Leaders in Energy’s Four Gen Awards: A Look Back Over the Years

Leaders in Energy’s Four Gen Awards: A Look Back Over the Years



Leaders in Energy is thrilled to invite you to join us for our 2020 Seventh Annual Four Generation of Leaders in Clean Energy and Sustainability Solutions Awards Celebration—the greatly-anticipated “Four Gen” AwardsTHIS EVENT IS FREE – thanks to our very generous sponsors! 


Each year, Four Gen celebrates individuals from four generations who have become transformational leaders of projects, programs, initiatives, and innovations – helping us to advance toward technological, economic and social solutions for the health and benefit of our planet. This year’s theme is “Regenerating – for a Positive Future!” We are excited to honor multigenerational leaders who are helping to regenerate natural systems and economies to create prosperity and resilience through projects, programs, and initiatives that connect with this theme. This year, we have a new Gen Z category, and our World War II honoree is recognized via a Lifetime Achievement Award. Our Seventh Annual 4 Gen edition has a different format this year, as the event will be held fully online. While we look forward to honoring leaders and celebrating with guests in person in the future, we are glad to be able to celebrate this year’s awardees with attendees across the globe, and in a low-carbon and zero-waste fashion.


This years’ awardees spanning five generations include:

  • Klaus Lackner, Ph.D. – 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

You can find more information about this years’ honorees as well as further information on our exciting schedule, our generous sponsors, and a link to register here. In the meantime, we’re delighted to take a walk down Leaders in Energy’s memory lane with you and highlight some of our honorees from the past six years.

Our Early Awards

In 2014, our Inaugural Four Generations recognized these exemplary leaders’ contributions to clean energy and sustainability:

  • Brent Blackwelder, Ph.D. – WWII/Traditional Generation – past President of Friends of the Earth, Chair of the League of Conservation Voters, and the Founding Chair of American Rivers
  • Josh Silverman – Baby Boomer Generation – Director, Office of Sustainability Support, US Department of Energy (DOE)
  • Elenor Hodges – Generation X – Executive Director of the Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment (ACE)
  • Logan Soya – Millennial Generation– Founder and CEO of Aquicore


Our Second Annual Leaders in Energy “4 Generations: Leadership in Clean Energy & Sustainability” was held on December 4, 2015 at Bier Baron and was attended by over 100 people. The theme of the awards was “Leading Through Adversity,” and our four awardees were honored for their inspirational stories regarding the obstacles and challenges they faced on their path to leadership in clean energy and sustainability. Awardees recognized were:

  • Bill Holmberg – WWII/Traditional Generation – Chairman, Biomass Coordinating Council and Latin American and Caribbean Council on Renewable Energy, American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE).
  • Robert L. Wallace – Baby Boomer Generation – CEO/Founder, BITHENERGY, Inc
  • Sonia Punjabi – Generation X – Principal Consultant, Sustainable Use Services with DNV GL
  • Timi Komonibo – Millennial Generation – Founder, Style Lottery

Read more about our 2015 awardees here and here


Inspiring Change and Promoting Action

On December 2, 2016, our Third Annual Four Gen Awards, “Sparking the Passion in Others,” recognized leaders who have inspired others and sparked change for a more sustainable and inclusive economy, environment, and planet. Leaders recognized were:

  • Penelope A. “Penny” Gross – World War II/Traditional – Fairfax Board of Supervisors for the Mason District
  • Albert Nunez – Baby Boomer – VP of Capital Sun Group
  • Dave McCarthy – Generation X – Founder/Director, Potential Energy DC & Founder/Managing Partner, Spore 1, LLC
  • Nofar Hamrany – Millennial – Environmental Leader at New York University campuses in DC and Shanghai

During the event, each Awardee gave a short “seven minutes of wisdom” speech, sharing their clean energy and sustainability experiences and advice. In her recap of the event, Kerry Worthington highlighted Generation X Awardee, Dave McCarthy’s advice:

Dream! Dave encourages those under the age of 20 to “dream and dream big!” – to lie “in the grass,” look at cloud shapes, and think about the universe kind of big dreams!

Team! Dave sees a lot of the 20- to 40-year-old entrepreneurs with big dreams, yet they out trying to accomplish them – alone. He promotes getting a good team together as doing it alone is “drudgery.”

Beam! Dave believes the 40- to 60-year-old group can come in with their experiences and leadership and be a beacon of hope and inspiration to attract people to the clean energy field.

Enjoy! Dave says simply that 60 to 80 is the time to enjoy!


