Get to Know SED's 2024 WISE Award Winners - Smart Energy Decisions

Commercial, Energy Efficiency, GHG Emissions, Utilities, Solar, Sourcing Renewables  -  March 8, 2024

Get to Know SED's 2024 WISE Award Winners

Smart Energy Decisions presented the third annual WISE (Women in Smart Energy) Awards at our recent Net Zero Forum. As part of International Women’s Day, we want to share details on these winners and raise the profile of the important work being done by women in energy and sustainability.

This year, the awards recognized energy customers in six categories: Industry Veteran, Innovation, Leadership, Mentorship, Project/Initiative, and Rising Star. Winners were nominated by peers and supplier partners and were chosen by an independent panel of judges.

Industry Veteran — Commercial Sector
Leigh Pearson
Senior Director, Facilities, Sustainability, Sourcing & Procurement
Staples Canada

In her time at Staples Canada, Leigh Pearson has contributed numerous innovative ideas, launched collaborative programs, and provided sustainable solutions that include a comprehensive Sustainability Dashboard, lighting and HVAC retrofits, and the launch of and EV program for the retailer. She has helped encourage facility managers to incorporate the “E” in “ESG” in their decisions and day-to-day operations. Leigh is also a member of the ConnexFM Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) Committee. By sharing her own experiences and choices at Staples, Leigh has been able to provide insight and expertise to other operations and facilities managers to help advance their energy programs and processes in a variety of ways.


Industry Veteran — Utility Sector
Susanna Chiu
Senior Director of Operational Services

Susanna Chiu leads a dedicated team that supports the development and implementation of PSE&G’s Renewables and Energy Solutions (RES) programs and has demonstrated a 37-year commitment to the utility sector with a specific focus on energy efficiency for over 15 years. In her present role, Susanna has been pivotal in the success of PSE&G’s Clean Energy Future Energy Efficiency Program which secured approval from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities for a historic $1.3 billion commitment. Her impact on the energy efficiency field extends beyond her role at PSE&G as she actively promotes energy efficiency by engaging with students and local community groups.


Innovation — Government Sector
Renee Yarmy
Program Director, Maritime Sustainable Development
Port of San Diego

Renee Yarmy is leading a series of projects to meet the Port of San Diego’s 2030 deadlines, including converting the Port to a 100% electric fleet, implementing a zero-emission truck stop, and installing electric cranes to service one of the port’s cargo terminals. These initiatives are part of the Port’s Maritime Clean Air Strategy (MCAS), which includes over 20 objectives that, if achieved, would represent emission reductions that go beyond what current State regulation and policy requires. Renee’s work involves coordinating efforts that include first-of-their-kind initiatives in North America that are setting an example for other Ports around the country.


Leadership — Commercial Sector
Gautami Palanki
Senior Vice President, ESG Strategy
Howard Hughes Corporation

Gautami Palanki has nearly 20 years of global experience at the intersection of real estate, sustainability, and technology in both private and nonprofit organizations. She leads the industry in developing sustainable master-planned communities by putting the processes and programs in place to make long-lasting, impactful improvements to building efficiency through the use of energy and operational data. During her time at AtSite, Inc. Ms. Palanki was the instigator, project administrator and overall choreographer from start to post-occupancy performance management – proving herself as a well-respected and trusted advisor to all of her colleagues and clients.


Leadership — Commercial Sector
Susan Uthayakumar
Chief Energy and Sustainability Officer

Susan Uthayakumar leads Proligis’ customer-focused sustainability and energy solutions business, including its engagement with community solar and mobility. She and her team evaluate and scale existing and emerging energy solutions across the Prologis platform. She also oversees the company's own ESG team, leading its strategy and goal setting, stakeholder engagement, and data and disclosure activities. Susan is moving the company toward achieving its 2040 energy goals and champions its vision to decarbonize buildings, including energy consumption reduction from customer activities within its facilities. Under her leadership, Prologis engages with the communities where its facilities are located through initiatives like community solar.


