The Workforce and Equitable Access (WEA) team supports the growth of a diverse and well-supported solar workforce and increasing equitable access to solar energy for all Americans. This includes workforce initiatives in areas such as training, mentorship, and job placement, as well as initiatives to remove barriers to solar adoption through data collection and analysis, innovative and equitable financing, and increasing community solar access.
Nicole Steele, Workforce and Equitable Access Program Manager
Nicole Steele joined the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office in January 2021 as a senior advisor for equity and workforce issues and leads the National Community Solar Partnership. She is a nationally recognized leader and expert in clean energy with a focus on frontline communities and workforce development. She has 20 years of experience working with government officials, policymakers, advocates, and entrepreneurs to develop and implement inclusive clean energy policies and programs. Nicole was the founding executive director of GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic, policy director at the Alliance to Save Energy, and ran the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program for Loudoun County, Virginia. She started her career in affordable housing, community planning, and politics. She is an AmeriCorps alumni and passionate supporter of community service.
Company: Lindhal Reed
Phil Aroneanu joined the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office in April 2023, as a strategic advisor. In this role, he provides strategy and project management support for the Workforce and Equitable Access team across programs, projects, and prizes, including the National Community Solar Partnership and the Community Power Accelerator. Prior to joining DOE, he spent 20 years in climate advocacy and community organizing, including helping launch Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Climate Action, and co-founding the global climate campaign 350.org. Phil holds a Master of Public Administration from NYU Wagner, and a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from Middlebury College.
Company: Lindhal Reed
Anna Balzer joined the Solar Energy Technologies Office in June 2021 as the solar community engagement coordinator for the National Community Solar Partnership. In this role, she provides technical support for stakeholder engagement and communications to grow the reach and impact of the program. Anna is an AmeriCorps Alumni with roots in community engagement, education, and youth leadership development. Prior to joining DOE, she served in and managed the Youth Energy Squad, an AmeriCorps program in Detroit, Michigan, that engages young people in place-based education and leadership on energy burden reduction in their communities. Anna holds a master’s in public affairs from the University of Michigan and a bachelor’s in environmental studies from the University of Colorado Boulder.
Ariel joined the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office’s Workforce and Equitable Access team as a management and program analyst in January 2022. She supports the National Community Solar Partnership’s efforts to advance state-level community solar policy and technical assistance. Ariel is a nationally recognized leader on equitable clean energy policies and programs, and she has authored over 15 publications and presented at more than 40 conferences and events.
Prior to this position, Ariel worked as a manager at the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, where she led research and technical assistance related to energy equity, energy affordability, community-led clean energy, and low-income energy efficiency programs. She served on the National Energy Utility Affordability Coalition’s board of directors from 2019 through 2022. She has also worked for the U.S. Climate Action Network, U.S. Forest Service, and National Park Service.
Ariel has a Bachelor of Arts in history and international studies from Northwestern University, and she has a Master of Science in environmental science, policy, and management from a joint-degree program that awarded degrees from Central European University in Hungary, Lund University in Sweden, and the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom.
Andrew Graves joined the Solar Energy Technologies Office in 2018 as a technology manager. He has been with the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) since September 2009. For the first 7 years, Andrew worked as a contractor with BCS, Incorporated, supporting clients in the Bioenergy Technologies Office, and ultimately supervising a team that provided communications, office operations, budget planning, and strategic planning support to senior office leadership. In 2016, Andrew joined the federal government as a policy advisor with the EERE International Program, where he managed a variety of technical assistance and policy analysis projects designed to support U.S. clean energy technology exports to the Middle East, North Africa, and Mexico. In 2018, Andrew was selected to participate in the Presidential Management Council Inter-Agency Rotation Program, through which he worked for the Department of Housing and Urban Development on policy initiatives to promote energy efficiency in public housing. Andrew has an M.S. in global affairs, with a concentration in energy and the environment, from New York University, and a B.A. in government from Hamilton College in upstate New York.
