Does Energy Policy Matter?

 In WCS Blog

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By Pam Seidenman

​While technology and capital both drive the clean economy, policy is just as important. Women in Cleantech and Sustainability (WCS) recently held a panel discussion on the role of policy in driving cleantech and provided an inside look into the careers of three women who have shaped cleantech policy in California and beyond. The evening also touched on industrial policy, the Clean Power Plan, and career advice.


Manal Yamout, vice president for policy at Advanced Microgrid Solutions, encouraged women to “believe in yourself and find good mentors.” She noted that she found it easier to start in the public sector and then switch to the private sector later in her career, rather than vice-versa, in part because living on a public sector salary is easier early in one’s career. Also, in the public sector, “there is a lot of work to do and not enough people to do it. So you can get a lot of responsibility quickly if you’re willing to work hard.”

Manal’s interest in policy grew from the realization that influencing laws and regulations was the best way to leverage her efforts and could impact the lives of millions. While working with the California Governor’s office, she helped to reduce the time required to get a permit to install a commercial solar project from 5 years down to 11 months. This helped lead to the installation of 16 GW of large scale solar in California.

Victoria Finkler Rome is the California legislative director for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and was involved last year in the passage of California Senate Bill 350, the Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015 (SB 350). SB 350 sets targets for the state to obtain 50% of its electricity from renewable sources, double the energy efficiency of buildings, and cut petroleum use in cars and trucks in half, all by 2030. SB 350 establishes California as a leader in transitioning to a sustainable economy and will impact auto manufacturing nationwide and building standards, as well as drive investment in clean energy and energy efficiency. Victoria encouraged women to network with other women and to find a woman mentor.

Mary Hughes is a political and campaign consultant who realized that getting more women involved in the political process was her passion. Mary launched close the gap California with the goals of recruiting more progressive women to run for the California legislature and training the candidates in how to run an effective campaign. Close the gap is currently promoting 16 progressive women candidates for 16 open seats in CA. Mary recommend, “evaluate your vocabulary,” noting that often women use language that is self-diminishing to our point of view, such as prefacing a comment with “I’m not an expert on this but … ” Mary encouraged women to “be direct.”

California’s leadership on energy policy has impacts beyond state borders, such as in the state’s efforts to help Oregon adopt energy legislation, on a 17-state collaboration on energy policy, and also internationally, in driving the Paris climate change agreement.

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