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YPE Bay Area Leadership


Audrey Lee,
Director and Co-President

Audrey Lee advises the President of the California Public Utilities Commission on energy-related policies, focusing on demand response, energy data access, smart grid, transmission infrastructure, energy storage, and grid-related research and development. 

Before joining the Commission, Audrey led economic and policy analysis at the Office of Policy and International Affairs at the U.S. Department of Energy, the International Energy Agency, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. 

Audrey holds a B.S. in applied physics from the California Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Princeton University. In her spare time, she reads to her 2 children; serves on the San Francisco Public Montessori School Site Council, the Plan C Board, and the BART Title IV Environmental Justice Advisory Committee; and runs a company that provides group decision-making software and support called Syncrety. 


Evan Hindman,
Director and Co-President

Evan Hindman is a Financial Product Manager at Stem, an Energy Optimization startup that is redefining the energy storage value proposition. Prior to Stem, Evan was an Intern in the Global Strategy group of Suntech Power, one of the largest manufacturers of silicon photovoltaic solar panels in the world. In addition, Evan served as a Research Intern at Better Place, analyzing end-of-life options for EV lithium-ion batteries. Before his entry into the energy industry, Evan was the Chief Strategy Officer of Animal Apps, an application developer for the facebook platform, and an Analyst at Gleacher Partners, a boutique investment bank. 

Evan holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, where he co-chaired the 2011 Energy Symposium, bringing together speakers, panelists, and attendees from across the globe to discuss "Our Brighter Energy Future." He also holds BS and MS degrees in Materials Science and Engineering from StanfordUniversity. In his free time, while not talking about energy to anyone within earshot, Evan enjoys exploring the California wilderness, live music, meeting new people, and culinary adventures. 


Ashwin Goel,
Director and VP Finance

As a Director and VP Finance for YPE San Francisco Bay Area, Ashwin handles all the accounting, finance and tax for our chapter. Ashwin is a solar industry professional and has worked in the industry since 2009. He is currently a National Sales Manager for SunEdison, a leading global solar energy provider. He has successfully developed over 50 projects totalling 25MW in North America and Europe. Prior to SunEdison, Ashwin was an Associate at The Green Machine Fund in New York, a boutique private equity fund focused on investing in solar companies and solar projects. 

Prior to YPE San Francisco, Ashwin was a Board Member and Finance Chair for YPE Toronto and helped with the incorporation and establishment as a non-profit. Some of the key accomplishments were assisting in the establishment of By-Laws, election of the Board of Directors, holding the first Annual General Meeting of Members, creating financial statements and submitting the first and second corporate tax filings. 

Ashwin has also worked at several tech startups in Chicago, Mumbai, New York and Toronto. He holds a BS in Economics from The University of Wisconsin Madison and has also taken continuing education courses in Finance from Columbia University in New York. 


Colin Law,
Director and VP Partnership & Outreach

As the VP Partnership & Outreach, Colin is responsible for providing energy professionals in the Bay Area with world-class events and opportunities through partnerships with universities, companies, non-profits, and other professionals groups. 

Outside of YPE, Colin works as a Product Engineer at Sunrun where he develops and manages Sunrun's solar offering in markets across the US. In this role, he concieves of, evaluates, and implements product features and changes, working to create a clean energy offering attractive to homeowners. Previously he worked as a consultant at McKinsey & Company in New York where he worked in strategy and operations at multiple coal, gas, wind and solar generators and utilities. In addition, he was selected for a competitive 1-year fellowship in McKinsey's global Sustainability and Resource Productivity practice. 

Colin holds a mechanical engineering degree from Queen's University in Canada, and enjoys hiking, skiing, backpacking, climbing, and running. 


Chris Vale,
Director and VP Sponsorship

Chris Vale is a Program Manager at Picarro, focusing on applications in the oil and gas industry. While at Picarro, Chris was a core member of the team that brought the Picarro Surveyor for Natural Gas Leaks™ to market, engaging stakeholders from regulators to utilities, and changing the way that gas leaks are detected and managed.

Previously, Chris was in charge of sales and service for the Bay Area for Ingersoll Rand’s large and specialty engineered compressor systems. He has also worked as an application engineer, and has mechanical design experience working for both large and small engineering firms. Chris has a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Tech and has lived in the Bay Area since 2006.


Kyla Westphal,
Director and VP Marketing & Communications

Kyla Westphal is a versatile communications professional with expertise in energy, clean technology, start-ups and politics. Kyla founded Westphal Communications to to help articulate, define and propel companies operating at the intersection of policy, technology and innovation. 

