7th Annual Clean Energy and Sustainability Extravaganza

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7th Annual Clean Energy and Sustainability Extravaganza

South East Chapter

March 12, 2021 @ 11:00 am - 1:00 pm

On Friday, March 12th, 2021, from 11 am – 1 pm, Leaders in Energy (LE) and the Association of Engineers-National Capital Chapter (AEE NCC) will conduct their 7th Annual Clean Energy and Sustainability Extravaganza ‘Lite’.  We are calling it ‘Lite” this year to reflect that it will be streamlined as a virtual event for 2 hours rather than an all-day event as in years past. Topics include highlighting opportunities for women in the energy transition under the new Administration, conducted under the auspices of the Chapter’s CWEEL – Council on Women in Energy and Environmental Leadership program.  Leaders in Energy will examine how the circular economy is being operationalized in its “Building Back Circular” panel.


Welcoming Remarks from Doug Millar, Regional Director at Edison Energy and AEE NCC Board Member

CHRISTINA DIBERARDINO is a Senior Account Executive at Direct Energy, a NRG Company, with over 12 years’ industry experience utilizing her consultative selling approach in helping businesses develop energy management strategies. She is currently a member of the Council on Women in Energy & Environmental Leadership (CWEEL), serving as Chapter Liaison for the National Capital Chapter (NCC) of the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE). She has recently joined the AEE NCC Board as Corporate Relations Committee Chair. Christina is also an active member of the Junior League of Washington, an organization committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women, and improving communities in the DC metropolitan area through action.

NIKKI MEHTA is the Director of Energy & Sustainability at Honeywell in their Business Technology division. Nikki is an experienced consultant and product management professional. She has 15 years’ experience in commercializing innovative technology solutions with Cisco Systems, Textura, Deltek, and the Maryland Energy Innovation Accelerator (MEIA). She has Masters in Energy & Global Sustainability from Virginia Tech and Bachelors in Electrical Engineering from the University of Maryland.  She is also the Council on Women in Energy and Environmental Leadership (CWEEL) lead for the Association of Energy Engineers National Capital Chapter (AEE NCC).

DR. KELLY LEFLER is a Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy. She serves as the Office of Nuclear Energy lead for the Grid Modernization Initiative and focuses on cross-cutting R&D and state and local policymaker outreach. Her work touches on a broad range of nuclear energy-related topics spanning electricity markets and the economic challenges facing the current U.S. reactor fleet, grid modernization, advanced reactor development and demonstration, and global nuclear markets. Dr. Lefler previously worked in the Office of Energy Policy and Systems Analysis at the Department on nuclear energy, natural gas and gas-electricity system interdependencies, and decommissioning. She has contributed to major cross-cutting analytical efforts at the Department, such as the Staff Report to the Secretary on Electricity Markets and Reliability and the Second Installment of the Quadrennial Energy Review. Dr. Lefler earned her Ph.D. in Chemistry from Northwestern University studying organic materials for solar energy conversion and her bachelor’s degrees in Chemistry and Science, Technology, and Culture from Georgia Tech.

IDA NAMUR, Vice President, Director of Operations for AECOM’s Energy Business, is a Certified Environmental Professional (CEP) with 18 years of experience in the environmental consulting field. She started her career executing and later managing environmental and sustainability programs for both private sector and federal government clients in the US and abroad. Ida currently serves as the Director of Operations for AECOM’s Energy Business where she is responsible for the operational management and project performance of all areas and offices for the Energy Business in north America. As part of the senior leadership team, Ida helps determine and execute on strategic initiatives to ensure growth and financial profitability as well as the development of staff.
Ida lives with her husband and soon-to-be 16-year-old son (plus a dog, a cat and twelve chickens) in Middletown, Maryland.


LEAH NICHOLS is the Executive Director of George Mason University’s Institute for a Sustainable Earth (ISE), where she leads the ISE team in creating connections – locally, globally, and across disciplines – to put Mason’s research and scholarship into action in support of a sustainable world. Nichols came to Mason after 8 years at the National Science Foundation (NSF) where she served in integrative roles and contributed extensively to the design and management of several of NSF’s agency-wide transdisciplinary programs. She also served as the Executive Secretary for NSF’s Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education, where she oversaw the development of the committee’s report titled Sustainable Urban Systems: Articulating a Long-Term Convergence Research Agenda. While at NSF, she also founded and led an interagency working group designed to integrate the social sciences throughout the US Global Change Research Program.
Nichols has a PhD from the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley and a BS in environmental engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was a AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow placed at the NSF and a Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the National Academy of Sciences. She has published articles on the production of actionable knowledge in leading sustainability journals, including Nature Sustainability and Nature Climate Change, and contributed to the US Fourth National Climate Assessment. She also serves on the Superintendent’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability for Arlington Public Schools.

