Janine Finnell Honored at 2018 Maryland Clean Energy Summit with Special Recognition Award

Janine Finnell Honored at 2018 Maryland Clean Energy Summit with Special Recognition Award

Leaders in Energy Executive Director Janine Finnell, Honored at 2018 Maryland Clean Energy Summit with Special Recognition Award

Janine Finnell, Executive Director, Leaders in Energy recently received a Special Recognition Award from the Maryland Clean Energy Center.  The Center honored a select group of individuals, companies, and organizations who have demonstrated leadership, partnership, advocacy, and entrepreneurism in a distinct commitment to advancing clean energy, energy efficiency, and job creation at its 2018 Maryland Clean Energy Summit on October 9, 2018.

Janine Finnell (center) with Katherine Magruder, Executive Director, and Geoff Oxnam, Board Chair, for the Maryland Clean Energy Center


Sabrina Bachman, Communications Director, Maryland Clean Energy Center, conducted an interview with Janine Finnell on September 27th, to develop a video for presentation on her work at Leaders in Energy at the October 9, 2018 Awards Ceremony.  The five-minute video, which was shown at the Awards Luncheon, can be viewed here.

Janine Finnell with Sabrina Bachman during the award interview filming


Tell us about yourself and your role with Leaders in Energy.

I founded and direct Leaders in Energy, which is a global action network based in the Washington Metro area where we are working to advance clean energy and sustainable solutions.

I started Leaders in Energy in November 2012 as a LinkedIn group.  I was exploring new professional opportunities and becoming more engaged in social media and sent out an invitation to 25 people that I knew in the industry.   I remember being kind of nervous about whether anyone would want to join.  I was reminded of the Grouch Marx quote about “he wouldn’t wantto join any club that would have him as a member!”  I was seeking to connect with other professionals who were passionate about collaborating and seeking solutions to energy, environmental, and sustainability challenges.  We began to exchange ideas and share best practices and success stories.

From there, Leaders in Energy started taking off and started growing organically… meeting at Happy Hours and continuing to grow the group and getting a lot of interest in these topics.  We became an LLC in 2015 and then transitioned to a non-profit in 2017. We currently have over 5000 members in over 100 countries.  We are most active in the Washington DC area and have conducted over 50 events in addition to workshops, working groups, and Tech Tours.

I feel that my breadth and depth of experience makes me a perfect fit for this role with my past experience in working as a federal employee, at a state energy office, and in the private sector with companies like DynCorp International and IBM as a researcher, policy analyst, and program manager in the clean energy and sustainability sectors.

What accomplishments are you most proud of, related to your work to advance clean energy in Maryland?

To discuss our accomplishments, I think it would be first useful to set the stage about what we do and what it is that we are trying to accomplish.  We are helping people to transform themselves by working with others to reach their potential, and in doing, advance transformational change for a better and greener world.

With the internet and digital revolution, it has become easier to connect with people in a networked world.   John Hagel, who wrote a book titled “The Power of Pull,” writes about how valuable these developments are to attract like-minded individuals around the world.  In our case, we are seeking to attract those who feel a sense of urgency about making a transformation to a more sustainable planet.

Thus, we are utilizing the power of the networked world for knowledge-sharing that leads to action and impact via collaborative partnerships, projects, jobs, etc., through our educational events, workshops, working groups, and Tech Tours.  We are seeking to connect people to share success stories –including on technology, social and economic innovation, new business models, etc.   In addition we help people to connect with others to help them find green jobs, and connect businesses who offer sustainable solutions with those in the market who are seeking green economy solutions.

Our events and programs also create opportunities for serendipity to occur or positive chance encounters.   “The Power of Pull” book talks about how by shaping serendipity and forming “creation spaces” thatbring together people and interactions in one place that this increases the rate of learning and idea exchange.  This can help to accelerate progress for the greater good and impact.

So what are we really aiming for?  We are excited about the potential for ingenuity and imagination to utilize innovative energy technology and policy solutions that are driving prices down on a variety of low-carbon energy systems, e.g., solar, battery storage systems, fuel cells, developments in small nuclear power systems, algae production for fuels, etc., that can offer new economic opportunities while making our ecological footprint lighter and lighter.

