National Clean Energy Leaders in DC Honor IREC Energy Heroes, Recognize Accomplishments and Challenges

10 Mar 2017

National leaders in the clean energy industry, elected officials, policymakers and advocates gathered in support of a strong sustainable energy future at an event March 8th in Washington, DC. They acknowledged our collective milestones and challenges in celebration of IREC's 35th year and honored IREC's 2017 Energy Heroes.

IREC 2017 Energy Heroes were honored: U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) and U.S. Representative Paul Tonko (D-NY). The evening reception and awards ceremony was a special tribute to IREC's own Chief Energy Hero, IREC President Emeritus Jane Weissman, who stepped down after 22 years of leadership in 2016.

"Today's recognition of IREC's Energy Heroes was important to take place in our nation's capital," says IREC President/CEO Larry Sherwood. "We honor their years of transformative advocacy for a sustainable energy future and a strong, skilled clean energy workforce that now employs nearly 350,000 jobs in solar and wind energy combined.

"In the 2017 political environment, it is perhaps more important than ever that we come together in support of the state-by-state work IREC does to ensure that our state energy policies and practices continue to make clean sustainable energy accessible and affordable for more Americans," says Sherwood.

"We cannot assume that federal policies will encourage clean energy. Instead, state actions will determine the future growth of these technologies.  This makes IREC's historical state-based focus more critical than ever," he says.

IREC 2017 Energy Hero Awards

"Jane Weissman was the catalyst for much of IREC's success over the past two decades, a changemaker whose leadership of IREC positioned the not-for-profit as a thought-leading, independent, transformational trailblazer in the national development of clean energy," said IREC Board Chair Larry Shirley. "Jane and IREC have played a key role over the last two decades in seeing that states across the country had the proper regulatory policies and training in place to allow this industry to gain traction, while also protecting the interests of consumers.  As a direct result, an explosion in solar and wind development has taken place. "Jane's contributions on behalf of renewable energy are legendary; her impact on our nation's advancement of clean energy policy and market growth is unparallelled."

A Congressional citation was presented to Jane from the U.S. Senate, and former IREC presidents and founders together read a detailed proclamation that highlighted her many path-defining achievements. 

"Senator Ed Markey's steadfast support and personal call to action that climate change is a 'moral issue' has been heard from the halls of Congress, from the United Nations and from his historic trip to the Vatican," said IREC Board Chair Larry Shirley, who presented the award. "His own Commonwealth of Massachusetts has shown the nation how we can grow the economy, create jobs and reduce carbon pollution - all at the same time. Senator Markey's leadership has helped shape today's energy landscape." Currently, he is co-chair of the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change; is lead co-chair of the Senate Climate Clearinghouse; and is a member of the Senate Climate Action Task Force. 

Senior Policy Advisor Morgan Gray represented Senator Markey, as he was unable to attend due to congressional committee meetings. 

Congressman Paul Tonko in his fifth term representing New York's Capital Region area, where IREC is headquartered, sits on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and is ranking member of its Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy. He is honored by IREC for his decades of championship for clean energy, since leading the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) as president/CEO prior to his election to Congress. He has been a strong proponent of increasing electricity generation from sustainable energy sources and the massive job growth potential of clean energy technologies.

Unable to attend as expected, due to a critical House Committee on Energy and Commerce meeting that lasted into the early morning hours, Congressman Tonko sent this statement: "Advancing America's sustainable energy future has to be one of our highest priorities in this and every Congress. Our national security and global competitiveness depend on the successful advancement of new technologies and scientific research that bring us closer to a truly clean energy future. I am honored to receive this distinguished recognition from IREC, a terrific partner on this issue with an enduring commitment to smarter energy policies, and I look forward to continuing this work in the coming years."

Jane Weissman in her comments upon receiving the special Chief Energy Hero award, said: "November 8 is a new starting line. Let's strengthen our clean energy support, making sure that state decision makers and advocates are armed with the best verifiable facts, data and defense.  A new targeted, timed and tactical U.S. map needs drawing," she said.

She added: "Residential rooftop solar is a direct connect to the kitchen table. Happy consumers are a loyal block of supporters, but only when they are treated fairly with good products, dependable installations, reasonable contract terms and no surprises."

The event, in honor of IREC's 35th year and the 2017 IREC Energy Heroes, was a fundraiser for IREC's programs and resources.