Reflecting On Our Collective Achievements

Headshot of NCSEA's former Executive Director, Ward Lenz

After several months of planning, in July we announced that I was stepping down from the role of Executive Director here at the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA). It has been an honor to work with the team at NCSEA, the board, and all of our members and partners over the last seven years, with three and a half of those as Executive Director. 

Through the end of September, I’ll be helping with the transition to new leadership, starting with our new Interim Executive Director, Matt Abele. While I’ve been deeply engaged in the clean energy sector for nearly 30 years, the last seven has been filled with exceptional growth and market transformation, and I’m proud that NCSEA and I have been a major part, working to help open markets and opportunities for businesses to create jobs. It probably surprises no one reading this that changing long standing policies designed for legacy energy sources and entrenched companies is a difficult challenge. But if it were easy, someone else would have already done it. 

For example, passing a policy as simple as allowing electric vehicle charging stations to sell electricity instead of time spent in a parking space involved an NCSEA led multi-year stakeholder process that included multiple government agencies, electric utilities, and private sector companies. And through that stakeholder engagement, the group collaboratively developed commonsense policy changes needed to open markets and business models to serve the nascent electric vehicle charging market. Beyond identifying the market challenges and developing the needed policy changes, the community of stakeholders and partners invested numerous resources into legislative education to help successfully change the law. 

No single person can take credit for an entire process or success like this - instead, it took many of us and many of you to pass seemingly simple changes in state law to open new business opportunities and create new jobs. 

The mantra of “it takes a village” couldn’t be truer when it came to even more transformative legislation, like House Bill 951, which established carbon reduction mandates for electricity generation within the state. This bill was the result of hundreds (if not thousands) of people taking part in years of discussions stemming from the signing of Executive Order 80 through the clean energy plan and into final legislative negotiations. 

Understanding that no legislation is ever perfect, some is groundbreaking, from Senate Bill 3 in 2007 to House Bill 951 in 2021. In each of these instances, we saw proactive policy help to advance and accelerate the clean energy transition in the state, growing the economy to more than 103,000 full time employees. Again, I am so proud of the team at NCSEA, along with our partners and allies who work tirelessly to move these policies forward. 

In part because of the legislation NCSEA has championed over the last 45 years, along with the innovative nature of our member companies, solar electricity now surpasses coal generation as part of our overall generation mix. And while solar is booming within the state, onshore and offshore wind are currently in development, and electric vehicles are rapidly taking over market share.  

We’ve been through a lot, NCSEA and you as members, over the years. And we have to remind ourselves sometimes where we started and where we are today, while keeping our eye on where we are going and why. Thank you to everyone for supporting NCSEA and our mission, and also for doing the hard work to develop the clean energy economy. 

In addition to the work of NCSEA that can be reflected in the strength of the clean energy economy, I also want to express my pride in the team working behind the scenes to make NCSEA a strong and resilient organization. It is not an accident that we have achieved the highest available 4-star rating from Charity Navigator for the last five years. We also recently absorbed the North Carolina Building Performance Association (taking on many of the building energy efficiency advocacy measures) and serve as fiscal sponsor for the North Carolina Clean Energy Fund. Collaboratively supporting organizations like these, and many others, will have far reaching impacts, by expanding market opportunities for clean energy all throughout every sector of our economy on the pathway to fully decarbonizing our electricity, transportation, and building sectors. 

While I’ll be transitioning out of the leadership role here at NCSEA by the end of September, I will still be very active in the clean energy community, after taking some time off to travel, hike (feel free to recommend good hiking locations), read, and visit with family and friends. I thank you all for your friendship, support, and partnership over the last seven years and look forward to this next phase in life and in clean energy. 


  1. Laura Combs on August 30, 2023 at 6:11 pm

    Thank you, Ward, for all that you have done! And congratulations on this next step in your journey… which should be in the Dupont Forest near Brevard, NC. Great waterfall hike, and then to Gorges State Park for more waterfalls (and cabins)!

  2. Kitt Butler on August 30, 2023 at 11:22 pm

    Congratulations Ward and job well done! I am glad we had those years together at AE and look forward to following your next phase. All the best!

  3. David Gipson on August 31, 2023 at 2:25 am

    Well done!

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