About the Initiative for Energy Justice
The Initiative for Energy Justice was founded in 2018 by three lawyers of color entrenched in the debates concerning the nation’s transition away from fossil fuels and an extractive economy towards an equitable and renewable energy future. The co-founders brought together their direct connections to communities working for a just transition, and their experiences in three jurisdictions at the front edge of the energy transition – Hawaii, California, and New York.
Our core values are voice, inclusion, and equity. The unique voices of frontline communities and communities of color must be included in the transition away from fossil fuels to clean energy. Equity must form the core of this transition, given the burdens borne by frontline communities under the energy system. These values form the fabric of the Initiative for Energy Justice. They are why we do this work. They inform our approach to the work and support our mission to provide energy policy tools rooted in equity to the leaders and communities who need them most.
Mission & Vision
Policy makers in urban areas around the United States seek to increase the penetration of renewables on the electricity grid, but they often lack clear policy guidance on how to design and implement energy policy that places equity at the center of policy design, rather than as an ancillary concern considered after the fact. Similarly, traditional frontline social justice and civil rights organizations have found themselves at the center of debates concerning renewable energy policy, but often lack the technical assistance and tools to participate fully in the emerging debates concerning the energy transition.
The Initiative for Energy Justice aims to:
(1) contribute to a bottom-up movement of energy justice, originating in frontline communities, by arming movement and base-building organizations in environmental, racial, and economic justice spaces with well-supported policy research and workable transactional models for operationalizing a just transition to renewable energy; and
(2) provide city and state policymakers with concrete energy policy frameworks and best-practice tools that foreground equity in the transition to renewable energy, drawing on the best-available data collected from frontline advocates, existing energy policies, and frameworks designed by our team.
Who We Serve
Our initiative aims to offer concrete energy policy solutions focused on equity, in order to advance a Just Transition and build power for marginalized communities, particularly frontline communities and communities of color. As such, we are guided by foundational movement principles, such as the Jemez Principles for Democratic Organizing. We plan to coordinate with, support, and not duplicate the important work of advocates in this sector. This includes local, state, regional, and national environmental justice and racial equity-focused organizations, as well as renewable energy groups and coalitions that are either already centering equity in the work or increasingly looking to ground their work in equity.
We also seek to address a current unmet need by supporting local and state policymakers in thinking about and incorporating equity considerations in energy policy. Increasingly, more municipalities and states are undertaking substantial regulatory reform in the energy sector. We expect this trend to continue. The need for tools and trainings focused on equity will become critical as we shape the next generation of energy infrastructure and delivery.
Meet Our Team
Shalanda H. Baker
Co-Founder, Former Co-Director
Professor Shalanda H. Baker is a Professor of Law, Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Professor Baker is an affiliate faculty member in Northeastern’s Global Resilience Institute and Department of Political Science. She teaches courses at the law school and in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities. Baker was awarded a 2016-17 Fulbright-García Robles grant, which she utilized to explore Mexico’s energy reform, climate change and indigenous rights. Before joining Northeastern’s faculty, Professor Baker spent three years as an associate professor of law at the William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawai’i, where she was the founding director of the Energy Justice Program. Prior to that, she served on the faculty at University of San Francisco School of Law. Baker holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science from the United States Air Force Academy, a Juris Doctor from Northeastern University School of Law, and an LLM from the University of Wisconsin School of Law, where she also served as a William H. Hastie Fellow. Immediately after law school, before working as a corporate and project finance attorney in both the Boston and Tokyo offices of the law firm of Bingham McCutchen, Professor Baker clerked for then-Associate Justice Roderick Ireland of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. She serves on the boards of the Solutions Project and the Clean Energy Group.
Aditi Bansal (they/them) is a global energy justice advocate and Program Director at the Initiative for Energy Justice. At IEJ, they are developing the utility-scale renewables program and the research practice to support the energy justice movement. They hold a M.S. in Sustainability Management from Columbia University and a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and Development Studies from the Ohio State University. Their graduate studies focused on building resilient energy systems in resettlement camps. Prior to IEJ, they helped lead research studies at the Energy, Equity, Health, and Housing lab at Columbia University, led by Professor Diana Hernández. In this role, they helped design studies inquiring issues related to energy insecurity and equitable access to energy efficiency and renewable energy within the U.S. context. They also serve as the Managing Editor for Science for the People, a radical science magazine, where they recently published a volume on energy and extraction. Aditi grew up in a small city in postcolonial Northern India and immigrated to the Midwest U.S. in their teenage years. They reside in Harlem, NY.
