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Eagle on the Move: Alicia Barton, JD’02: Clean Energy in Massachusetts and Beyond

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By Tori Scarzello ‘13

If there’s anyone who knows clean energy in Massachusetts, it’s Alicia Barton. For the past three years, Barton JD’02 has led the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) in accelerating the state’s clean energy technology sector. Created in 2009 as the first state agency in the nation dedicated solely to facilitating the development of the clean energy industry, MassCEC supports early-stage technology innovation and clean energy project development, helping companies bring their ideas to the marketplace while supporting the growth of a local clean energy workforce. Under Barton’s leadership as CEO, the clean tech sector in Massachusetts has grown to a $10 billion industry with nearly 100,000 workers, establishing the Commonwealth as one of the nation’s leading markets for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Barton’s dedication to energy and environmental issues is evident through her professional experience as well as her academic background, both of which reflect a combination of science and policy. After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Natural Resources at Ohio State University, she studied law at Boston College Law School, where she completed her Juris Doctor in 2002. From there, Barton embarked on a career in energy and environment rooted in the Boston area and focused primarily in the public sector. From 2007 to 2012 Barton held several appointments with multiple energy and environmental agencies in the state of Massachusetts, pioneering regulatory, legislative, and policy initiatives on issues from greenhouse gas emissions to green job growth. As Deputy Commissioner for policy and planning at the MA Department of Environmental Protection, she directed MassDEP initiatives including the Action Plan for Regulatory Reform and the Clean Energy Results Program. Among her various roles throughout her time with the MA Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Barton directed the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) and oversaw the implementation of the first policy in the nation to incorporate clean energy elements into real estate and infrastructure development projects.

Since her appointment as CEO of MassCEC in 2012, Barton has driven the agency’s efforts to provide support for all aspects of the clean technology sector, from technology innovation to rebates and financing tools for renewable energy projects. As one of the nation’s leading clean energy agencies, MassCEC fosters partnerships among entrepreneurs, investors, and researchers, promoting the creation of a robust marketplace for innovative clean technology companies and service providers. According to the 2014 Massachusetts Clean Energy Industry Report, the state leads the nation in per capita early-stage and growth equity clean energy investment. And with a steady stream of funding, the state’s clean energy industry has witnessed an increase in employees. Yet despite the boost that clean energy jobs provide to the state’s economy, this growth has proven to be demographically unequal. The same report notes that only 26.2 percent of new clean energy hires in 2014 were women, compared to 51.3 percent of women in the overall workforce in Massachusetts.

From her leadership post in the state’s clean energy sector, Barton has played an active role in addressing gender disparity in the industry, overseeing the development and launch of the MassCEC’s “Successful Women in Clean Energy” initiative in the past year. The program helps low- and moderate-income women earners build sales careers in the clean energy industry, providing hands-on training in career readiness, financial literacy, work preparedness, and know-how for success in an industry dominated by males. “Through our ‘Successful Women in Clean Energy’ initiative, MassCEC aims to foster collaboration between the businesses of tomorrow and the women who are energized to join them,” stated Barton in Microsoft New England’s blog.  She hopes that the program will inspire more women to break into this growing and dynamic sector.

This summer, Barton announced her departure from MassCEC to pursue a new role with SunEdison, the world’s largest clean energy development corporation. “In looking back on the past three years,” wrote Barton in an email to staff at the agency, “the accomplishment I am most proud of is having the chance to assemble and to lead the amazingly talented and dedicated professionals in this agency. Together we have consistently set our sights high, accomplished many important goals, and performed our mission with a level of excellence I am extremely proud of.”

As Chief Operating Officer within SunEdison’s global utility-scale renewable energy group, Barton will remain based in Boston and expects to stay engaged with the local clean energy business community. Her transition to the company began in September.

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