The Urgent Need for Environmental Leadership

Our 2017 edition was based on the theme of “The Urgency of Now”, and the awards recognized leaders who are responding to the need for urgent action to avoid catastrophic climate change through the enhanced use of long-term clean energy and sustainable solutions. 2017 was a particularly exciting year as Leaders in Energy received official 501(c)(3) status, and the awards highlighted that what had begun as a Linked-In group several years ago had become an engaged and diverse global action network of multigenerational leadership.

In 2017, we celebrated the accomplishments of FIVE leaders across different generations:

  • David Freeman – Lifetime Achievement Awardee – eco-pioneer and author. Freeman has provided progressive leadership to major public utilities coast to coast. His most recent books include, “All Electric America: A Climate Solution and the Hopeful Future” and an autobiography entitled, “The Green Cowboy: An Energetic Life.”
  • Louise Meyer – World War II/Traditional – Co-founder of Solar Household Energy. Meyer is dedicated to enabling families in villages and refugee camps in developing countries to cook with solar energy.
  • Kam Ghaffarian, Ph.D. – Baby Boomer Awardee – Founder and CEO of X Energy. Ghaffarian’s company, X Energy (a nuclear reactor and fuel design engineering services company) is reinventing nuclear to be safer and more sustainable.
  • Lori Arguelles – Generation X Awardee – President and CEO of the Alice Ferguson Foundation. Arguelles oversees a “Living Building” that provides a holistic/circular economy approach–not only solving energy issues, but focusing on water use, wastes, and materials–while also serving as a hands-on educational resource for policymakers as well as students.
  • Camila Thorndike – Millenial Awardee – Carbon Pricing Campaign Director, Chesapeake Climate Action Networking. Thorndike is an activist in the “Put a Price on IT” DC Campaign in Washington, DC.


Honoring Leaders and Working Towards Zero-Waste


On November 30, 2018, we held our Fifth Annual Four Gen Awards at the Crystal Gateway Condo Complex. Our fifth edition celebrated remarkable leaders of four generations who are working hard to make a different in diverse areas such as energy storage technology, green buildings, environmental justice, and ecological and steady-state economics.

  • Dr. Herman Daly – World War II Generation. Renowned pioneer in ecological- and steady-state- economics. Emeritus Professor at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy, co-founder of the journal Ecological Economics, and author of hundreds of articles and numerous books on these topics.
  • Queen Zakia Shabazz – Baby Boomer Generation. Coordinator of the Virginia Environmental Justice (EJ) Collaborative, a network of environmental organizations tackling a variety of issues in diverse geographies throughout Virginia. Also founder of UPAL – United Parents Against Lead & Other Environmental Hazards.
  • Stephen Coughlin – Gen X Generation.  President and CEO of Fluence, a joint venture between AES and Siemens that has deployed nearly 700 MW of grid-connected storage projects in sixteen countries around the world.
  • Lindsey Shaw – Millennial Generation. Commercial Energy Program Manager at the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection. An innovator of cutting-edge programs who works with building owners, property managers and building tenants on energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, including the County’s benchmarking and transparency law and commercial PACE financing tool.

The 2018 was particularly exciting as our goal was to have a zero-waste event. Nearly 100 attendees tossed their plates, utensils, and excess food into recycling, compost, or trash bins. Afterwards, volunteers sorted the recyclables and we kept 61 pounds of materials out of the landfill — 10 pounds of food waste and 51 pounds of recyclables. You can read more about the event here.


Last year, our Sixth Annual 4 Gen Awards was held on December 6th at Pepco Edison Place Gallery, with the theme: “Alliances for Action: Coalitions, Collaboration, and Partnerships.” The leaders we honored ranged in age from teens to 80s – which shows that we are never too young or too old to make a real difference in the world. The leaders being recognized last year are all working hard to build partnerships and interdisciplinary collaboration in many areas, ranging from clean energy and energy efficiency, promoting the circular economy, reducing plastic and food waste, and building engaged, sustainable communities.

  • Andrew Euston – World War II – Urban Ecological Designer. Fellow of the American Institute of Architects
  • Eric Goplerud – Baby Boomer – Founder and Chair, Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions
  • Julia Cohen – Generation X – Co-Founder and Managing Director, Plastic Pollution Coalition
  • Ashley Cheung, Eva Leikikh, Krithika Layagala, Kayla Peale, Sydney Rico, and Marieka Staheli –Millennial/Gen Z – Global Co Lab and Smithsonian’s Conservation Commons Eco Teen Action Network


  • Emerging Leaders – Karen T. Campblin and Lee Williams, Co-Chairs. Green New Deal Virginia Coalition; and Mitra Kashani, Founder. Mason Environmental Justice Alliance


We’re looking forward to celebrating our Seventh year with you in a few weeks! In the meantime, you can see our 4 Gen Hall of Fame here and register for 2020’s exciting celebration here.



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. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.