Kyla started her career as a public servant in U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer’s Office, and has since worked in a variety of clean technology sectors spanning voluntary renewable energy markets, energy storage, electric vehicles, and energy efficiency. Kyla is a published author, marketing strategist, content creator and social media lover. 

Kyla earned her Masters from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs in New York City, she also holds a BA in International Relations & Italian from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Kyla fuels her days and dreams with a Chemex coffee maker and a deep love of the finest coffee beans the Bay Area has to offer. 


Aaron van Boer,
Events Committee

Aaron van Boer is an experienced energy industry professional with a background in solar policy, project finance and development. He is currently a Business Development Manager at SunEdison, focusing on M&A, partnership development and company strategy across North America. Before coming to SunEdison, Aaron’s career in renewables has spanned a variety of roles with startups, non-profits and advocacy organizations, including Tioga Energy, SolarCraft, the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) and the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC). 

Aaron continues to be actively engaged in industry events, policy-making and membership organizations through his involvement with Young Professionals in Energy, Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) and ACORE. Aaron received a BA from the University of California Santa Barbara. During his free time, he enjoys road cycling, backpacking, and photography. 



Lizzie Caldwell,
Events Committee

Lizzie Caldwell is an Interconnection Coordinator at Bloom Energy, a company that installs commercial-sized solid-oxide fuel cell systems. In this role, she focuses on the electrical utility interconnection process for Bloom Energy’s fuel cells. As an Interconnection Coordinator for Bloom Energy, Lizzie has worked with large and small utilities to receive utility technical approval for fuel cells ranging from 100kW to 1MW. Prior to Bloom Energy, Lizzie worked as - you guessed it - an Interconnection Coordinator for SolarCity. At SolarCity, Lizzie engaged large and small utilities in California to receive interconnection approval for residential-sized solar systems. Since 2011, she has interconnected over 13MW of clean power systems. 

Lizzie holds a BS in Environmental Chemistry from University of California, San Diego. At UCSD, Lizzie directed the first student-funded green grant program in California called The Green Initiative Fund, allocating over $71K to 15 student sustainability projects in its first year. She also manages a twitter account called New Green Tech, dedicated to reporting new green technologies around the world. In her spare time, she enjoys biking, playing the saxophone, and rooting for the Green Bay Packers. 



Amy Kochanowsky,
Events Committee

Amy Kochanowsky manages an energy efficiency program at Pacific Gas and Electric Company, helping residential customers to adopt high-quality, energy-efficient products for their homes. Prior to PG&E, Amy interned in the Energy Department of the New York City Housing Authority, and worked as a consultant to EPA’s Brownfields Program. Through this work, Amy developed a passion for advancing energy and environmental sustainability issues that promote community and economic development. 

Amy holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University and a BA from the University of Virginia. During graduate school, she was an active member of the Sanford Energy & Environment Club. After finishing grad school in 2012, Amy moved to San Francisco. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring new cities, soccer, skiing, running, hiking, and cheering for Duke basketball. 



Ashish Nagar,
Events Committee

Ashish’s passion is to get disruptive technologies to market. Technologies, whose adoption solves the fundamental challenge of sustainable economic development for a burgeoning global population. To this end he has helped raise more than $20M in equity and strategic investments for Kinestral Technologies where he is currently leading the product, market development efforts. He has also worked as investment professional in a cleantech venture fund. 

Ashish holds a MS in Environmental Sciences and Engineering, MBA from Stanford University and an undergrad degree in Engineering Physics from Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. He was awarded the Feigenbaum Nii Foundation Award at Stanford for the best Masters Thesis in his class which focused on creating a business plan for reusing and recycling batteries from the automotive industry. Prior to that, Ashish was a management consultant with Boston Consulting Group, where he enjoyed defining and executing strategic initiatives for global technology corporations. 



Brian Orion,
Events Committee

Brian Orion is Principal at Lawyers for Clean Energy, a boutique clean energy and cleantech law firm in San Francisco. His practice focuses on corporate, transactional, intellectual property, and regulatory counseling to clients in the solar, electric vehicle, energy efficiency, and climate change arenas. Mr. Orion is a frequent speaker and author on energy and environmental topics. His articles have appeared in Carbon Finance Magazine and Natural Resources & Environment, the journal of the energy section of the American Bar Association. Mr. Orion co-founded the UC Hastings Cleantech Roundtable in 2009 to create a forum for engaging leaders in the cleantech industry. He graduated, cum laude, from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in 2005, where his academic record earned him selection to the Thurston Society and the law review.  



