- Former CEO of Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection
- Controversial Obama appointee to the Energy Department, where she oversaw more than $16 billion in stimulus spending
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, and an M.S. in Engineering from Dartmouth College. 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.
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 2003-07, 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 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 Bill Clinton, Al Gore, T. Boone Pickens, Senator Reid, 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 pervading the “green jobs” provisions of the 2009 Stimulus Package. According to Meeks and Blake, Zoi’s husband, Robin Roy, worked as the policy director of Serious Materials, which had gained a special Stimulus Package tax credit from the Department of Energy. Meeks and Blake also questioned how Serious Materials had managed to become the White House’s “poster child” for green jobs and economic recovery, noting that executives from the small window company had appeared publicly with President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden six times in one year.
By April 2010, a number of media outlets were disclosing that Zoi and her husband held a significant financial stake in Serious Materials and Landis+Gyr, two companies benefitting greatly from Stimulus Package spending. Indeed, Robin Roy 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, the company for which she had worked from 2003-07.
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.
Zoi has been a consulting professor at Stanford University since the Fall of 2012. 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.