Beyond the Meter - Episode 17: Collaborating to Drive Diversity in Clean Energy

Beyond the Meter - Episode 17: Collaborating to Drive Diversity in Clean Energy

Collaborating to Drive Diversity in Clean Energy with Darrell Booker, Cheryl Comer, and Tracey Woods


This episode is made in partnership with Duke Energy Sustainable Solutions.

In this season of Beyond the Meter, we’re taking a closer look at the meaningful impact renewable energy projects have on the world around us. In this episode, host John Failla is joined by Darrell Booker, Corporate Affairs Specialist leading the Nonprofit Tech Acceleration Program for Black and African American Communities (NTA) at Microsoft Philanthropies, Cheryl Comer, Senior Strategic Account Manager - Duke Energy, and Tracy Woods, VP, Operations - American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE), to talk about their collaborative efforts on the recently created Diversity in Clean Energy (DiCE) initiative. DiCE, a program to advance equity in clean energy, is an initiative sponsored by Duke Energy’s Strategic Account Management Program. Listen in to learn more about the progress being made to promote diversity in the energy industry.

You will want to hear this episode if you are interested in...

  • AABE’s current activities and work [07:37]
  • Microsoft’s Nonprofit Tech Acceleration Program [16:26]
  • Duke Energy’s Diversity in Clean Energy (DiCE) Program and NTA for Black and African American Communities at Microsoft Philanthropies [20:39]
  • The benefit of effective collaboration [25:26]
  • The roles of the organizations in DiCE [36:46]
  • The potential of the new DiCE | AABE platform [44:17]
  • Making America stronger through diversity [51:54]

The American Association of Blacks in Energy

For nearly 45 years, the American Association of Blacks in Energy (ABBE) has focused on energy policy and the impact of those policies on communities of color. They work on policies and professional development to ensure that their members can be cultural ambassadors in the communities where they live and work. AABE receives many calls from employers seeking diverse talent. To serve this need, they provide scholarships and programs for high school and middle school students interested in careers in the energy field, job postings through their newly revamped Career Center, and numerous programs like Black Energy Awareness Month.

The Diversity in Clean Energy (DiCE) Initiative

DiCE is a program sponsored by Duke Energy to drive visibility and open doors of opportunity for diverse suppliers in the clean energy field. At Duke Energy, DE&I (diversity, equity, and inclusion) is a business imperative inspiring how they work with employees, customers and their communities. They’re taking intentional action for the good of both the community and business.

The idea for DiCE was sparked by a request from T-Mobile via their Energy and Sustainability Program Manager, Amy Bond, who asked Cheryl what Duke Energy was doing to identify, train, track and utilize diverse suppliers. This question inspired Cheryl to open the conversation to her other strategic accounts, as she knew they would all benefit from this conversation around diversity, equity, inclusion, and how that relates to clean energy. Through these discussions, she realized that there was ample opportunity, interest and need for the resources supported by the DiCE initiative.

Collaboration in the energy industry

The energy industry is in the midst of a massive transformation. As one of the largest utilities in the United States, Duke Energy has an obligation to provide reliable, affordable, and increasingly cleaner energy to customers and communities. One of the most efficient ways to initiate change is by cross-industry leaders coming together, pooling resources, and solving complex problems. 

While many corporations realize that they want to work with diverse suppliers, they don’t know where to start. The ultimate goal of the DiCE | AABE platform  is to facilitate the inclusion of diverse suppliers into mainstream corporate supply chains and to eliminate systemic barriers. Everyone in this collaboration has something different to bring to the table: Duke Energy has the means, AABE has the connections, and Microsoft has the technology. As the DiCE | AABE platform continues to grow, there are endless opportunities to fulfill its mission and we look forward to seeing the positive effect it will have in the clean energy space.

Resources and People Mentioned

Connect with Our Guests

Darrell Booker - Corporate Affairs Specialist leading the Nonprofit Tech Acceleration Program for Black and African American Communities (NTA) at Microsoft Philanthropies

Meet Darrell, your “techie’s favorite techie” who leads one of Microsoft’s most important racial equity commitments, the Nonprofit Tech Acceleration of Black and African American Communities, a national program designed at leveling the tech playing field for nonprofits serving our most underserved communities. Prior to leading this program, Darrell served in an advisor role helping the world’s largest nonprofits such as The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, American Cancer Society, and the Salvation Army on their digital transformation to the cloud.  Darrell has served in CIO and CTO roles in the past leading teams of developers in nonprofit, primarily child welfare, as well as other industries such as automotive and banking.  Darrell also has an entrepreneurial spirit, co-founding a tech startup for the fitness industry used in hundreds of gyms across the U.S. and Canada.

Cheryl Comer - Senior Strategic Account Manager in the Sales and Relationship Management Organization at Duke Energy

Cheryl Comer is a Senior Strategic Account Manager in the Sales and Relationship Management organization at Duke Energy. She is responsible for developing and sustaining long-term strategic customer relationships for mutual growth, profitability, trust, loyalty, and risk management. Her assigned strategic accounts are FedEx, Kroger, Microsoft, and T-Mobile. Cheryl brings a wealth of experience from the education and legal industries. 

In addition to teaching middle school and high school students music theory, solfeggio, string, symphony orchestra, and music history, she served as a high school principal of an alternative school in Phoenix, Arizona. She managed a school of 350 students and 30 staff members. During her tenure as principal, she learned to effectively balance considerations from competing stakeholders such as state mandates, instructional and support staff, parents, students, and community. Under her leadership, graduation rates and test scores increased. 

Cheryl is also a licensed attorney in North Carolina and Louisiana and practiced law at a mid-size, litigation boutique in downtown New Orleans before joining Duke Energy in 2018. She continues to practice law in the capacity of a pro bono attorney with Legal Aid of North Carolina and often lends a hand to family and friends when in need of sound legal advice. She is a community activist in Gaston County and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion champion. Cheryl’s first love, however, is the cello. She began playing in an exploratory program in the 4th grade and never stopped! She plays the violin, viola, cello, and bass but is proficient on cello. Cheryl is a graduate of Interlochen Arts Academy and the University of Michigan (where she won principal cellist of the most advanced orchestra). She earned a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Western Michigan University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Detroit School of Law. She has been a licensed attorney since 2009. 

Cheryl’s passions include international travel, spending time on the beach with her family, and enjoying the zest of life. She grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, has three children, and resides in Charlotte, N.C.

Tracey Woods - VP of Operations at American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE)

Tracey Woods is an energy industry veteran with over 3 decades of experience.  He currently runs operations for the American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE), a policy non-profit serving 2,000 members through 36 chapters across the US. Before coming on staff at AABE, he ran the Construction Services division at Con Edison in NYC.  His teams were instrumental in restoring the steam loop after Superstorm Sandy devastated the city.  The Empire State Building, The Museum of Modern Art, and the United Nations all use steam for winter heating and summer cooling. He led the effort to ensure these and other businesses had heat for the winter of 2012 after the unprecedented devastation from the most powerful storm to ever hit NYC.  His leadership skills had been developed commanding substation operations at Jersey Central Power & Light, and through multiple operations management roles at Exelon utilities in Chicago and Philadelphia.  He is a degreed electric engineer who has also worked as a lineman, substation operator, facilities supervisor, and utility trainer.  

He is a fan of the great outdoors, jazz, and R&B music, and is working off his bucket list of travel destinations.


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