In this episode of Flanigan’s Eco-Logic, Ted speaks with Russell Sturm, Professor of the Practice at University of Virginia, University of North Carolina/ Chapel Hill, and California Polytechnic Institute /Humboldt. He is also an Advisor for the Off-Grid Solar Industry.
Russell is an innovator in the field of sustainable energy market development, and has been a sector leader across international multilateral institution, private sector, and NGO professional platforms over a 35-year career mobilizing investment in clean energy technologies.
Ted and Russell discuss his background, raised in Atlanta, Georgia. He mentions that he was aware of his privilege growing up. He became increasingly aware of existential environmental challenges, and also society evolving in some troubling ways around concentration of wealth, inequities, apartheid in South Africa, which led to him becoming politically involved and motivated to organize in college.
His studies focused on energy and natural resource policy and finance at the University of North Carolina and Harvard University/Kennedy School of Government, where he received a Masters in Public Policy. Early in his career, Russell did econometric modeling at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and worked on the first energy performance contract (ESCO) agreements in the United States at the law firm of Lane and Edson, LLC.
Russell then redirected his focus to accelerate adoption of clean energy technology in developing country markets where he has been a global leader in sustainable energy market development for the past 25 years. As President of the International Institute for Energy Conservation, Russell expanded the NGO’s reach globally, across 6 continents. At the International Finance Corporation – the private sector-focused investment arm of the World Bank Group -- Russell developed innovative business models that enabled IFC to leverage $2 billion a year in sustainable energy finance, projects which created resilient, low carbon infrastructure that has avoided several hundred million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.
He is the creator of the Lighting Global program, which has catalyzed the global off-grid solar industry that has to date attracted private investment and has enabled 500 million people to emerge from energy poverty and avoided 200 million tonnes of GHG emissions by providing affordable, clean modern solar electricity household and productive use energy services.
Today Russell continues to advise the off-grid solar industry that he helped to create. In addition, his primary focus is on supporting the development of the next generation of students and young professionals who will carry forward his vision of universal energy and clean water access enabled by a global economy built on a foundation of sustainable technology.