The future of our energy system is diversified, distributed, and clean. Cities are epicenters of energy consumption, and can be vulnerable to large scale blackouts resulting from severe weather events and natural disasters, human error, or cyber-attacks. But decentralizing the grid through distributed microgrids, regions can fortify themselves to prevent widespread power failures. And by leveraging underutilized urban spaces, cities can facilitate the growth of distributed energy resources, from generation – like solar panels and small modular reactors – to energy storage like batteries and fuel cells, and even support electric vehicle charging and carbon capture technologies. This panel discussion on Powering Resilient Cities explores how municipal, business, and energy leaders are helping cities adapt to and overcome pressures imposed by climate change, the push to decarbonize, and the need for power system reliability.
Moderated by Greg Gershuny, Executive Director, Energy & Environment Program, the Aspen Institute
Lauren Faber O’Connor, Chief Sustainability Officer, Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti, City of Los Angeles
In her role as Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of Los Angeles, Lauren Faber O’Connor is driving the implementation of LA’s Green New Deal, a global model for local action to confront the climate crisis and build an inclusive green economy that prioritizes equity. Lauren has spent her career working on environmental issues from serving as West Coast Political Director for the Environmental Defense Fund to being appointed Assistant Secretary for Climate Change Programs at the California Environmental Protection Agency to addressing climate change and energy as the Senior Policy Advisor at the British Embassy. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Earth Systems and Economics from Stanford University, and Master’s degree in Climate and Society from Columbia University.
Galina Russell, Chief Operating Officer, REEF Energy
As part of REEF Energy’s leadership team, Galina is at the forefront of establishing key partnerships with public and private sector organizations to pioneer the transformation of conventional parking infrastructure into dynamic neighborhood hubs rooted in sustainability and clean energy. Her areas of specialty include shared, electric and autonomous mobility. Prior to REEF, Galina led operations and finance strategy for Envoy Technologies, a California based green mobility start-up. There she executed two major public grant programs, valued at over $44 million, that were designed to deploy shared electric mobility and infrastructure for low income and disadvantaged communities. She also spent her early career at McKinsey and Company implementing projects across procurement, travel, transport and logistics. She holds a B.S. from the University of Massachusetts and a Chinese language certificate from Harvard University. She resides in Miami and speaks her native Russian, advanced Mandarin and Spanish.
Nicole Sitaraman, Vice President, Strategic Engagement, Sustainable Capital Advisors
Nicole Sitaraman serves as Vice President of Strategic Engagement at Sustainable Capital Advisors where she is responsible for building broad strategic networks with the private sector, non-profits, community-based organizations and government to facilitate inclusive investment in sustainable infrastructure projects. Prior to joining Sustainable Capital Advisors, Nicole was a Senior Manager of Public Policy at Sunrun, Inc., the nation’s largest residential solar, battery storage and energy management services provider. She joined the team at Sunrun after serving, for several years, as an Assistant People’s Counsel in the Office of the People’s Counsel for the District of Columbia where she was the chief advisor on clean energy policy. She began working on energy justice issues after serving as a civil rights and whistleblower rights attorney at one of the nation’s leading civil rights litigation firms. Nicole has been featured in such publications as Forbes, CleanTechnica, PV Magazine, Solar Power World and the AFRO. Nicole serves on the Board of Directors of Solar United Neighbors, the Steering Committee of Interfaith Power & Light, DMV and the Advisory Committee of Black Owners of Solar Services. Nicole earned her B.A. at Yale University and J.D. at Boston University School of Law.
Jon Wellinghoff, CEO, GridPolicy, Inc.
Jon Wellinghoff is an internationally recognized expert and thought leader in energy policy, electric grid operations and markets, and the interface of disruptive energy systems with traditional utility structures. He currently consults with business, government, and regulatory policy leaders in the U.S., Asia, Canada, Australia, and Europe. His firm GridPolicy, Inc. is dedicated to furthering the deployment of and investment in clean sustainable distributed energy resources (DER) and efficient grid enhancing technologies (GET). Jon works to remove regulatory, policy, and institutional barriers to the widespread adoption of cost effective DER and GET resources and systems, assisting companies, governments, and consumers who market and/or operate such resources. In 2006, Jon received his first of two Presidential appointments to serve as a Commissioner on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and was designated by the President in 2009 to be Chairman of FERC. He was FERC’s longest serving Chairman (2009-2013). During his FERC tenure, he led efforts to make the U.S. power system cleaner and more efficient by promoting and integrating renewable energy, demand response, energy efficiency, and storage into the nation’s transmission system. In 2016, the Public Utilities Fortnightly named Jon one of the 10 individuals since 1990 who have had the greatest impact on the electric utility industry.