Originally published in City & State New York on December 21, 2020.

Energy & Environment Power 100

The advocates, executives, academics and government officials shaping New York’s transition to sustainability.

As climate change poses a growing threat across the globe, New York has been mounting an increasingly aggressive response with measures to slash carbon emissions, invest in renewable power and boost energy efficiency across the board. Last year’s state Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which sets ambitious targets for eliminating fossil fuel power and reducing greenhouse gases, is a model for the nation. In New York City, Local Law 97 set strict limits on emissions from buildings, the city’s biggest carbon producer. In Washington, the incoming Biden administration may not go as far as some environmentalists would like, but it has pledged to rejoin the Paris climate accord – and New Yorker Ali Zaidi, the governor’s former deputy energy secretary, has been summoned to D.C. to help, while state environmental Commissioner Basil Seggos was considered to run the Environmental Protection Agency. 

In this time of transition, the energy industry is adapting in different ways. Renewable energy companies that develop offshore wind and solar power are thriving. Traditional power producers are rebranding as environmentally conscious actors, though some find themselves at the center of contentious debates over the long- and short-term role of natural gas or nuclear power. And even within the environmental movement, younger and more diverse activists are demanding stronger measures while putting a renewed emphasis on race and social justice. City & State’s Energy & Environment Power 100 identifies the key players who are driving the debate – and the policies – here in New York.

90. Dennis Elsenbeck

Head of Energy and Sustainability, Energy Consulting Services, Phillips Lytle

Dennis Elsenbeck is a former utility executive and a leading Buffalo-based energy consultant at Phillips Lytle – and he’s one of 22 members of the state’s Climate Action Council, which is tasked with implementing the state’s sweeping climate change law. Elsenbeck, who was appointed by the state Senate Democrats, told Politico that he hopes the state prioritizes “the manufacturing community so that they’re not spectators but participants.”