Charging Up: A chat with Thais Lopez Vogel, co-founder of the VoLo Foundation

Plus, new board members at Span and Arcadia, and cleantech career moves at Shell, PowerFlex, PosiGen, Mainspring Energy, Strategen, Clean Energy Ventures and more.

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Canary Media’s Charging Up column chronicles gender diversity in the climatetech sector. Part one is a short Q&A with an industry role model about their career path. Part two features updates on career transitions. Please send feedback and tips to [email protected]​canarymedia.​com. Canary thanks FischTank PR for its support of the column.

Thais Lopez Vogel: A philanthropist with a passion for climate and education

Thais Lopez Vogel is co-founder and trustee at the VoLo Foundation. This interview has been edited and condensed for brevity.

How did you end up on this career path?

My kids, and a growing concern for their future, made me act. When we established VoLo, our first goal was to increase access to health and education for people in need, but after analyzing the scientific data related to climate, my husband David and I realized that the greatest threat to the well-being of future generations is the climate crisis. So we set new endeavors related to that problem.

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What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t believe in good luck or bad luck, because if they exist, both are out of your control. Just go about your business every day and check what you have done right or wrong so you can do better the next day.

What is a barrier you faced, and how did you overcome it? 

Attempting to change behavior patterns — trying to modify how we have lived so far is a huge challenge. Overcoming it is my everyday duty. I believe that those who are aware need to help others reflect on climate matters since we must reshape the basics with which we have grown up. I believe environmental education should start at home and ought to continue at schools. There is no future without environmental education.

What do you think are some interesting, overlooked career opportunities in climatetech? 

There are upcoming opportunities for environmental lawyers since we need to create new ground for a changing world. AI in agriculture will be quite different from what we know now, so we will need skilled experts in the field. Finally, there are plenty of opportunities for engineers, including those coming from other fields who are passionate about what is happening in the renewable energy sector. Not only does the construction of roads and buildings have to be different but the infrastructure has to change. We live in a time of rapid change and careers are also changing at a fast pace. I see so much opportunity in the near future.

What is your superpower? 

Being a working mother of six and a wife would make anyone a superwoman. My family motivates me to bring out the best in myself. Being Latina is another superpower since we bring another perspective to climate challenges. I also enjoy networking and connecting like-minded people. Contributing to a team feeling among people working on climate solutions is a key factor for success. 

Board and career moves

Arcadia, a technology company and community solar manager with more than 1 gigawatt of capacity under management, appointed Sarah Bloom Raskin to its board of directors. Raskin, a professor at Duke University School of Law, served as a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors from 2010 to 2014 and was deputy secretary of the Treasury Department from 2014 to 2017. Arcadia closed a $200 million fundraising round in May and also acquired Urjanet, a utility data provider. 

Maker of smart electrical panels Span appointed Audrey Zibelman to its board of directors. Zibelman is a board member of RMI and EOS Energy and adviser to X, Google’s moonshot factory.” She has served as CEO of the Australian Energy Market Operator, chair of the New York State Department of Public Service, CEO of Viridity Energy, and EVP and COO at PJM Interconnection. Also joining Span is Joy Lenz, who will serve as SVP of engineering. Most recently, Lenz served as COO at Yohana, a personal-assistant service, and before that, she was director of engineering at Google.

Former commissioner of the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission Jennifer Potter has joined Strategen Consulting as a director. Potter specializes in energy policy and regulation, demand response, emerging technologies, advanced rate design and utility innovation. Before being appointed to the commission in March 2018, Potter was a faculty member at the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, an independent research institute within the University of Hawaii, where she conducted research on demand response, distributed energy resource technologies, the locational benefits of DERs and energy efficiency.

Clean Energy Ventures, a climatetech VC firm, hired Yi Jean Chow as investment principal. Prior to joining the firm, Chow served as an investment principal at Future Energy Ventures, the corporate venture capital arm of E.ON. Victoria Martins, previously with food-security nonprofit Project Bread, joined the venture firm as community manager. 

Maya Rao, previously with Greenbacker, is now general manager of mergers, acquisitions, renewables and energy solutions for the Americas at oil giant Shell.

Kathi Czahar is now senior interconnection administrator at Mainspring Energy. Czahar was previously with REC Solar. Mainspring’s flexible-fuel” onsite generators could make it easier for customers to use hydrogen and ammonia fuels as they become available.

Annie Klosowicz was promoted to project developer at PowerFlex, an EDF Renewables company that provides solar, storage, EV charging and microgrids.

Yesenia Rivera, previously with Solar United Neighbors, is now executive director of Solstice Initiative, a nonprofit that promotes community solar.

Cindy Foxworth has been hired as senior director of talent and culture development at PosiGen, a provider of solar power and efficiency solutions for low- to moderate-income households. Foxworth was formerly with ADT Solar.

Alina Eprimian, previously with Sunnova Energy, is now director of communications at Sequoia Climate Foundation, a supporter of organizations focused on climate solutions.

For the record

Research released in October finds that banks with more than a 37 percent share of female directors on their boards lend about 10 percent less to big polluters. It also finds that this effect is stronger for banks operating in countries with more women in political leadership.

Check it out

Last month, Greentown Labs hosted its 2022 climatetech summit that focused on collaboration, innovation and deployment opportunities for climatetech startups. The event featured panels with industry leaders, including one on the Inflation Reduction Act and its role in climatetech commercialization. You can watch that and the other panels here.

Maria Virginia Olano is editorial and research associate at Canary Media.

Eric Wesoff is the editorial director at Canary Media.