DOE picks solar office chief

Source: By Lesley Clark and Christa Marshall, E&E News reporters • Posted: Thursday, November 21, 2019

The Department of Energy has tapped agency official Becca Jones-Albertus to lead its solar office, according to an email obtained by E&E News.

Jones-Albertus has been with the Solar Energy Technologies Office since 2013, most recently as its deputy director. She will replace former Director Charlie Gay, who earned the nickname “Dr. Solar” and retired from federal service on Nov. 1.

“Becca has been an outstanding performer in her role as deputy director,” Daniel Simmons, the chief of the agency’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, wrote in the email announcing her promotion.

DOE’s solar research arm has been a frequent target of President Trump, who has sought to slash its budget by more than 70%. Congress has continued to restore funding, and Gay said in June that the budget had actually increased in the past two years to $246 million in fiscal 2019, after hitting a low in 2017 (Energywire, June 14).

Simmons noted that Jones-Albertus began working in the solar office in 2013 as a program manager, leading the photovoltaics research and development program, which sought to lower costs and improve efficiency and reliability.

Before joining DOE, Jones-Albertus spent five years in the solar industry “developing new high efficiency solar cell technology and transitioning that technology into manufacturing,” Simmons wrote.

She received her doctorate in materials science and engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, and holds 13 U.S. patents on photovoltaic technology.

Her LinkedIn profile shows she worked at San Jose, Calif.-based Solar Junction Corp., which builds high-efficiency solar cells and won a DOE award in 2012.

Simmons in the email hailed Gay’s “45 years of experience as a pioneer in the solar industry,” noting that in addition to his three years as director of the solar office, he also directed the National Renewable Energy Laboratory from 1994 to 1997.

Gay established the Greenstar Foundation in 1997 to demonstrate an economically sustainable model to deliver solar power and internet access for health, education and microenterprise projects to developing areas. He plans to go back to the foundation.

“We wish him well as he returns to work with Greenstar pursuing his passion of helping improve people’s lives through energy access,” Simmons said.

In an interview with Green Home Builder, Jones-Albertus noted a priority for her office is addressing the challenge posed by incorporating solar to the grid and determining “how solar can be coupled with other technologies to enable a better supply of energy when it is needed, not just when the sun is shining.”