ORISE Science and Technology Policy Fellow
Tomiwa Olufolabi is an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) Science and Technology Policy Fellow for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO). He joined SETO in October 2021 and works on both the Strategic Analysis and Institutional Support and Workforce and Equitable Access teams. His interests include solar workforce and youth development, equitable access to solar energy, building integrated photovoltaics, and building codes and standards.
Prior to joining SETO, Tomiwa received his B.S. in Building Sciences - Sustainable Building Systems with a minor in Marketing from Appalachian State University in May 2018. While at Appalachian State, Tomiwa exercised his leadership skills through student organizations like the Renewable Energy Initiative and Student Government Association. After graduating, he spent 3 years working in construction management as a Superintendent where he received his LEED Green Associate accreditation and OSHA 30 Certification. Just before joining SETO, Tomiwa further pursued his interest in renewable energy and leadership through the Clean Energy Leadership Institute as a 2021 Fellow.
ORISE Science and Technology Policy Fellow
Anastasiya “Anya” Poplavska joined the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office’s Workforce and Equitable Access team as a fellow in August 2022. On this team, she supports the National Community Solar Partnership. She joined DOE shortly after graduating Summa Cum Laude and with Honors from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo where she majored in environmental management and minored in political science.
Prior to her role at the DOE, Anya worked with different communities on pressing environmental issues. Namely, she spent a summer in rural Kansas writing a proposal for a local nonprofit to build a novel EV charging station in the region. Additionally, she has interned for the largest policy association in Silicon Valley to build a stakeholder-based environmental justice toolkit. And, she has researched the inequities of tree canopy distribution for a startup, Cambium Carbon, incubated from the Yale School of Environmental Management. She also has experience working with private stakeholders, as she has written a novel climate action plan for the largest bottler in North America. In addition to her professional experiences, she has a personal passion for community organizing, and she spent her college career leading a dedicated grassroots movement to establish a Green Fund on her campus.
Company: Lindhal Reed
Alexandria “Allie” Robins is a solar energy analyst for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO). She joined the Workforce and Equitable Access team in December 2022. She currently leads partnership development for the Community Power Accelerator™. Prior to joining SETO, Allie was a policy advisor for Global Witness where she worked on international, federal, and grassroots issues – specializing in climate finance and banking reform. She was the co-chair of the FACT Coalition and led over 100 members to play an instrumental role in spearheading the passage of landmark bipartisan legislation. As an Atlanta native, Allie is passionate about community ownership, consumer protection, and organizing. She graduated cum laude from Harvard University with a concentration in Government.
Kimberly Shields joined the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) in September 2023 as a technology manager on the Workforce & Equitable Access team. Prior to joining SETO, Kim was the director of energy assistance and solar programs at Energy Outreach Colorado (EOC), a nonprofit organization working to ensure all Coloradans can afford their home energy needs. She managed programs which stabilized vulnerable households through utility bill assistance, reduced energy burden through no-cost community solar subscriptions, and advocated for equitable development of local clean energy. Prior to her years at EOC, Kim was a board member of the nonprofit KiloWatts for Humanity, leading the development of solar energy kiosks and sustainable business models for off grid communities in Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as an engineer for The Boeing Company. Kim earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Company: Lindhal Reed
Sarah Wilder is a solar workforce program analyst supporting the Workforce and Equitable Access team at the Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO). She provides technical expertise and programmatic support for SETO’s efforts in developing the clean energy workforce of the future, with a focus on solar energy. Sarah has been working in the solar energy industry since 2002, mostly recently as the program director for the Oregon Limited Renewable Energy Apprenticeship and the director of curriculum and instruction at Solar Energy International. Sarah has held a variety of roles within the solar industry, giving her a unique and comprehensive perspective on the challenges and opportunities associated with expanding the clean energy workforce. These roles include over 10 years of photovoltaic (PV) design and installation work, 4 years as co-owner of a solar installation company, 4 years as technical services manager at two different PV module manufacturers, and about 8 years as a solar educator and technical trainer. Sarah is a NABCEP-certified PV Installation Professional, a licensed Oregon Limited Renewable Energy Technician, and holds a Master’s degree in environmental management from Yale University and a B.A. in environmental studies from the University of Colorado.