Smart Energy Voices - Episode 1

Inspiring Diversity In Energy with Rose McKinney-James

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On this episode, you are in for a treat! Rose McKinney-James is the former President and CEO for the Corporation for Solar Technology and Renewable Resources, and former Commissioner with the Nevada Public Service Commission. She has a unique and timely perspective from which to speak on the issue of diversity in the energy industry.

Rose has an extensive history in public service, private sector corporate sustainability, social impact, and non-profit volunteerism. She is the Managing Principal of McKinney-James & Associates and Energy Works LLC. Her firms provide business-consulting services and advocacy in public affairs, energy policy, strategy, and economic and sustainable development. 

Rose began her career in Washington D.C., serving first in various internships and soon moved into positions within the private and public sectors in local, state, and federal govt levels. Join us for this inspiring and motivating conversation about how the energy industry can take positive steps forward in promoting diversity.

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

  • How Rose got her start in the renewable energy movement [1:59]
  • Pivotal events in Nevada’s implementation of renewable energy [4:02]
  • Why diversity is a very REAL issue in the energy industry [10:17]
  • What it will take to overcome the prejudice and lack of equality that exist [15:01]
  • Rose’s participation in The American Association of Blacks In Energy [17:55]

The passage of the Renewable Portfolio Standard — and Rose’s involvement

In 1997, the State of Nevada, like most states in the Union, was entertaining the idea of deregulation in the energy sector. Rose saw it as an opportunity to leverage resources in Nevada to bring about significant changes in the State’s energy infrastructure. She says the most important work behind the passage of the RPS was the creation of a coalition of active voices — influencers if you will — made up of industry leaders, environmentalists, conservationists, the Consumer Advocate of the State, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. This eclectic group came together to encourage diversification of the State’s energy portfolio through legislation.

They presented their amendment and it was approved. The RPS sets the percentage of electricity sold each year that must come from renewable energy or some type of energy efficiency measure. This pivotal event set the stage for further developments in Rose’s career. She eventually served as a board member of Mandalay Resort Group, which was acquired by MGM. MGM later made the business decision to pursue renewable energy options for its properties. When the group could not come to terms with local utilities, it decided to procure their own facilities to generate electricity. Rose feels this decision put an emphasis on the business community’s need to step up and step forward in the renewable energy transition.

What it’s been like to be a woman of color in the energy industry

When asked what her experience has been like as a woman of color in the energy industry, Rose says that until relatively recently, it felt lonely, isolating, and frustrating. She says much of that comes from the difficulty inherent in being the "only one" or the "first one" in any endeavor. She fought against the personal feelings of rejection that often came when she felt her contributions were dismissed or undervalued. But she feels fortunate that she had titles and leadership positions that allowed her to work toward balancing things a bit more in favor of diversity. She felt she had an obligation to power through it and make others aware of the issues at hand.

Rose explains that when you are surrounded by those who tend to think alike, and you are the different person, it’s hard to make your voice heard and to stand your ground. Her advice to leaders is that they need to embrace the differences and diversity within their teams and utilize them to bring about better options and opportunities.

What will it take to truly create a diverse energy industry?

Rose points out that the long-standing problem of systemic racism within the United States is now on the front burner. She believes that strong organizations that represent all stakeholders must be created. She prescribes a three-fold focus: People, Procurement, and Philanthropy.

People: Rose suggests that those wanting to make a difference need to expand their networks, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. Work to be very intentional in building new relationships with people who are not like you. Leaders of energy organizations need to make sure their organizations reflect the people in the communities where they operate.

Procurement: Rose encourages organizations to think more carefully about where they get their resources from, the policies those organizations adhere to when it comes to diversity, and how THEY lean toward diversity (or not). 

Philanthropy: Take a long, hard look at how your organization can truly give to the community in ways that make a difference in addressing these and other important issues facing the industry. You can bring about the change if you are willing to take action.

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect with Rose McKinney-James

Rose McKinney-James is a clean energy advocate, small business leader, and independent corporate director with a long history in public service, non-profit volunteerism and private sector corporate social responsibility. She is the former President and CEO for the Corporation for Solar Technology and Renewable Resources, (CSTRR), a former Commissioner with the Nevada Public Service Commission, and served as Nevada’s first Director of the Department of Business and Industry. Rose is currently the Managing Principal of Energy Works LLC and McKinney-James & Associates. Her firms provide business-consulting services and advocacy in the areas of public affairs, energy policy, strategy, and economic and sustainable development. Ms. McKinney-James has over two decades of experience in advocacy in legislative and utility regulatory proceedings relative to renewable and clean energy policy and community and stakeholder outreach in Nevada and the U.S. She has helped to shape much of the energy policy framework in place in the state of Nevada Working with a diverse group of advocates, McKinney-James led the effort to facilitate the passage of the first Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) in Nevada. This was the first of many successful collaborations resulting in significant clean energy policy advancement in the state.

McKinney-James is a member of the Executive Leadership Council and serves as Board Chair for the Energy Foundation. She is the Immediate Past Board Chair for the American Association for Blacks in Energy (AABE). In 2013 Rose was selected to serve as an Inaugural Ambassador for the C3E initiative supporting increased participation by women in the clean energy sector. As of May 2019, she adds the title of Co-Author to her bio with the publishing of her first literary adventure, “The Energy Within Us”. Ms. McKinney-James joins four of her closest colleagues as they provide insights based on their collective personal journeys in the energy profession. 

 

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