Speaker Bios

Keynote Speaker Bios

Teju Ravilochan, CEO Unreasonable Institute (GMB)

Title: Grassroots Solutions to Energy ProblemsScreenshot 2016-03-08 21.14.43

Other options: How entrepreneurs create solutions to energy problems OR what entrepreneurs are doing to make energy accessible in new markets

Abstract: What entrepreneurs are trying to get energy to low income communities in some of the most difficult to reach parts of the world.

Bio: From a young age, Teju wondered what we could to tackle problems like global poverty and lack of access to energy in developing countries. Frustrated that this BA in International Affairs wasn’t preparing him to do so, he obtained a Grant from the University of Colorado at Boulder to conduct research about the effectiveness of non-profits in India. He learned that traditional charity-based models are not effectively combating issues like poverty and access to energy. Shortly thereafter, he met with Paul Polak, whose entrepreneurial work has lifted over 20 million farmers out of poverty. He joined Paul and began working as his assistant at D-Rev: Design for the Other 90%, eventually leaving to co-found the Unreasonable Institute alongside Daniel Epstein and Tyler Hartung.

The Unreasonable Institute is a mentorship and training program for entrepreneurs tackling social and environmental problems. Each year, the Institute unites two dozen entrepreneurs from around the world to live under the same roof for a summer in Boulder, Colorado. There, they receive training from 50 mentors, ranging from Paul Polak; to Hunter Lovins, a Time Magazine Hero of the Planet; to Tom Chi, the former UX Lead at Google X (and designer of Google Glasses). In the process, they form relationships with dozens of investment funds, receive legal advice & design consulting, and pitch to more than 60 potential funders and 600 local supporters. So far, 150 companies from 45 countries have come through the program. 93% of them have have raised funds, totaling over $90 million.

Panel 1 Speaker Bios

Fatou Doumbia: Founder, Agile International

Ms. Doumbia, founder of AGILE (Action to Generate and Integrate the Local Economy) International, has a long history of finding and applying strategies that help her community thrive. Originally from Mali, she is intensely dedicated to helping the women and young people of West Africa succeed and contribute to their community. Since the early days of her college education, her vision has been to integrate and coordinate resources and people for organizational success. As an example of her organizational ability, she coordinated medical resources that eradicated schistosomiasis from her neighborhood in Mali. Ms. Doumbia has a B.S. in Computer Information Systems and has worked at IBM as a systems analyst and trainer. This experience has given her the ability to think critically, respond creatively and solve complex problems. She has a reputation for perseverance and sound decision-making.

Sean Esterly: Project Lead, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Sean Esterly is a Project Lead in the Integrated Applications Center (IAC) at NREL, having previously worked as a Research Analyst in the Strategic Energy Analysis Center (SEAC). During his tenure at NREL Sean has focused on a variety of topics including energy access for rural areas, clean energy policy and regulation, low emission development strategies (LEDS), micro and mini-grid policies and regulations, and international clean energy policy analysis. Sean also provides capacity building to developing countries through his work for the Clean Energy Solutions Center, where he leads the webinar training program and resource library, and also provides support for their Ask-an-Expert technical assistance program. Additionally, Sean works on the Department of Energy’s Indian Energy program where he provides policy and technical assistance to Native American tribes. Sean received his Master’s degree in environmental policy and management from the University of Denver in 2012, and received bachelor degrees in environmental studies and political science from Eckerd College in 2007.

Lakshman Guruswamy: Director, Center for Energy & Environmental Security

Lakshman Guruswamy, who was born in Sri Lanka, is the Nicholas Doman Professor of International Environmental Law at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and is a recognized expert in International Environmental and Energy Law. Lakshman teaches International Environmental Law, Global Energy Justice, Oil and International Relations, and International law. He is the director of international energy programs at the Getches Wilkinson Center at the Law School, in which capacity he seeks to find practical energy solutions, based on energy justice,  for the energy poor populating the least developed parts of the developing world. He is widely published in international energy and international environmental law in legal and scientific journals, Prior to joining the University of Colorado, he taught in Sri Lanka, the UK, and the Universities of Iowa and Arizona. Guruswamy, is a frequent speaker at scholarly meetings around the US and the world. He is the author of, and the co-author of:  International Energy and Poverty: The Emerging Frontiers (2015), Global Energy Justice: Law and Policy  (in press, Foundation West, 2016), International Environmental Law in a Nutshell (4d ed. 2012), International Environmental Law and World Order (2nd. 1999), Biological Diversity: Converging Strategies (1998), Arms Control and the Environment (2001), and has authored over 50 scholarly articles published in law reviews as well as peer reviewed journals.