Co-Founder, Executive Director
Subin DeVar is the director of the Initiative for Energy Justice, a national research center that provides law and policy resources to advocates and policymakers to advance state-level transitions to equitable renewable energy. Prior to working at IEJ, he directed the Sustainable Economies Law Center’s Community Renewable Energy Program to promote a just and rapid transition to clean energy through community control of energy resources. Subin began his career working in the field of nonprofit communications. He first worked for the Tahirih Justice Center, a legal advocacy organization for immigrant women fleeing violence, and then M+R Strategic Services, a consulting firm serving nonprofit organizations. He has a BA and BBA from The University of Texas at Austin and received his JD from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. During law school, he interned at Communities for a Better Environment, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Natural Resources Defense Counsel. Subin is passionate about building hope that humanity can respond to climate change in a loving, equitable, and transformational manner. He lives, works, and plays in Washington, DC with his brilliant partner and inspiring daughter.
As part of the team of Directors at Initiative for Energy Justice, Mikhaila Gonzales is developing the Equitable Local Solar Program and partnerships in our movement for energy justice. Prior to joining the team at IEJ, Mikhaila led the Access Solar program at Spark Northwest, where she worked with Tribal entities, electric utilities, local/state agencies, and a range of nonprofit and environmental justice organizations to develop community-scale clean energy projects in WA and OR. Her career in nonprofit management began over 14 years ago with a love of environmental education and stewardship at Seward Park Audubon Center and Save Habitat and Diversity of Wetlands. Prior qualitative research projects brought her to fishing communities of New England and indigenous farming communities in the Philippines. Originally from New York City, Mikhaila now lives in lovely West Seattle, Washington.
Senior Research and Operations Associate
Haley Havens is a Senior Research and Operations Associate with the Initiative for Energy Justice where she is a member of the Justice in 100 and Equitable Community Solar teams. Before joining IEJ, she was the Director of Summer Camp programming for Herring Gut Learning Center, a marine science and aquaculture education and outreach center in rural Maine, where she designed youth programming and collaborated with K-8 teachers to assemble recommendations for renewable energy curriculum. Haley has a BS in Environmental Science from Northeastern University where she worked in a fisheries ecology and biology lab and supported youth environmental justice activists in the development of a plan for renewable energy in a nearby community garden.
Interim Operations Director
Stacey Heras brings a background in nonprofit operations and administration in climate justice and the environmental sector to the Initiative for Energy Justice. Her behind-the-scenes leadership shines brightest through her service-minded approach where she can empower and directly support the team, so the organization can thrive. In 2016, Stacey was recruited at The Solutions Project to help build its operations department, and over the last six years, she strengthened its infrastructure through continuous system and process improvements across finance and operations. Through close collaborations with executive leadership and program teams, Stacey improved salary equity, established cultural values, operationalized complex grantmaking systems, and made finance fun. Her other passions include photography, biking, plant collecting, and chocolate making. Stacey holds a B.A. in Applied Psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago and lives in Oakland, CA.
Shiva Prakash was an Equal Justice Works Fellow and Staff Attorney at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI), where she established and developed the Community Energy Project, a multi-pronged program addressing the legal barriers to community-owned renewable energy and other climate justice and energy democracy oriented campaigns. In addition to direct legal services, her work also included aspects of high level programmatic strategy, fundraising, and strategic communications. During law school, Shiva completed legal internships at the Natural Resources Defense Council, New York State Office of the Attorney General, Conservation Law Foundation, and a judicial internship with the Honorable Judge Thompson on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Prior to her legal career, Shiva worked at New Ecology Inc., a Boston-based non-profit, where she was a project manager on affordable and public housing projects incorporating energy efficiency and renewable energy systems. Shiva received her J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law, where she was a Public Interest Law Scholar, a Master’s in City Planning (MCP) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and a B.S. in Economics also from MIT.
Dr. Marisa Sotolongo
Interim Policy Analyst, Research
Dr. Marisa Sotolongo is an environmental justice scholar and Interim Policy Analyst with the Initiative for Energy Justice. She completed her Bachelor of Science in Physics with a focus in Energy Security at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and earned her PhD from the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. During her doctoral studies, Marisa worked as a Research Assistant with IEJ, publishing research and policy briefs on environmental, energy, and climate justice policy in the context of climate disasters in California and Puerto Rico, environmental digital infrastructure in the southeastern U.S., and the federal Justice40 policy. Her research focuses on environmental justice theory, informed by indigenous restorative and critical conceptions of justice, and environmental justice policy applications in the U.S. as they relate to energy justice and climate adaptation. Marisa has worked for the Texas Legislative Budget Board as a Budget Analyst for the Natural Resources and Judiciary Team, and remains committed to state-level policy work in the energy and environmental spheres. She grew up in Durham, NC, and currently resides in Brooklyn, NY.