Spring 2019 Newsletter
Letter from 
Executive Director Lissa Widoff
Lissa Widoff
Executive Director
Lissa Widoff
Our spring newsletter is a harbinger of positive change that Switzer Fellows are leading to reduce fossil fuel use in the transportation sector through the expanded use of electric vehicles (EV) and autonomous vehicles (AV). The stories included in this newsletter show how Switzer Fellows are promoting municipal greenhouse gas reduction goals through greater EV use, balancing charging station demands with utility peak energy use, exploring policy dimensions of how to accurately predict adoption rates of these vehicles, and influencing how these strategies will be financed and implemented equitably. Electric buses for public transportation and incentives for individual purchases are important ways in which climate change, community development and energy policy come together and drive us towards a low-carbon future.

These stories also illustrate how my twenty years as the Switzer Foundation's Executive Director have gone by in a flash. The Foundation has always supported individuals who are committed to positive environmental impact and who recognize that we need multidisciplinary approaches to find true solutions. The issues that concern and affect us have expanded over time, even as we home in on the universal impacts of climate change and fossil fuel use. Whether Switzer Fellows pursue careers and research as university faculty or as NGO advocates, government policy specialists or business leaders, it is heartening to know that they are seeking intersections outside their own areas of expertise and learning how best to engage all perspectives for the best outcomes.

This will be my last letter to colleagues as Executive Director of the Switzer Foundation as we welcome Dr. Sarah Reed as my successor. These past twenty years have been filled with the joy of shared learning with our nearly 650 Fellows on a variety of environmental issues and developing our collective leadership for the complex issues of our time. Most importantly, we have learned that collaboration is stronger than individual action, that working across issues, geography, backgrounds and expertise reveals new opportunities to solve today's environmental problems, and that leadership develops over a lifetime. 

Much of my own learning and leadership has benefited from the insights, experience and profound leadership of our Fellows. I was a recipient of the Switzer Fellowship in 1992 when I attended Harvard Kennedy School to focus on environmental policy, and I look forward to continuing to be an active part of this extraordinary Network of Switzer Fellows, colleagues and emerging leaders who will need our support for the long haul. May we keep building connections and hope for a brighter future for all.
Xantha Bruso: Developing autonomous vehicle policy strategies to advance safety while enabling innovation

As the policy manager for autonomous vehicle (AV) policy at AAA Northern California, Nevada and Utah, Fellow Xantha Bruso is developing and implementing AAA's AV policy strategy to advance AV safety while enabling innovation. Bruso also supports strategic initiatives to accelerate AV deployment and foster mobility solutions.

Holmes Hummel: Accelerating private capital utility investments in inclusive clean energy solutions

Fellow Holmes Hummel's organization, Clean Energy Works, facilitates cooperation between  utilities, city leaders and transit agencies in a variety of communities to accelerate investment in electric buses.  Hummel says that while the United States market is currently dominated by federal grants, private financing solutions that allow the technology to scale faster and wider without grants is urgently needed. Programs like these also help utilities prepare for the future, as they get comfortable with new "grid edge" distributed energy technologies.

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Sherry Login: Making the grid more efficient by incentivizing off-peak charging

Fellow Sherry Login, the manager of electric vehicles for Consolidated Edison in New York, manages all customer-facing electric vehicle (EV) programs for the company. Her special project, however, is SmartCharge New York, an off-peak charging incentive program that she created two years ago.

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Colleen Callahan: Accelerating the transition to zero-emission transportation by facilitating targeted policy research

Fellow Colleen Callahan works with faculty at UCLA who conduct research and advise civic partners on the design and implementation of policies, plans and programs with a focus on advancing environmental sustainability. The center where she works has  conducted research that helped California design state incentives for clean cars, informed strategic siting of charging stations, and improved clean mobility for low-income households.

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Garrett Fitzgerald: Helping local governments advance their work in sustainability

Local governments have opportunities to influence the speed and community benefits of electric transportation advancements through their decision-making roles around public infrastructure, use of public space, building code requirements (in some states), and a variety of local and regional planning processes. Fellow Garrett Fitzgerald helps his organization's members collaborate with colleagues to understand and leverage emerging new mobility options.

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Stuart Cohen: Ensuring that urban communities that need mobility solutions the most get them

With the private sector, rather than government, suddenly leading the charge with autonomous vehicles, Fellow Stuart Cohen wants to focus policymakers on the climate and human impacts of these technologies. He says this is especially important as we need to get ahead of the curve on planning, regulation, and partnerships before automated vehicles start rolling out in force, which is when the most dramatic shifts will happen.

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Derek Lemoine: Predicting future behavior despite a relative scarcity of data

Fellow Derek Lemoine's research combines economic theory and computational methods to better understand the dynamics of environmental policy and of energy systems. 
He says a relative scarcity of data continues to be a challenge for economists interested in estimating how electric vehicles will be used and whether policies will be effective at stimulating adoption.

A vibrant community of environmental leaders