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Join the Discussion: Trailblazing a Path for Women in Clean Energy

June 27, 2012 - 10:25am

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Kim Saylors-Laster, Vice President of Walmart Energy and ambassador for the Clean Energy Education & Empowerment Initiative. | Photo courtesy of Walmart.

Kim Saylors-Laster, Vice President of Walmart Energy and ambassador for the Clean Energy Education & Empowerment Initiative. | Photo courtesy of Walmart.

Note: On June 27 at 1 p.m. EDT, the Energy Department is hosting a Women in Clean Energy Twitter Chat.Share your perspectives, career advice and more with our panel of trailblazing women in clean energy careers. Use hashtag #askEnergy to participate. More details HERE.

My job has great benefits. My favorite one? Going home feeling like I’ve made a difference in the world.

As Vice President of Energy for Walmart, I help ensure three things: First, that we have power for refrigeration and lighting with comfortable temperatures for our customers and associates; second, that we are purchasing our utilities at the lowest possible price and passing these savings on to our customers; and finally, my favorite, that we are doing what we can to benefit the planet.

I really believe that our work is making a valuable contribution to our world. Not only are we reducing our environmental impact through renewable energy projects – but, through our excitement and willingness to try new things and even fail, we are giving others the confidence to roll out similar plans. It’s an attitude that has enabled us to say that as of this year, Walmart’s renewable energy projects generate 1.1 billion kilowatt hours annually, or enough to power 78,000 American homes. And others have recognized our work, too. This year, the EPA’s Green Power Partnership program ranked Walmart as the second-largest onsite green power generator in the United States.

These accomplishments are a great representation of how, with renewable energy, slowly stepping in to the water has helped us grow into capable swimmers. For example, with solar, we started out with no idea what to expect and a lot of hope. Walmart’s first projects were in only two states – Hawaii and California – and we were concerned about how we would expand the program in the future. Those few projects were successful, both environmentally and economically, and over time we expanded into Arizona, Colorado and now New Jersey and Massachusetts. Today, we are working on solar projects in 13 states, Puerto Rico and in several of the markets in which we operate around the world.

Our optimistic approach on renewable energy is the same one I took when entering the field. After several years with Walmart real estate, I found myself in a transition period as I finished a master’s degree. My supervisors asked what I’d like to do next, and when I answered, “something that makes a difference in the world,” they suggested energy. While I had my real estate experience to draw from, energy was completely new to me. I didn’t always know how things were going to play out, but I believed in the great things the energy team was doing.

Looking back, I believe my desire to make an impact – and to follow my heart – carried me through the change. The field of energy is rich with opportunity to make that impact for the entire world. And I think it can be especially valuable for women. I’m currently serving as one of 27 ambassadors for the Energy Department and MIT’s Clean Energy Education & Empowerment program, which aims to advance women’s leadership in clean energy. Our goals are to mentor other women and also recognize their accomplishments through an awards program. By supporting women in the field and encouraging others to join, we can achieve even more with a pool of perspectives that is larger and more diverse.

When I asked for a career that made a difference, I definitely got it. I didn’t know that I’d be making that difference through energy, but that’s the best part – discovering and embracing new possibilities.

The U.S. C3E program, an initiative led by the Energy Department and MIT, recognizes mid-career individuals who advance the leadership and accomplishments of women in clean energy. This year, MIT’s C3E Awards program will award six $10,000 prizes. The nomination period runs through July 2, 2012. Nominate someone you know HERE.

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