Cathy Zoi is a leading environmentalist who has had a lengthy career in both government and the private sector. She holds a B.S. degree in geology from Duke University (1983), and an M.S. in engineering from Dartmouth College (1985). From 1993-95, Zoi was Chief of Staff in the White House Office on Environmental Policy for the Bill Clinton Administration. In 1995 she became a manager at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), where she pioneered the government’s Energy Star Program, which provides information on the energy efficiency of various products and devices.
From 1996-99, Zoi was the founding CEO and Assistant Director General of the Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA), a $50 million fund devoted to commercializing greenhouse-friendly technology in New South Wales, Australia. She then moved to Sydney, Australia, where she worked as Assistant Director General of the New South Wales EPA. From 2003-06, Zoi served as Group Executive Director at the Bayard Group — later renamed Landis+Gyr Holdings — an international energy-management company that operated in 30 countries. In 2006, she partnered with Al Gore to create the Alliance for Climate Protection (ACP), a powerful and well-funded environmental group. Together, Zoi and Gore advocated on behalf of cap-and-trade legislation and promoted a federally funded transition to a new green economy in America. Zoi served as ACP’s Chief Executive Officer from 2007-09.
At the Aspen Environmental Forum in March 2008, Zoi suggested that government involvement in creating a new green economy would be a key factor in pulling America out of its economic recession. “Just as munitions got us out of the [Great] Depression,” she told the audience, “the transition to a clean energy economy is going to get us out of this.” Zoi shared her vision of a “neighborhood-by-neighborhood mobilization that may be like the Peace Corps-meets-the-military, where literally SWAT teams go into neighborhoods and they retrofit every single house, every single business on main street.” She then defended the high cost of such an undertaking, saying “that it probably isn’t as cheap as the calculations on paper, but [we must] organize ourselves the way we would a military organization.”
On March 27, 2009, President Barack Obama nominated Zoi as the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. On June 19, 2009, the U.S. Senate confirmed Zoi for the post, giving her oversight over the Department’s $2.3 billion applied science, research, development, and deployment portfolio, plus another $16.8 billion in funds that had been made available under Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (i.e., the 2009 Stimulus Package).
In February 2009, Zoi spoke at the Blue Green Alliance‘s annual “Good Jobs, Green Jobs” Conference, where she shared the podium with such notables as Sherrod Brown, Keith Ellison, Leo Gerard, Van Jones, Kathleen Sebelius, and Richard Trumka.
In August 2009, at the National Clean Energy Summit 2.0 held in Las Vegas, Zoi toured the city with Van Jones, John Podesta, Harry Reid, and a number of progressive environmentalists. In a panel that included also Senator Reid as well as Bill Clinton, Al Gore, T. Boone Pickens, and Hilda Solis, Zoi again depicted the economic recession as the primary reason why the federal government had been able to move ahead with its plan to bankroll its green-economy initiatives. “We are getting involved in a lot of important financing activities right now because of what happened on Wall Street last year,” she said.
In January 2010, Fox Business’s John Stossel hosted Annette Meeks and Jonathan Blake of the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota in a discussion about the crony capitalism that pervaded the “green jobs” provisions of the 2009 Stimulus Package. Specifically, they addressed the $584,000 in Stimulus Package funds that the Department of Energy had already funneled to a small window company called Serious Materials (renamed as Serious Energy in June 2011), where Zoi’s husband, Robin Roy, served as Policy Director. Meeks and Blake in particular called into question how Serious Materials had managed to become the White House’s “poster child” for green jobs and economic recovery, noting that executives from the company had appeared publicly with President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden six times in just one year.
By April 2010, a number of media outlets were disclosing that Zoi and her husband held a significant financial stake not only in Serious Materials, but also in Landis+Gyr, Zoi’s former employer, which likewise benefited greatly from Stimulus Package spending. Robin Roy, for his part, owned options on 120,000 shares of Serious Materials and was slated to receive an additional 2,500 shares every month until October 2012. Zoi, meanwhile, owned between $250,000 and $500,000 worth of stock in Landis+Gyr.