Richard Martin: Technology Editor, MIT Technology Review

An author, editor, and analyst with particular expertise in energy, technology, and geopolitics, Richard Martin is the energy editor of the MIT Technology Review.  His first book, SuperFuel, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012, chronicled the thorium power renaissance.  Described as “the most important science and technology book of the year,” it was reviewed favorably in Nature, Foreign Affairs, New Scientist, and many other publications.  His latest book, Coal Wars, on the future of the global coal industry, was published in April 2015.

Richard’s work has appeared in Time, The Atlantic, Fortune, Wired, The Asian Wall Street Journal and many other publications.  His article “The God Particle and the Grid” (Wired, April 2004) was selected for Best Science Writing of 2004.  Published in the December, 2009 issue of Wired, his groundbreaking article on thorium power, “The New Green Nuke,” helped catalyze the thorium power movement and was the subject of a conference at Google, at which Richard was the featured speaker, in March 2010.  He is the recipient of the White Award for Investigative Reporting (from the national City & Regional Magazine Association), an “Excellence in Journalism” award from the Society for Professional Journalists, and a Rotary Journalism Fellowship.

He is also a veteran reporter on Asian affairs.  In 1993-94 he was a visiting scholar at the University of Hong Kong, and in 1997 he spent three months in Central Asia as one of the first Western journalists to report on the Caspian Sea oil boom.

An accomplished public speaker and commentator, Richard has lectured at Cambridge University, the Korea Advanced Institute for Science & Technology, Google, and the United Kingdom Parliament, has been interviewed on NPR’s Science Friday, CBS Radio, and CNN, and has spoken and moderated panels at many industry/technology conferences.

Richard was educated at Yale University and the University of Hong Kong.

Mark Safty: Wirth Chair for Sustainable Development, Partner, Holland & Hart

Mark Safty was appointed as the Wirth Chair for Sustainability at the University of Colorado in 2013. The Wirth Chair is housed within the School of Public Affairs at CU-Denver and honors the environmental and sustainable development achievements of former U.S. Senator and Undersecretary of State Tim Wirth. Following his work with the federal government, Wirth served for nearly a decade as the President of the United Nations Foundation.

In over 25 years as a partner at Holland & Hart, LLP, companies operating on five continents have turned to Mr. Safty for virtually every type of infrastructure development and financing transaction. He has served as lead counsel in the development, acquisition, financing, and refinancing of dozens of power generation facilities across the spectrum of energy technologies. Since the 1990s, Mr. Safty has focused his practice almost exclusively on development, construction, financing, and M&A activity in the renewable and sustainable energy industry. His earlier years of experience included the positions of general counsel and COO of a regional bank holding company, and he served as an outside director and chairman of the board of a $2.5 billion financial institution.

Mr. Safty currently serves as the practice group leader for Holland & Hart’s Energy & Infrastructure Group. He is listed in The Best Lawyers in America©, Who’s Who Legal, and Euromoney’s International Financial Law Review for energy law and project finance law, and is recognized as a global leader by Chambers USA. He was selected as “Colorado’s Best Renewable Energy Attorney” by Law Week Colorado. Mr. Safty is an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado Law School and at University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law, where he teaches Renewable Energy Development, Regulation, and Finance. He is a frequent speaker at national and international conferences on renewable and sustainable energy topics.

(Moderator) Adam Reed: Director of Energy and Sustainability Education Programs at CU Boulder

Adam Reed is the Director of Energy Sustainability Education Programs at the University of Colorado Boulder and an Instructor in the Environmental Studies Program. A legal scholar with a background in natural resource law, energy systems and markets, Adam’s work addresses legal, regulatory, communication, and knowledge problems across markets and governance institutions related to sustainable energy deployment and operations. His work has been published in the Albany Law Journal of Science and Technology, Utilities Policy, Colorado Law Review, Yale Environment 360, and the American Bar Association’s Energy, Environment, and Resources Law Journal. He has also contributed to and authored special reports for the U.S. Department of Energy, the Colorado Energy Office, the Natural Resource Defense Council, Alstom, and the International Electrotechnical Commission.