One good example of this potential is detailed in the recent new report from the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate where CEO Paul Polman from Unilever and others conclude that transitioning to a low-carbon, sustainable growth path could deliver a direct economic gain of $26 trillion through to 2030 compared to business-as-usual.   It discusses a new climate economy in five key economic systems: energy, cities, food and land use, water, and industry.


How can we help to accelerate these developments?

We are working to accelerate these developments through our Leaders in Energy Mission and Focus Areas that include:

Sustainable communities –  Working for thedevelopment of sustainable and environmentally responsible communities around the world

Green economy– Getting people working in livelihoods that regenerate the planet and do not destroy it and help finance this by mobilizing funds to help start-ups and others

Multigenerational leadership and talent– Utilizing talent across all age groups in an inclusive new green economy.

We work to connect four groups of stakeholders in four key areas including: 1) Green job seekers to hiring managers and employers; 2) Energy suppliers with solutions to the market (including business and consumers); 3) Technology and social innovators to investors; and 4) Thought leaders and industry experts with our action network.

So back to your question, what accomplishments are we most proud of in Maryland?   We are a global action network.  We do hold many of our events in the greater Washington area.  So in terms of Maryland…

We conducted our 4th University Showcases (also called Clean Energy and Sustainability Extravaganza) at the University of Maryland in College Park for the first time, where our theme was “Clean Tech Innovation and Entrepreneurship”.   We brought together 5 University departments working in clean energy and sustainability (Engineering Department, Office of Sustainability, Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute, Public Policy School, and others) to present their programs in cleantech innovation and entrepreneurship to accelerate solutions for a more sustainable world.

Janine Finnell (with microphone), panelists (from l-r): Lisa Lincoln, Prince Georges Green;Dr. Yunho Hwang, Department of Mechanical Engineering;,  Dr. Peter Sandborn, Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute; Alla Corey McCoy, Office of Technology Commercialization; Dr. Nate Hultman, Office of Public Policy; and Mark Stewart, Office of Sustainability.

We held our 5th annual Green Jobs Forum in August at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, a regional planning body spanning DC, Maryland, and Virginia.  We had over 100 attendees with exhibitors who were hiring, as well as assisting people in careers, and offering green tech certifications.

One of our panels included economic development and employment specialists from around the area including Worksource Montgomery, which works to hire people in a number of green-related areas including solar installation, stormwater management, and more.

What upcoming projects are you focusing on now?

I’m very excited about our Four Generations of Leaders in Clean Energy and Sustainability Awards – also known as Four Gen — which we have just opened up for nominations.  This will be our 5thannual year to recognize leaders in the 4 generations of the workplace who are advancing clean energy and sustainable solutions.  People are living longer and longer and more innovations are coming from those who are younger and younger (11-year-old boy with plastic straw elimination campaign).   This annual event brings leaders together so they can help inspire and motivate others. Our theme this year is: “Becoming a Leader by Empowering Ourselves, and Others, to Create a Better and Greener World.”  We are seeking nominations of those who have taken the initiative and stepped up to empower themselves and others to make the world a better and greener place for humanity and for the natural world.

What do we mean by “Becoming a Leader?”  These are people who empower themselves and step up to take responsibility in an effort to make the world a better and greener place for humanity and for all the natural world.   In our homes, in our neighborhoods and communities, in our workplaces, cities, states, and countries – we need leaders on every front and at every level.  From solo change leaders, to leaders of others, we are honoring individuals who have taken the initiative to make a difference!

Our Award and Holiday event will take place on Friday, November 30th, in Arlington, Virginia.  Our award nominations process is open through October 19, 2018.  See more information on our website.

Tell us about any examples/case studies you have been involved with that have made an impact for clean energy technology development, and/or implementation or sustainability?

Some of our key accomplishments include training over 100 people in our Green Career workshops and Green Career Momentum classes.  We have helped people to find jobs through our LE community and highlighting a number of these members in our Green Jobs Forum panel where they also provide advice and tips to others.