LARA ILAO is Chair of the Leaders in Energy, Circular Economy Working Group, a group that brings together professionals  who are interested in learning about circular economy issues as well as implementing circular projects in the DMV Region. A lifelong environmentalist and long-term DC resident, she is the founder and owner of Plastic Tree, a climate positive waste management company based in DC that collects for reuse in an effort to restructure the waste hierarchy toward reuse, while promoting other circular models in an effort to reduce waste and our reliance on over production. During her spare time, she is a mentor with the Global Co-Lab Network, a virtual “do tank” that empowers teens and millennials by helping them tackle particular Sustainable Development Goals within their communities and sharing their incubator projects and stories with other teens and millennials from around the world. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Goucher College.


MEAGAN KNOWLTON, is the Director of Sustainability at Optoro, a returns technology company based in Washington, DC. She oversees initiatives that enable retailers and brands to build circular business models and reduce waste and emissions in the reverse supply chain. Prior to Optoro, she managed sustainability programs in the Coca-Cola bottling system. Meagan holds a Master of Environmental Management from Duke University and lives in Washington, D.C. with her rescue dog.


JIM SCHULMAN, AIA is a regional sustainability strategist, an environmentally-sensitive Architect, and a social entrepreneur. He is the Executive Director of the Alliance for Regional Cooperation, a non-profit organization dedicated to sustainable regional economic development. Between 1999 and 2014 Jim administered a variety of deconstruction and salvage job training programs in partnership with the Youth Build Public Charter School, the DC Housing Authority, and US-EPA Region III. During the same period he also directed a number of restorative landscaping projects for the DC Department of Health, several Washington area foundations, and the Washington Navy Yard. In 2005 Jim founded Community Forklift, a used building materials store in Prince George’s County, Maryland, which he ran for over a decade. He has also served as Treasurer for the Building Materials Re-use Association, now known as Build Reuse.


JESSICA WRIGHT is a Senior Project Manager at ecoPreserve.  Jessica pairs a vision and passion for the waste industry with decades of experience collaborating with clients to develop innovative and resilient waste solutions. She leads the conversation for waste on topics like innovative waste minimization solutions, sustainable purchasing programs, circular economy, and maximizing waste diversion program performance and efficiency. In addition to waste programs, Jessica has LEED-certified seven buildings in Central Florida and is currently working on four additional LEED certifications. Her approach has been instrumental in growing ecoPreserve’s resource lifecycle service line and mentoring waste teams to dig deeper into designing out waste, minimization, recycling, reuse, and recovery of natural resources.
Throughout her tenure, Jessica has written Zero waste plans for major organizations such as Dallas Fort Worth Airport, Orange County Convention Center, and University of Central Florida. In addition to waste minimization and diversion plans Jessica has written policies and procedures to aid in the progress towards Circular Economy for Orange County Florida, AdventHealth, Rollins College, Orlando International Airport, and many more. In 2020, Jessica was named one of the USGBC Women to Watch. For the past eight years, Jessica has volunteered at many schools and community events as the “Bag Monster” in which she wears a suit made of 600 plastic grocery bags. This is the average number of plastic bags one US resident uses in a year. She hopes to continue this advocacy to reduce plastic bag use and increase reusable bag availability at stores across the nation.


As Smart City Director for the City of Philadelphia, EMILY YATES is responsible for managing and leading the implementation of the SmartCityPHL Roadmap that provides guidance on how smart and emerging technology solutions can improve the quality of life for residents, businesses and visitors while improving the delivery of City services.
Throughout her career, Emily has worked to help cities position themselves as globally competitive by utilizing a systems approach to develop strategies, projects and programs that exist within the intersection of sustainability, technology, and economic development. Most recently, Emily was Deputy Director with Envision Charlotte where she was responsible for leading the development of the Circular Charlotte strategy, which made Charlotte the first city in the US to have a citywide circular economy strategy, in addition to other local programming that created a smarter, more sustainable Charlotte.
She has held a variety of positions in Europe and North America, including urban planning positions with both the District of Columbia and the city of Cleveland planning offices. Emily was a recipient of the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt German Chancellor/ Bundeskanzler Fellowship, which funded a year of research focused on German approaches to the implementation of sustainability policy and climate change adaptation in brownfield development. Emily holds a Bachelors of Science in Landscape Architecture from Arizona State University. She is a member of the Emerging Leaders in Energy and Environmental Policy (ELEEP) Network.

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