Sustainable Now: Securing Energy and Water Access for our Vulnerable Communities

Event Description

Access to energy and water services is essential to the health and wealth of our communities.  When access is threatened due to high cost, scant availability and/or poor quality, all citizens suffer.  However, this burden falls heaviest on our vulnerable communities living in low-income neighborhoods in urban cities, rural towns and villages around the world. This forum focuses on how policymakers, researchers, activists, developers, investors, and others can use the levers of public policy, finance, and technology to increase true access, ensuring greater energy and water security for all.

Breakout Sessions

The breakout sessions are the heartbeat of the “Sustainable Now” forums.  The following breakout sessions have been elected to explore how policy prescriptions, finance strategies, and emerging technologies can play a role in increasing energy and water security by improving access to our vulnerable communities.

Policy Prescriptions

Who is responsible for increasing access to energy and water – government, private sector or neither? What policy tools are available to support the increase of true access? How do we quantify the cost of limited energy and water access? What impact will the Trump administration’s environmental policies have in the US and the rest of the world?

Finance Strategies

Can finance be the driving force for the democratization of energy and water infrastructure? Can PACE, PAYS, Pay as you go or other financial products increase the availability of much-needed capital?  What lessons can we draw from experiences in microfinance?  How can we unlock the promise of impact investing to meet the needs of securing energy and water?

Emerging Technologies

Can the implementation of distributed technologies minimize the need for utility scale infrastructure investments? What technologies are available now to provide greater access to clean water? Are microgrids and battery storage viable market solutions?  How can governments, NGOs, and others support the transfer and scale-up of promising technologies?

Key Participants

*Click on participant organizations to read full bio

Trenton Allen

Managing Director and CEO, Sustainable Capital Advisors

Michelle Moore

Chief Executive Officer, Groundswell

Derrick Johnson

Vice Chair, NAACP

Sudha Gollapudi

Consultant, Independent

David O'Connor

Chief Operating Officer, Solar Sister

Marilyn Waite

Senior Manager, Energy, Village Capital

Brett Korte

Director of the Associate Program , Environmental Law Institute (ELI)

Yasemin Erboy Ruff

Senior Officer, Energy and Climate, United Nations Foundation

Harshul Banthia

Director, Sustainable Capital Advisors

Ivan Frishberg

First Vice President, Sustainability Banking , Amalgamated Bank


I. Pre-Forum Networking (30 min) 1:30 - 2:00pm
II. Welcome (10 min) 2:00 - 2:10pm

Trenton Allen, Sustainable Capital Advisors

III. Framing Conversation (25 min) 2:10 - 2:35pm

An interview with an influential leader discussing the current state of true energy and water access for vulnerable communities

Michelle Moore, Chief Executive Officer, Groundswell 

Derrick Johnson, Vice Chair, NAACP 


IV. Panel Discussion (35 min) 2:35 - 3:10pm

An interactive discussion by experienced practitioners on the challenges and opportunities for increasing energy and water access in both United States and beyond.

Harshul Banthia, Director, Sustainable Capital Advisors (Moderator)

Ivan Frishberg, First Vice President Sustainability Banking, Amalgamated Bank

Yasemin Erboy Ruff, Senior Officer (Energy and Climate), UN Foundation

David O’Connor, Chief Operating Officer, Solar Sister

V. Breakout Sessions (60 min) 3:10 - 4:10pm

Small group discussions facilitated by experienced professionals focused on creative a robust dialogue while uncovering immediate paths to accelerate opportunities that overcome challenges and barriers

  • Policy Prescriptions Brett Korte, Director of the Associate Program, Environmental Law Institute (ELI)
  • Finance StrategiesSudha Gollapudi, Independent Consultant
  • Emerging TechnologiesMarilyn Waite, Senior Manager, Energy, Village Capital
VI. Report Out (15 min) 4:10 - 4:25pm
VII. Closing (5 min) 4:25 - 4:30pm

Trenton Allen, Sustainable Capital Advisors

VIII. Networking (30 min) 4:30 - 5:00pm


In preparation for the second installment of our Sustainable Now series, “Securing Energy and Water Access for Our Vulnerable Communities,” we have compiled a list of sources created to spark dialogue on issues surrounding

Chandler, Adam. “Where the Poor Spend More Than 10 Percent of Their Income on Energy.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 08 June 2016. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.

Garren, Sean, Anthony Giancatarino, Stan Greschner, Rosalind Jackson, and Ingrid Schwingler. “Low-Income Solar Policy Guide.” Rep. Washington, DC: GRID Alternatives, 2016. Web.

Gusovsky, Dina. “America’s Water Worries Are Bigger than Flint.” CNBC. CNBC, 28 Mar. 2016. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.

Sachs, Rob. “How New Technologies Are Bringing Water to the Developing World.” Public Radio International. PRI, 08 Aug. 2014. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.

Stocking, Andrew. “Energy Security in the United States.” Rep. Washington, DC: Congress of the United States, Congressional Budget Office, 2012. Web.

Sabol, Patrick. “Why Energy Matters to Working Families.” Groundswell. Web. 14 Apr 2016. 


Access to energy and water services is essential to the health and wealth of our communities.  When access is threatened due to high cost, scant availability, or poor quality, all citizens suffer. The second installment of our Sustainable Now forum, Securing Energy and Water Access for Our Vulnerable Communities, brought together some of the brightest minds in industry, finance, government, nonprofits, and academia to discuss solutions, exchange ideas, and develop plans for accelerating action toward a more sustainable future. In addition to the summary below, here are a few of our biggest takeaways from the event:

  • ‘Access’ as a comprehensive metric has yet to be realized in the United States.
  • Accessing financial capital for new energy and water infrastructure projects and technologies will require policymakers to establish firm goals and incentives for market stakeholders.
  • Policy decisions need to be first made from a local standpoint and then scaled up to regional and national levels.

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