The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has recognized nine women for their achievements and leadership in clean energy, as part of the agency’s U.S Clean Energy Education & Empowerment (C3E) Initiative.

Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette recognized the winners of the 2020 U.S. C3E Awards on Dec. 1. The nine women will be honored at the upcoming Ninth Annual U.S. C3E Women in Clean Energy Symposium, to be held in a virtual format Dec. 8–9.

The U.S. C3E Initiative is led by the DOE in collaboration with the MIT Energy Initiative, Stanford Energy, and the Texas A&M Energy Institute. DOE has led the initiative since 2012. The program is designed with the goal of closing the gender gap and increasing the participation, leadership, and success of women in clean energy fields.

“Women are critical to the advancement of clean energy science and technologies for a prosperous energy future,” said Brouillette. “It is my honor to recognize and congratulate the winners of the 2020 U.S. C3E Awards for their dedication and leadership. May your work and achievements inspire more women to join the clean energy industry.”

‘A Huge Honor’

Britta von Oesen, a managing director with CohnReznick Capital who leads the company’s San Francisco office, is among those being honored. She told POWER the recognition is “a huge honor.” Von Oesen has more than a decade of experience in investment banking, tax equity, corporate strategy, and development in the wind, solar, and broader environmental sector. She serves as co-chair of the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA’s) Women’s Empowerment Sub-Committee.

Britta von Oesen

“I’m incredibly honored to be one of the recipients, especially in the company of some amazing women, leading this transition into renewable and clean energy,” von Oesen told POWER. “The program is great in bringing recognition to woman leading this fight to transition to clean energy. It’s programs like this that are going to facilitate change and bring more women into our industry.”

The DOE in a news release said von Oesen “has made a considerable impact in, and dedicated her career to, improving the environment through investment banking.”

Von Oesen noted the global trend of increased investment in renewable energy, which analysts have said is likely to drive the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

“The renewables industry, especially in the U.S., is booming, even with some of the setbacks we’re seeing with COVID and in general the economic pullback from the pandemic,” she said. “Where we’re seeing the most squeeze is in the tax equity market,” noting the uncertainly among investors about when the pandemic’s impacts will ease.

“But the industry continues to boom, and we see upside in the administration change,” von Oesen said, citing the fact President-elect Joe Biden has said his administration will make combating climate change a priority, and act to return the U.S. to a lead role globally in climate initiatives. “[Renewable energy] is going to be a critical component for the economic comeback, and promoting clean energy jobs is going to be critical,” von Oesen said.

Other Winners

The other 2020 U.S. C3E Awards 2020 award winners cited by the DOE include:

Bobi Garrett, Lifetime Achievement. Garrett served as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) deputy laboratory director and chief operating officer, prior to her recent retirement. At NREL, she integrated and implemented the lab’s strategy across research and operations and ensured business and operating systems enabled high-quality, impactful research.

Cristina Garcia, Advocacy. Garcia is assistant director at the Building Electrification Initiative, where she focuses on inclusive labor and workforce policies, working to abolish bias and foster inclusion in the workforce.

Elizabeth Kaiga, Business. Kaiga is key account director for renewable energy at DNV GL, where she focuses on providing strategies and solutions to support the global transition to sustainable energy. Kaiga in an email to POWER said, “This recognition is both humbling and exciting because this award brings together two issues that I care about—access to sustainable energy and building a more inclusive future. In order to fully realize the clean energy transition, we must embrace diversity of talent and lived experience. A more inclusive clean energy sector also means that we must ensure equitable access to clean energy for underrepresented and underserved communities.”

Lindsay Dubbs, Education. Dubbs is associate director of the North Carolina Renewable Ocean Energy Program at the Coastal Studies Institute, where she leads environmental assessment and permitting and conducts research associated with marine hydrokinetic energy.

Kathy Hannun, Entrepreneurship. Hannun is co-founder and president of Dandelion Energy. Dandelion is the largest home geothermal company in the U.S., and the nation’s largest residential heat pump installer, according to the DOE. Hannun spoke with POWER about the rise of renewable energy in an article in the March 2020 issue.

Natalie Meyer, Government. Meyer leads climate and sustainability initiatives for the City of Bozeman, Montana. Under Meyer’s leadership, the city has experienced rapid growth while at the same time reducing its carbon footprint.

María Hilda Rivera, International. Rivera is an energy advisor with Power Africa, where she works to increase access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa.

Simona Onori, Research. Onori is an assistant professor in Energy Resources Engineering at Stanford University, where she directs the Stanford Energy Control laboratory, and an adjunct professor at the International Center for Automotive Research at Clemson University. She has co-authored more than 120 peer-reviewed publications and has experience in international collaborations.

Von Oesen told POWER the DOE’s clean energy initiative is helping promote diversity in the power generation industry.

“Traditional energy, and renewable energy, has been male-dominated. It just is,” she said. “Because of that, it’s a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s hard to make any real shift in an industry like this. But it’s programs like C3E that can help make that shift. I believe we are at a fundamental shift, with meaningful female leadership in the industry, and bringing more women into the fight.”

Darrell Proctor is associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).