In a July 2012 piece, investigative journalist Joel Pollak provided additional context for this scandal:
“Serious Energy … was personally hyped by President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Senator Roland Burris as a ‘green jobs’ company funded by Obama’s 2009 stimulus. [But by 2012, Serious Energy was] closing factories and laying off workers–and the Federal Trade Commission … found [that the company had] made false claims about the energy efficiency of its products….
“Back in May 2010, it was already clear that Serious Energy was a fiasco…. The story began with ShoreBank, the defunct Chicago bank that was the darling of the Chicago left. ShoreBank specialized in lending in poor neighborhoods, and was close to members of the Obama administration, as well as to the Clintons. But the bank ran into trouble when the housing bubble burst. Democrats lobbied for a bailout, which was partly thwarted by Tea Party protests. The government eventually shut it down in 2010.
“Along the way, however, Shorebank received $35 million in stimulus credits as part of the ‘green jobs’ focus of the Obama administration, which was then overseen by Van Jones. Shorebank required low-income borrowers to conduct an energy audit of their homes, in return for a ‘free,’ energy-efficient refrigerator. Shorebank also required their borrowers to ‘weatherize’ their homes by installing ‘green’ windows to save energy.
“One of the local producers of ‘green’ windows was Republic Windows and Doors, a company that failed in 2008–and which became an instant cause célèbre for Obama, his union allies, and his friends in the left-wing media. Workers, with the support of the SEIU, staged an illegal strike inside the Republic factory in December 2008. President-elect Obama endorsed the illegal strike, as did many fellow Chicago-area politicians.
“Republic’s main creditor was Bank of America–a favorite target of the SEIU. In one of his last acts before being busted by federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald for attempting to sell Obama’s soon-to-be-vacated U.S. Senate seat, Gov. Rod Blagojevich declared [that] the State of Illinois would withdraw all of its business from Bank of America unless it bailed out Republic. The company was eventually bought in 2009 by Serious Energy.
“The White House soon made Serious Energy a symbol of ‘green jobs’ as well as the stimulus…. Vice President Biden visited the Chicago factory, calling it a ‘potentially thriving business that can lead this country.’ Rachel Maddow of MSNBC touted the story as a victory for unions and for ‘green collar jobs.’ With Obama’s endorsement and taxpayer dollars, Serious Energy raised serious–and risky–private capital. But ‘green windows’ turned out to be neither green nor profitable. [By 2012 the company was] focusing on selling software and soundproof drywall. And the Chicago factory [was] about to scrapped.”
Zoi stepped down from her Energy Department post in February 2011. That same month, she was hired as a partner by Silver Lake Kraftwerk, a clean-energy, private-equity growth fund that received financial backing from billionaire George Soros.
In July 2011, Zoi was named by Forbes magazine as one of the “Top 12 Women of Cleantech.”
Zoi was an adjunct professor at Stanford University from 2012-17. In January 2013 she was named to the board of directors of Makani Power, a California-based company that developed airborne wind turbines with the support of Google and the U.S. Department of Energy. Later that year, Zoi worked briefly as Chief Strategy Officer for C3 Energy, an enterprise application software company.
In May 2014 Zoi joined the board of directors of Ice Energy, a leading provider of distributed thermal energy storage and smart-grid solutions.
From June 2015 to June 2016, she was the CEO of SunEdison Frontier Power, a clean-energy company.
In June 2016 Zoi co-founded Odyssey Energy Solutions (OES), a Colorado-based software company that aims to bring “distributed, renewable electricity to communities and businesses in emerging economies.” She served as President of OES for 17 months, and has been the company’s Executive Chairman since November 2017.
Also since November 2017, Zoi has been the CEO of EVgo, America’s largest fast-charging network for electric vehicles.