Want to learn about the 2021 Who’s Who in the US Department of Energy (DOE)? This star-studded, glamorous group of scientists, academics, policymakers, and attorneys is rife with diversity. They represent the top of the energy knowledge community and bring to their positions the background and expertise to move the US into an era of responsible energy policy consistent with goals of the Paris accord.
Here are some important areas to note about the incoming DOE energy leaders.
- The climate crisis is a core context around which the new energy policy will focus.
- Energy justice is important to many of these new energy leaders.
- These are people deeply immersed in the sciences — engineering, space, technology, energy efficiency, renewable energy, data analysis, material science, and transitioning from fossil fuels.
- They represent a diverse cross-section of the citizens of the US.
New US Energy Policy Leaders & Their Expertise
The DOE has announced new leaders who will direct policy at the DOE, coordinate across the administration, and act on the climate crisis.
- Tarak Shah, chief of staff, is an energy policy expert who has spent the last decade working on combating climate change. At the Biden-Harris Transition, Shah was the personnel lead for the Climate and Science team. From 2014-2017, he served as chief of staff to the under secretary for Science and Energy at DOE. Shah is the first person of color, first Indian-American, and first openly LGBTQ person to serve in the position at DOE.
- Shalanda H. Baker, deputy director for energy justice, a professor of law, public policy, and urban affairs at Northeastern University, is the co-founder and co-director of the Initiative for Energy Justice, which provides technical law and policy support to communities on the front lines of climate change.
- Vanessa Z. Chan, director, Office of Technology Transitions, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania in the Materials Science and Engineering Department, has spent the past 20 years helping large companies commercialize their technologies and revamped academic curricula of engineering students to make a greater social impact.
- Robert Cowin, deputy assistant secretary for public engagement, is the director of government affairs for the Climate & Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. Prior to that, Cowin worked for the National Environmental Trust, where he helped organize national campaigns focused on climate change, clean energy, and clean air.
- Tanya Das, chief of staff, Office of Science, is a staff member on the US House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, where she worked on legislation on a range of issues in clean energy and manufacturing policy.
- Christopher Davis, senior advisor to the Secretary of Energy, works with Co-Equal, a non-profit organization providing expertise and knowledge to Congress on oversight and legislation. He served all 8 years of the Obama Administration — first in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs and then in several senior roles at the Department of Energy.
- Ali Douraghy, chief of staff, Office of the Under Secretary for Science & Energy, is the chief strategy officer for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Earth & Environmental Sciences Area. He led the New Voices program at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which brings diverse leader perspectives into science policy.
- Caroline Grey, White House liaison, worked for Biden for President as expansion states director, managing distributed engagement in 33 states. Previously, she worked on the presidential campaign of Senator Elizabeth Warren. She co-founded Civis Analytics, a data science firm.
- Todd Kim, deputy general counsel for Litigation and Enforcement, was the first solicitor general for the District of Columbia, serving in that capacity more than 11 years.
- Jennifer Jean Kropke, director of Energy Jobs, served as the first director of Workforce and Environmental Engagement for IBEW Local Union 11 and the National Electrical Contractors’ Association-Los Angeles’ Labor Management Cooperation Committee. She focused on creating clean energy, port electrification, and zero emission transportation opportunities for union members.
- Andrew Light, principal deputy assistant secretary for International Affairs, was an international climate and energy policy volunteer for the Biden campaign and was one of the chief architects of Governor Jay Inslee’s plan for global climate mobilization. He served as senior adviser and India counselor to the US Special Envoy on Climate Change, as well as a climate adviser in the Secretary of State’s Office of Policy Planning.
- David A. Mayorga, director of Public Affairs, is director of communications for the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, was senior spokesperson for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and led communications for DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office. Mayorga is an immigrant and openly LGBTQ person.
- Shara Mohtadi, chief of staff, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, has led the America’s Pledge initiative and managed grants focused on the coal to clean energy transition in Asia and Australia at Bloomberg Philanthropies. During the Obama Administration, Mohtadi served as an advisor for the energy and environment portfolio at the White House in the Office of Management and Budget.
- Ali Nouri, principal deputy assistant secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs, is a molecular biologist and most recently was the President of the Federation of American Scientists, which addresses global health and security risks.
- Kelly Speakes-Backman, principal deputy assistant secretary for Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, is the first CEO of the Energy Storage Association, the national trade organization for the energy storage industry. She was honored by The Cleanie Awards as Woman of the Year.
- Narayan Subramanian, legal advisor, Office of General Counsel, led a project at Berkeley Law tracking regulatory rollbacks and served as a fellow at the Initiative for Sustainable Energy Policy at Johns Hopkins University and Data for Progress.
- Shuchi Talati, chief of staff, Office of Fossil Energy, is a senior policy advisor at Carbon180 where she focuses on policies to build sustainable and equitable technological carbon removal at scale. She also served as a policy volunteer on the Biden-Harris campaign.
- Jennifer Wilcox, principal deputy assistant secretary for Fossil Energy, is a professor of Chemical Engineering and Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania and a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute. Wilcox’s work examines the nexus of energy and the environment, developing strategies to minimize negative climate impacts associated with society’s dependence on fossil fuels.
- Avi Zevin, deputy general counsel for Energy Policy, is an attorney with experience advancing policies that enable the provision of carbon-free, reliable, and cost-effective electricity.