Bloomberg; Lara Ilao is a circular economy entrepreneur and Founder of Plastic Tree and the Chair of the Leaders in Energy Circular Economy Working Group; Lauren Kyla Pitts, Resource Management Concepts, Inc., and moderated by Josh Foster, Senior Manager for Climate Risk Management and Resilience, Maryland Department of Transportation.

Speaker presentations can be found here:

Martin Ogle, “The All Careers Approach to Transform Our Economy for a Sustainable World”
Justine Burt, “The Great Pivot for Green Jobs”


Celebrating Leaders of All Generations

2020 came to a close with our 7th Annual Four Generations of Leaders in Clean Energy & Sustainability Awards Celebration, with festivities held online, and FREE for all attendees. The theme was “Regenerating–for a Positive Future!” and we were delighted to honor multigenerational leaders working to regenerate the environment and our economies to create prosperity and resilience for a greener future.

The event opened with a Small Group Networking Session to connect with others, where attendees learned how to make “Solar-Powered” Green Cocktails and Mocktails from John Shope, Catoctin Creek Distillery.

This years’ awardees spanning five generations include:

  • Klaus Lackner – Baby Boomer Generation – Director of Center for Negative Carbon Emissions and professor at the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, Arizona State University
  • Tonya Graham – Generation X – Head of the Geos Institute’s ClimateWise program helping communities build resilience in the face of climate change
  • Akanksha Khatri – Millennial Generation – Head of Nature Action Agenda for World Economic Forum’s Platform for Global Public Goods
  • Jerry Achtermann – Generation Z – Student at Oberlin College studying Music Theory and Composition
  • Peter Seidel – Lifetime Achievement Award – Author of the new book titled Uncommon Sense: Shortcomings of the Human Mind for Handling Big-Picture, Long-Term Challenges


Leaders in Energy is grateful to our 4 Generations sponsors:

Big Green Shift Leader


Clean Energy Leaders

Longenecker & Associates

Catoctin Creek Distillery

Environmental Leaders


Morgan Stanley/Leila Peck


Amir D. Aczel Foundation for Research and Education in Science and Mathematics

Association of Energy Engineers – National Capital Chapter (AEE NCC)
Clean Energy Business Network (CEBN)
Green Team Academy
Potential Energy DC
Resilient Virginia
The Alliance for Regional Cooperation (ARC)
The Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE)
Your Business Our World 

Media Partners

Advanced Biofuels USA

Bethesda Green

DC Net Impact

EcoAction Arlington

Global Co-Lab

Maryland Clean Energy Center


Helaine Cooper

Capital Sun Group

Clifford Deaton

Nicole Gillen

Lavona Grow

Lara Ilao

Beth Offenbacker

Debbie Prenatt

Lee A. Williams


Learn more about our awardees and sponsors here. You can watch the event highlights in this video produced by Sustainable Scoop from Arlington Independent Media.

The award plaques were created by Dr. Elvin Yuzugullu, our LE Team Lead on Zero Waste, using sustainably-produced oil paints by event sponsor Gamblin, and incorporating a theme of the 4 Earth Elements to mirror the Four Generations.  Read her article “Colors that Matter.”

Learn more about all 7 editions of the 4 Gen Awards in Miriam Aczel’s Leaders in Energy’s Four Gen Awards: A Look Back Over the Years.

Read Jakkie Greer’s recap here

Strategic Planning Meetings and Other Internal Operations

We also held two team meetings in April and September this year to review our programs and discuss planning.


Our biweekly newsletters can be viewed in our News section of our website here.  We were thrilled to welcome a new newsletter editor in June–Matthew Capuano-Rizzo.

Blog Articles

Leaders in Energy is proud to serve as an important information hub for our eco-community, from our Clean Energy & Sustainability Resources; Career Resources; and our weekly blog posts. This year, we published 75 articles on our blog—for a grand total of nearly 400 articles on all things clean energy, environmental sustainability, and multigenerational leadership.


JOIN US – Toward a Cleaner, Greener and More Sustainable Future 


We are looking forward to continuing our work towards advancing clean energy and sustainable solutions to create a better and greener world.

We continue to develop and refine our programs to move us towards “The Big Green Shift.”  The Big Green Shift aims to enable activities that serve to decarbonize our economy and reduce our ecological footprint through circular economy measures including more efficient resource use and sustainable design.  We do this through our educational events and programs that help leverage an individual’s capacity to make a difference by connecting them with other like-minded individuals to increase their collective impact in finding green jobs, making connections to start green businesses, etc.  We also work to share best practices and knowledge on ways to create sustainable communities and to help our Leaders in Energy community members to obtain or create livelihoods in the green economy.

We have 5 key program areas which include:

Global Action Network/Ambassador Program – Goal = Accelerate/scale Big Green Shift; foster awareness of local and regional successes

Circular Economy/Green Marketplace/Economy  – Goal = Facilitate the development of a Circular Economy for the DMV region.  Monthly working group, create and implement a roadmap for the DMV region for the circular economy

Green/Climate Finance – Goal = Create+implement roadmap to facilitate Green economy in greater Washington DC region.  A new monthly working group just started on Feb 18th.

Green Jobs/Careers –  Goal = Assist people in green career development – includes annual Green Jobs Forum,Green Career Workshops and Green Career Momentum series

Multigenerational Leadership for the Big Green Shift – Goal = Recognize and facilitate those who are leading or are interested in leading the way forward in green solutions including technological and social innovation and implementation


Leaders in Energy warmly invites you to join our active global action network of leaders. Connect on LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter, and we hope to see you at one of our upcoming events and our monthly Circular Economy Working Group meetings.  Please also join our community by subscribing to our newsletter here to learn about and contribute to our programs through our public forums, serving as a speaker or sponsor, blog contributor, etc.


If you are interested in writing a blog on a clean energy and sustainability topic, please contact Dr. Miriam Aczel at maczel@leadersinenergy.org.


Be sure to check out our 2021 Events Calendar for a look at what’s in store for this upcoming year!


Dr. Miriam Aczel is Leaders in Energy’s Director of Communications. Miriam is a researcher at Imperial College London’s Centre for Environmental Policy, with a focus on international energy science and policy, with a focus on mitigation of environmental and health impacts of shale gas. She is also co-founder and co-director of the Amir D. Aczel Foundation for Research and Education in Science and Mathematics, a nonprofit based in Cambodia. 

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