Panel 2 Speaker Bios

Julia Alvarez: Elephant Energy

Julia Alvarez is a passionate advocate for community-based solutions to global challenges. She has spent over a decade working with traditionally underserved communities–from inner-city youth in Washington, D.C. to orphans in Costa Rica to NGOs spearheading peace-building efforts in the Balkans–and she now brings her passion to her work as Executive Director of Elephant Energy. Elephant Energy is a Denver-based nonprofit that seeks to improve the quality of life in developing communities by increasing access to sustainable energy technologies. Operating a market-based distribution network that empowers off-grid entrepreneurs in Namibia and on the Navajo Nation in the U.S, Elephant Energy provides access to energy technologies, assists entrepreneurs with initial capital, and trains individuals and small businesses in marketing and sales operations. In addition to our entrepreneurial work in Namibia, Elephant Energy installs small solar generators on homes throughout the Navajo Nation and has also completed projects to test solar hot air collectors that are used to increase access to clean, sustainable heat for families living off the grid in Arizona, Utah and New Mexico.

Julia received her BA in international studies from Kenyon College and her MA in international peace studies from the UN mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica.

Jon Becker: Trees Water People

Jon Becker has been a Board member, officer, and adjunct staff member of Trees, Water, and People for 12 years.  Trees, Water & People is an 18 year old Ft. Collins based non-profit that develops partnerships to create community based solutions to energy and resource challenges for economically disadvantaged populations.  Prior to (and overlapping with) that he was a partner in SolarGlass Window and Door for 27 years, providing solar and high efficiency building materials to the Colorado Front Range and beyond.  He has a BA in Energy Resource Management from the University of Pennsylvania.

Cheryl Gordon: Founding Partner, The Level Market

Startup strategist and marketing executive for 30 years in international settings.  Past positions include VP and Executive Board member at Pioneer Electronics and InfoBeat, and co-founder of World Panel, a portable solar firm committed to eradicating energy poverty in Africa.  Committed to social entrepreneurship, she serves as a mentor in several Boulder-based accelerators and is a past professor at Metro State University.  Her first-hand experience with non-existent sales channels for humanitarian products provided the motivation to create a platform for innovative aid products.  She is currently Founding Partner at The Level Market:  the world’s first e-commerce site for the relief and development world.

Steve Katsaros: Founder, Nokero Solar

Steve Katsaros’ life has been filled with innovation from a young age. Steve began his career in his late teens with the invention of several commercial products for the ski industry. His first brush with “impact inventing” came in 2002 with RevoPower, a motorized wheel for bicycles. In early 2010, he came up with another bright idea – a simple, portable solar light bulb with the potential to revolutionize life for the 1.4 billion people in the world who live without access to electricity. Five months after his first sketch, Steve launched Nokero and has been on a solar lighting mission ever since.

Steve has a BS in Mechanical Engineering (BSME) from Purdue University, is a patent agent registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office, and was a non-degree seeking student at the Bard Center of Entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado from 1998-1999. He received the B.F. Goodrich Collegiate Inventors Award in 1995 and was awarded the 2012 Outstanding Mechanical Engineer Award from Purdue University.

Johnny Weis: Solar Consulting, LLC

Throughout his career Johnny Weiss has been on the leading edge of solar energy education and training – developing, teaching and managing renewable energy training programs focused on the practical uses of solar thermal and photovoltaics.  He is currently an independent consultant working internationally from Colorado on special solar projects.

As an educator, certified Industrial Trainer and building professional, Johnny has more than 30 years experience in the real-world applications of renewable energy technologies.  Johnny co-founded Solar Energy International (SEI) in 1991.  He was the Executive Director for over a decade, helping establish SEI as a leader in non-profit solar education that trained over 30,000 students.

As an Associate Professor in the ’80’s, he developed and taught a college level vocational solar training program.  Johnny also has hands-on experience as a builder, a licensed general contractor and is knowledgeable in earth/straw construction practices.  His experience includes project management with solar energy companies and with NGOs working in sustainable development.  

His recent work concentrates on helping establish renewable energy education centers, teaching trainers, working with Native American programs and managing solar projects in the developing world.

Johnny is the proud recipient of the ISP 2008 Mark C. Fitzgerald Memorial Award, the IREC ISPQ Master Trainer Emeritus Award in 2012 and the COSEIA 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award.

(Moderator) Chris Fry: Founder, Akiba Energy Solutions

Chris is founder of Akiba Energy Solutions – a boutique, developing markets clean energy consulting firm – and is passionate about achieving global energy access through renewable energy and ethical business.  He built three start-up teams in social and clean energy operating in sub-Saharan Africa.  With Denver-based Elephant Energy, he successfully conducted a Namibia-wide rollout of a “pay-as-you-go” solar pico-generator product while developing a successful business model and durable supply chain.  Chris is now focused on deployment, integration, financing, and value-chain establishment of distributed energy.  Chris worked for 3 years in the Department of Energy’s Wind and Water Power Program in Washington, DC, and holds an MBA from Colorado State University’s Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise program.

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