CORE celebrates Black energy pioneers

An inclusive and diverse energy workforce is essential to tackling today’s energy needs and challenges. Let’s celebrate Black History Month by highlighting some Black energy pioneers who helped develop our energy landscape.

Lewis H. Latimer

Lewis Latimer, born in 1848, was an inventor and engineer that worked closely with Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell, in addition to designing his own inventions. Latimer, a colleague of Thomas Edison, made significant improvements on the modern incandescent light bulb by inventing the carbon filament. Not only did he play a critical role in commercializing the lightbulb, but he also played a monumental role in the development of the first telephone sets. In 1890, Latimer published a book entitled Incandescent Electric Lighting: A Practical Description of the Edison System.

Hazel O’Leary

In 1993, Hazel O’Leary became the first black woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of Energy. She was known for her commitment to linking energy policy decisions to the health and quality of the environment. O’Leary requested more DOE funding for renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies, established a quantifiable way to measure agency successes, and ensured DOE partnered with nonprofits and utilities to accelerate commercialization of advanced energy-efficient appliances.

Jessica O. Matthews

In 2010, Jessica O. Matthews invented an energy-generating soccer ball intended to provide power for off-grid African communities. She was 19 and a student at Harvard University at the time. At age 22 she became the founder and CEO of a technology company focused on bringing sustainable, innovative, and cost-effective energy infrastructure to cities.

Denise Gray

Denise Gray is the CEO/President of LG Chem Power, one of the world’s largest makers and suppliers of automotive batteries for electric vehicles. Gray’s efforts to develop new batteries for electric vehicles involved picking the right lithium-ion system, ensuring battery packs were tested, and navigating government safety-certification requirements in many countries around the world. Gray encourages young people interested in STEM to learn the skills needed to develop battery and control systems because the demand will continue to increase.

Peter F. Green

Peter F. Green is the Deputy Laboratory Director for Science and Technology at NREL. He is responsible for NREL’s science and research goals, strengthening the laboratory’s core capabilities, and enhancing NREL’s research portfolio.

Jason Carney

Jason Carney is the first African American in Tennessee to earn a North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certification, which demonstrates advanced knowledge of solar technology. He aims to think of creative ways to educate more people about solar and works toward driving innovations in energy efficiency for homeowners in southeastern U.S.

Matthew Portis

Matthew Portis is an inventor and engineer who patented the first “solar charging table” or “off-grid outdoor workstation.” The solar-powered workstation provides adequate seating for crowded facilities and is built to withstand harsh outdoor environments. He has a vision to modernize and maintain sustainable infrastructure in cities, parks and outdoor public spaces.

These are just a few of the Black innovators who have made a significant impact on energy and sustainability. Let us recognize and celebrate the achievements of these leaders who have dedicated their lives to creating a brighter world.