Our other accomplishments include providing thought leadership in a number of areas including the Circular Economy where we recently formed a Working Group to examine how to implement these principles and policies in the greater Washington DC region.  The Circular Economy is focused on moving us to an economy that is smarter in design, along the lines of nature where resources are used more efficiently and in a renewable fashion.

We help businesses to display their sustainable products at our Showcases and to meet with other businesses, consumers, and members of our community to help expand the green economy.  If you want to have a green economy, people need to be able to make money from it.

In addition to recognizing Leaders in all 4 generations who are making an impact, we conducted a Green Leaders Retreat this year for the first time, which focused on accelerating the UN SDGs in the Washington Metro area.

What key partners or organizations are you working with?

We’ve have over 40 partners listed on our website.   We make it a point to partner with other organizations.    This also helps to keep our events fresh and attract new people and create new synergies.

Some examples of partners include Potential Energy DC, Resilient Virginia, the International Society of Sustainability Professionals, and others.   I also serve on Board of Association of Energy Engineers, which has student chapters at 3 universities that we have collaborated with on our University Showcases.

Is there anything else that you would like to share?

I was fortunate to discover my passion for the energy and sustainability domain when I was in graduate school and it shaped the trajectory of my career.  I count my blessings to be working in a field that I feel very passionate about.

I found my passion/calling when I was in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  A fellow student introduced me to the book “Small is Beautiful – Economics as if People Matter” and the concept of “Appropriate Technology”.  This led to me studying ethane digesters in India for my Master’s thesis as a way to provide cleaner and more accessible energy for people in the rural areas of India and that set me on my career trajectory.

This path has been my guiding North Star ever since.  Joseph Campbell, the writer who has researched the archetypal hero in mythology, talks about by how “following your bliss” that many invisible hands will help you along the way to pursue your goal.  I feel like this is what has been happening with me in founding leaders in Energy.   We started initially with a LinkedIn group and then built a community and organization with participants in and around the greater Washington Metro region, US, and globe.

John Hagel (author of the Power of Pull) has looked at extreme performance sports and how you can perform at the highest level when you have passion and are internally driven.   He says that only about 20% of the US workforce has been identified as being passionate and engaged in their work and how there is this need to better engage people so they can work on what really motivates them and excites them.

What has been really neat is that through Leaders in Energy I have met so many people who really want to transition into this area.   They come to Leader in Energy for a variety of reasons. They feel concerned, they feel “a call to action” to work in this field, or they want to have more meaningful work that they feel makes a difference.

Two fun stories in this regard is when I was speaking at our Green Jobs event about the need to mobilize a green army of workers to shift our economy towards one that regenerates rather than destroys the Earth.   An attendee came up to me afterwards and volunteered on the spot to be our LE Volunteer Coordinator.   It is very exciting when these things happen.  I was at an Women’s Energy networking event and met one of our members who had just gotten a job at the Grid Alternatives and said that she had found our Green Career Momentum classes to be very helpful in landing the position.  She became one of our speakers to help others find green jobs at our most recent Green Jobs Forum.

My questions for those who are attending this Maryland Clean Energy Summit are – What actions can you take to maximize your potential to make a difference in making our world a better place?  Even small actions can add up.  I would like to close with these two quotations that mirror these sentiments.

“If not you, then who?  If not now, then when?”  2014 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Kailash Satyarthi  Kailash Satyarthi is an Indian children’s rights and education advocate and an activist against child labor. He founded the Bachpan Bachao Andolan in 1980 and has acted to protect the rights of more than 83,000 children from 144 countries.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.“  Margaret Mead, Anthropologist

Sabrina L. Bachman, Communications Director, Maryland Clean Energy Center. With over 10 years of program management experience, Sabrina Bachman has built her career around working with organizations that have a strong commitment to sustainability and protecting the environment. Prior to joining the team at Maryland Clean Energy Center in 2018, Ms. Bachman served the U.S. Green Building Council as their Community Director for Maryland and West Virginia. She has also worked at the local level with several government offices and nonprofit organizations, in Maryland and California, to implement programs to protect the environment and offer educational resources. Ms. Bachman holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Systems from the University of California, San Diego. 

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