Eric Paul,
Events Committee

Eric Paul is a Business Development Manager at Ecoplexus, a commercial and utility-scale solar developer based out of San Francisco. At Ecoplexus, Eric works with commercial and institutional customers to develop onsite net-metered and virtually net-metered solar projects. Prior to joining Ecoplexus, Eric was a Senior Analyst at AltaTerra Research, a research consultancy specializing in renewable energy solutions for the commercial marketplace. As AltaTerra Research, he contributed to a broad range of market research and consulting engagements in corporate sustainability and renewable energy systems strategies. Previously, Mr. Paul worked for the Business Environmental Alliance in Sonoma County, where he assisted with the implementation of sustainable business practices for local businesses. 

Eric holds a BA in Economics from Carleton College. In his free time, Eric enjoys staying active by playing pick-up basketball. He is also a member of the San Francisco Lacrosse Men’s Lacrosse team. 



Alex Portilla,
Events Committee

Alex has nine years of experience working with high growth companies both as an entrepreneur and as a strategy consultant advising emerging technology companies, multinational innovation offices and the public sector. As a founding partner of Interrupcion* Fair Trade, Alex built the company from inception to rapid growth and market leadership. Most recently at the Innovation Center Denmark Alex served as a strategic advisor to Danish cleantech companies and organizations looking to raise capital, find collaboration partners or scale globally via Silicon Valley.

Alex currently is a Project Manager at PG&E running a series of large-scale smart grid pilot and demonstration projects. Previously Alex was with the Innovation Center Denmark (ICDK) working as a strategic advisor to Danish cleantech companies and organizations looking to raise capital, find collaboration partners or scale globally via Silicon Valley. Prior to joining ICDK, Alex was a Founder and the Commercial Director in the Brooklyn, NY based Interrupcion* Fair Trade which commercializes organic and fair trade certified food products from South America in North America.

Alex has a passion for entrepreneurship and innovation and is dedicated to using business to solve societal challenges such as climate change, access to clean water and energy independence.

Alex studied International Business and Management and Organizational Behavior at the Stern School of Business at New York University and is currently studying in the Evening & Weekend MBA Program at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.



Whitney Richardson,
Events Committee

Whitney Richardson is an energy policy professional based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Most recently she served as Smart Grid Policy Manager for the Clean Coalition, a non-profit focused on increasing clean local power. Previously she has held positions focusing on energy policy and regulation at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, consulting firm DNV GL and Pacific Gas and Electric. She holds a MALD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at TuftsUniversity. In her free time she enjoys hiking, cooking and volunteering with the National Parks Service.



Melissa Ruth,
Events Committee

Melissa Ruth is a Business Development Manager at Morrison & Foerster LLP. She is responsible for leading the business development and marketing efforts of the firm’s Global Energy Practice Group. Melissa has more than 10 years of experience, with 7+ years of legal marketing experience focused on the energy, clean technology and renewable energy industry. She is knowledgeable in energy and clean technology trends, sub-industry areas and niche legal services for the energy industry.

In her role as Business Development Manager at Morrison & Foerster, her specialties include: negotiation of local and national sponsorships for speaking engagements and conferences; leading all stages of event development and implementation, from targeting attendance participation, customizing materials to leading action-oriented follow-up; and developing pitch materials and systems to utilize modules for customized materials.

Prior to relocating to San Francisco in July 2012, she was based in the San Diego office of Morrison & Foerster. Melissa holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from BelmontUniversity in Nashville, Tennessee.



Mark Shahinian,
Events Committee

Mark Shahinian is an independent consultant who works with startups, investors and large corporations involved in clean technology development and commercialization.

This being San Francisco, Mark also recently launched a startup in the electric power space. Previously, Mark was in the energy practice of consulting firm McKinsey & Company, where he was one of the firm’s global cleantech fellows. Mark enjoys the complex, difficult mix that is the electric power industry and is excited to be back in the hotbed of entrepreneurship and innovation that is the Bay Area.

Mark holds a law degree and also Master’s degree in Natural Resources, both from the University of Michigan. He did his undergraduate studies in history at DartmouthCollege. In his non-working hours, Mark really enjoys the outdoors. He is an avid road cyclist and mountain biker, skier, backcountry explorer and runner.



Peter O'Brien,
Advisory Board

Peter O'Brien is Director, Business Development and Sales at Cool Earth Solar where he spends most of his time developing commercial solar projects for clients. 

Peter earned his MBA at Cornell University's S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management. Peter also holds a B.A. in Philosophy from PrincipiaCollege. In his spare time he enjoys acrobatic gymnastics, running, reading, and cooking. Peter is also fluent in written and spoken Thai and conversational in Spanish.