This is part in an ongoing series about Michiganders working toward climate solutions. Know someone we should write about? Hit reply!
You can usually find Brandy Brown, a climate change and energy expert in Michigan, outside with her kids. Given the option, she’d prefer to live in the woods, rather than in her house.
This deep appreciation for nature, and her lived experience witnessing family members struggle with environmental injustice, is part of what led her to the climate change work that she does now. Brown is the Chief Innovation Officer at Walker-Miller Energy, an energy waste reduction company based in Detroit. She’s also an environmental justice lecturer at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability.
Brandy Brown. Courtesy photo,
But before that, she had 10 years of consulting experience in the energy and environmental field.
In 2012, she was recruited by a consulting agency to work with Consumers Energy. Working as an energy efficiency consultant she said was, “An exciting way to figure out how I could serve, and use my passion for the environment a little bit differently in the energy space.
A decade ago, people weren't talking about decarbonization and energy efficiency as kind of going hand in hand,” she said. But she was interested in that pairing, what programs worked, and who they worked for.
Through this work experience, she carved out a niche for herself.
After working with Consumers Energy, she went to work for a Texas consultant group on energy and electric vehicles. Then, in 2019, she was selected as a Climate and Energy Advisor and led the Office of Climate and Energy for the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, or EGLE.
Although the position was exciting for her, she left in 2021.
As an introvert, the public-facing position was challenging. But there were additional reasons she left.
“There are still some barriers in being a woman of color and having people be able to hear you in an effective manner,” she said. Brown found herself dealing with diversity, equity, and inclusion issues on top of the climate work she was doing, all while her own loved ones experienced environmental injustice. “It was exhausting,” she said.
So, Brown left and became the Chief Innovation Officer at Walker-Miller Energy Services, where, for the first time her whole self was welcomed in the workplace, she said.
“There's this diverse team who wants to make it even more diverse and we are committed to not recreating the same inequities that we've built as a society in the last 100 years. In this energy transition, there is the potential that we are just building more inequities on top of the existing inequities and never resolving anything,” she said.
But she and the team at Walker-Miller are committed to not letting that happen.
For Brown, working at Walker-Miller has allowed her to work on the same climate change issues, but without the weight of being a public official. In her new role, she said the work moves a little bit faster, and she can be more nimble and creative in solutions.
Brown’s commitment to community engagement and representation sets her apart, said Ninah Sasy, former director of EGLE’s Office of the Clean Water Public Advocate. At EGLE, Sasy worked closely with Brown on environmental issues and community engagement.
Sasy said sometimes people in the environmental field lack a personal perspective that allows them to see the impact decisions have on people. But Brown was, and is, different in that regard.
“Brandy understood, and was able to really make sure she had people at the table that needed to be there,” Sasy said.
Take the Catalyst Communities Initiative, for example, a state initiative pushed forward by Brown to prepare communities for the effects of climate change and implement clean energy projects.
“She’s able to intellectually think about ways to tackle solutions,” Sasy said, “but she also understands that we have to really listen to our community and that these should be community-driven solutions and innovations.”
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