Energy Influencers #31 – #35

Energy Influencers #31 – #35

Here’s the next group that you’ll get to meet:

  #26 Donnie Wilson (Co-founder & CEO of Elastec/American Marine) 
  #27 Alykhan Velshi (Founder of
  #28 Mark Udall (United States Senator from Colorado)
  #29 Dinghuan Shi (President of China Renewable Energy Society)
  #30 Arnold Schwarzenegger (Governor of California)


 #31 Wendy Schmidt

President of The Schmidt Family Foundation

Palo Alto, California

Move over Eric, your wife Wendy has got this one.

Wendy Schmidt is President of The Schmidt Family Foundation that works to advance the development of clean energy and support the wiser use of natural resources.

Schmidt is also founder of the Foundation’s 11th Hour Project and of Climate Central.  She serves on several environmental-friendly boards including that of Grist (environmental news and commentary) and The Natural Resources Defense Council.

While Schmidt was influential with many organizations in 2011, it’s the prize bearing her name which brought about the most attention: the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE

This X CHALLENGE was a $1.4 Million competition designed to inspire a new generation of innovative solutions to speed the pace of cleaning up seawater surface oil resulting from spillage from ocean platforms, tankers, and other sources.

Obviously the motivation for this prize was the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  And while I won’t tell you who the winners are, one of them just may be an Energy Influencer as well.

While the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE was only a one-year competition (and a very challenging one at that), I wouldn’t be surprised if Schmidt herself is back again next year. 

 #32 David Sandalow

Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs at Department of Energy

Washington, D.C.

As Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs, David Sandalow helps coordinate policy and manage international activities at the Energy Department.

Like many other influencers, Sandalow was a big proponent of clean fuels and clean energy in 2011.  He has authored several books in the past and has written many op-ed columns this past year on energy and environmental policy.

Sandalow was also keen to bring to our attention in 2011 that four clean energy technologies (wind turbines, electric vehicles, photovoltaic cells and fluorescent lighting) use rare earth elements which are at risk of supply disruptions in the next five years.  The Energy Department is working with partner countries to share and develop technology for mining and extraction of critical materials, as well as substitutes and avenues to recycle and reuse our current supply.

But Sandalow’s biggest influence this year was to remind us that Washington has a very important role to play in energy innovation.  The government plays a central role in encouraging, supporting and promoting innovation in many fields, including energy.

Studies show that innovation is more important to GDP growth than capital accumulation or increases in the labor market.  Sandalow lays out some very important reasons why government is important to innovation and reminds us that investment in research has led to tangible, oftentimes invaluable outcomes.

It’s a “High Risk, Higher Reward” game and Sandalow is there to remind us exactly why the government must invest in innovation…otherwise it would be game over before it even started.

#33 Art Rosenfeld

Commissioner of California Energy Commission

Sacramento, California

In 2011 the “Father of Energy Efficiency” was once again recognized for a lifetime of influence.

Dr. Arthur Rosenfeld is a former Commissioner of the California Energy Commission, serving from 2000 until his retirement in 2010.

Well, semi-retired, Rosenfeld is still actively promoting energy efficiency.  He is currently Guest Senior Scientist in the Environmental Energy Technologies Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.  He is also Professor Emeritus of Physics at University of California, Berkeley, and serves on the Board of the non-profit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

In July Rosenfeld received the 2011 Demand Response and Smart Grid Leadership Award for his groundbreaking work in demand response and California’s Smart Grid initiatives.

Rosenfeld was also awarded the distinguished Global Energy Prize by Russia in 2011.  This award was in recognition of his forward thinking and innovations in the area of energy efficiency.

His influence in the area of energy efficiency is so great that in 2011 Rosenfeld’s work was honored with the naming of the Rosenfeld Unit (symbol: Rs), a new numeric representation of the energy savings required to replace the output of certain coal-fired power plants.

The “Rosenfeld Unit” goes along nicely with the “Rosenfeld Effect” and “Rosenfeld’s Law.”  Having something named after you, that’s influence.

How significant are Rosenfeld’s energy efficiency savings?  Enough to have a documentary made about you titled “Art Rosenfeld: The Man Who Saved Us Trillions.”  That’s influence felt by millions….and someday billions.

#34 Michael Peevey

President of California Public Utilities Commission

San Francisco, California

In December 2008 Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger reappointed Michael Peevey for another six-year term as President of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).  If Peevey has another year like 2011 he may not make it to 2014.

Long before being appointed to the CPUC, Peevey was formerly President of Southern California Edison Company, the state’s second-largest utility.  He is married to Carol Liu who serves as California Senator representing the greater Los Angeles area.  While none of this should matter when you’re trying to promote renewable energy and smart grid technology, it all becomes kindling when things are not going well.

What Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) did in 2010 made Peevey a surefire target in 2011.

Early on in 2011 Peevey has become a focal point for public anger over a fatal 2010 pipeline explosion in San Bruno, California.  Critics claimed his commission had grown too cozy with the companies he was regulating, pointing out that CPUC hadn’t done anything when PG&E ignored an impaired section of the ruptured pipeline even after it was granted $5 million to fix it.

Also in 2010, PG&E rolled out new electronic meters that replaced traditional analog electric meters.  Customers with the new smart meters claimed that their energy bills spiked-up and raised concerns with the wireless radio frequency emissions from these devices.

Throw in a 2011 controversial all-expense paid trip for CPUC officials, Peevey’s senator wife, and the senior vice president of energy procurement for PG&E, and that kindling turns into a full-fledge fire.

All that said, Peevey still strived in 2011 to protect the public interest by promoting consumer needs, while challenging utilities to embrace new technologies and provide safe, high-quality services.  PG&E was faulted for the blast, faulty smart meters were replaced (in some cases with analog meters) and many claims were unfounded, and progress was made to deregulate the energy market with the hope that prices will come down and advancements in alternative energy will go up.

While Peevey spent most of 2011 dodging criticism, he will have to stay away from PG&E to exhibit more positive influence in 2012….if he wants to make it to 2014. 

#35 Sam Moody

CEO of Rockhopper Exploration PLC

Salisbury, England

Sam Moody is co-founder and CEO of Rockhopper Exploration, a company based in the United Kingdom that explores for oil & gas around the Falkland Islands.

Headquartered in a converted farmhouse in the genteel Wiltshire countryside, Rockhopper operates a mere 8,000 miles away in the volatile Atlantic swells near the southern tip of Argentina, which claims sovereignty in the area and is not happy.

Founded in 2004, Rockhopper sought The Falklands fabled reserves of several billion barrels of oil after studying data on the Falklands government website.  It found its chief geologist much the same way…using a Google search.

Moody became CEO in September 2010 and four offshore oil fields have since been discovered, all containing hydrocarbons and no water – Sea Lion, Casper, Beverley and Casper South.

Doubts about the region’s viability though were raised after competitor, and now partner, Desire Petroleum had a prolonged dry run.  In October Rockhopper took advantage of Desire’s distressed situation and raised its stake in a nearby license held by Desire from 7.5% to 60%.

Rockhopper success since then has raised estimates and hope in the area.  Moody says the weather and depth conditions in the North Falklands are comparable to the UK North Sea and believes they have an economically viable project there.

But politics in the North Falklands are not comparable to the UK North Sea and will continue to make conditions complicated for Moody in 2012….especially if Rockhopper’s reserves continue to go up and Argentina’s own oil reserves continue their slide down.

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