Mentorship — Commercial Sector
Liz Lucente
Senior Sustainability Manager — Strategic Partnership, Corporate Responsibility
Target Corporation

“Liz does so much to recognize potential and motivate her team, making us feel like we can and should accomplish big things,” noted a colleague in submitting the nomination for Ms. Lucente. “This allowed me to transition from being a stay-at-home mom to full-time work and to get training beyond my sustainability background into the energy field.” The nominator added examples of other women at Target who were mentored by Ms. Lucente and moved on to energy companies and utilities, “so her influence goes beyond her own organization.” The judges loved this example of women helping women. Ms. Lucente is also one of only two, two-time WISE Award winners.


Mentorship — Higher Education Sector
Karen McGrath
Assistant Professor of Finance
Bucknell University

Karen McGrath is helping educate university students, faculty and staff at Bucknell University on the importance of ESG and sustainability with a focus on the integration of environmental sustainability and ESG into real estate and corporate finance education. She is a faculty co-sponsor of the Working Group on ESG Education and is responsible for a special course on ESG that mentors and trains students heading to Wall Street. Karen is also a member of the President's Sustainability Council. According to one WISE judge, “There is great power in this position and she’s using it wisely to help the clean energy industry.”


Mentorship — Utility Sector
Kristin Cox
Senior Manager, Gas Engineering & Asset Performance
Baltimore Gas and Electric

Kristin Cox formally mentors 10 employees, dedicating her time to ensure that rising stars in the organization are provided the resources they need to succeed. She has helped numerous individuals prepare for career changes and/or advancements. Kristin is also involved in the recruitment of engineers who will reshape the utility industry moving forward. These employees are in key operational areas of BGE leading the charge in the utility of the future, putting Kristin at the forefront of ushering in how the utility business will change over the next 30 years as BGE looks to ensure sustainable and affordable options for its system and customers.


Project/Initiative — Government Sector
Emily Freeman
Policy Advisor, Circular Economy
City of Boulder

Emily Freeman has been instrumental in leading deconstruction initiatives for the City of Boulder, which align with the city's sustainability goals, including reducing carbon emissions by 70% by 2030, hitting net-zero emission by 2035 and becoming carbon-positive by 2040. She is driving progress toward Boulder's deconstruction ordinance that aims to keep carbon-intensive building materials available for reuse and recycling to reduce the city's carbon footprint. Starting with a budget of under $100,000 from the city, she is well on her way to creating $1 billion in clean energy investment and 10,000 jobs in the city in less than the 10 years Emily originally set as a goal. In the words of one judge, “Just wow!”


Project/Initiative — Industrial Sector
Patricia Laskowsky
Global Technical Specialist — Vehicle Energy Transfer / Charging Controls
General Motors

Patricia Laskowsky is being honored for her stalwart leadership in the first Ultium Vehicle to Home Technology, one of the most important customer offerings in the General Motors energy portfolio. The project required working with multiple partners to ensure that high-quality features and systems were delivered on time and coordinate safety standards, government regulations, and GM-internal policies. She also mentored employees for leadership and technical growth. A colleague noted that “leading such a groundbreaking feature ‘ex nihilo’ and successfully delivering fully functional software for the vehicle launch in a very aggressive timeline (within 12 months) is an exceptional accomplishment.”


Rising Star — Healthcare Sector
Kaylann Loraine
Sustainability Reporting Specialist

Among her accomplishments, Kaylann Loraine’s expertise in Geographic Information Systems has allowed her to create visual energy usage dashboards for leadership and energy efficiency improvements. She worked across multiple teams and organizations to recalculate her organization’s Scope 1 and 2 Race to Zero data, leading to the elimination of 1,361 energy usage charges by mapping them to a master property list. She was also able to replace steam and chilled water estimates with actuals resulting in a more robust and accurate model. Her efforts demonstrate a clear understanding of the value of accurate data, without which it is impossible to map one’s way into a low-carbon future.


Rising Star — Higher Education Sector
Eryn Beddoes
Project Manager, Facility Infrastructure and Engineering
Red Deer Polytechnic

Eryn Beddoes is focused on implementing the Green Campus Master Plan, which includes goals of becoming a net zero energy institution by 2031 and net zero carbon by 2041. Eryn is working on project methodology for a campus-wide deep energy retrofit and to increase renewable energy generation on-site. She is a contributing member of the Campus Management team and restarted the Green Campus Working Group last year, which is open to all staff, faculty, and students in the institution and aims to inspire, educate, and equip Red Deer Polytechnic and the surrounding community with the knowledge and resources to contribute to a more sustainable future.

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