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Jennifer Obertino

Senior Vice President & Global Energy Practice Leader at AECOM

Panelist on Strategies to Successfully Navigate, Accelerate & Support a Just Energy Transition

Jennifer Obertino, PE is the Global Energy Practice Leader for AECOM. In this pivotal role she leads a team of energy practitioners across the globe, guiding clients through development and delivery of transformative energy projects and programs. Jennifer's commitment to providing the best service to clients aligns perfectly with AECOM's goal of delivering a better world through sustainability and resilience. Her accountability for technical excellence and professional development ensures that her team is equipped to address the challenges of grid modernization, decarbonization, and renewable energy integration.


Having advised a diverse portfolio of clients, including utilities, oil and gas companies, industrial firms, and state departments, Jennifer possesses a broad perspective on the energy transition landscape. This breadth of experience enables her to facilitate meaningful discussions and insights during the panel, drawing from real-world examples and best practices.

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Expert insight: Powering a people-centric energy transition

Jennifer Obertino, Senior Vice President, Global Energy Practice Leader at AECOM, shares her thoughts on powering a people-centric energy transition ahead of her participation in a panel debate at Environment Analyst’s Sustainability Delivery Summit (24-26 June 2024, Boston).


Driven by technology, economics, and policy, the energy transition will reimagine how we produce, transport, store, and consume energy. Its pace, scale and complexity present a transformational opportunity for our infrastructure. When considered this way, it’s understandable to see it as a technocratic process, deploying innovation and best practices at scale. But in reality, it will prove far more complex. And that’s a good thing.

To enable a just and sustainable transition — one that minimizes harm and maximizes social and environmental benefits — it’s critical to reach underserved communities most impacted by climate change. A top-down approach alone will not suffice.

Instead, the energy transition must occur at the intersection of people, policy, and technology. It requires us as practitioners to build deeper connections with stakeholders, and act with the intention. Only by connecting this ecosystem of communities and innovations can we unlock the opportunities of the energy transition. 

Grid modernization, in particular, has come to epitomize this core mission of the energy transition.

Programs like SDG&E’s Strategic Undergrounding Program (SUG) demonstrate an increase in grid modernization projects going beyond traditional grid upgrades to also incorporate investments in resilience initiatives that capture benefits to the grid, utility customers, and communities in the vicinity of its distribution lines.

As a part of these efforts, SUG has centered community impact by prioritizing partnerships with local disadvantaged business enterprises, and engaging in a robust outreach plan with property owners, tribal communities, and other stakeholders. The innovative outreach model has introduced property owner liaisons to improve customer satisfaction and program outcomes. 

Incorporating intentional workforce development into carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), renewables, and grid modernization projects and programs is also an impactful way to accelerate a just transition.

Up-skilling and re-skilling can be addressed at the individual level as well as at the government level. Individual organizations should maintain responsibility of ensuring training is developed and shared with their existing workforce for new assets and systems that are unfamiliar, such as battery energy storage systems, CCS, and other technologies.

Local governments have also taken a proactive approach, and in many areas have developed incentives and workforce development programs to accelerate adoption of green technologies and upskill local industry. This can take the form of partnerships with non-profits, education target communities, and leveraging funding to establish and advance new programs. An example of this can be found in Maryland’s Building Energy Transition Implementation Task Force

Launched following the state’s Climate Solutions Act of 2022,  the Task Force analyzed the impact of incentive programs and recommended the implementation of those that encourage electrification in the buildings sector and the adoption of low carbon technologies. The program has a particular focus on reaching marginalized communities and seeks to provide workforce development and incentives to advance electrification in low- to moderate-income communities. As a contributor to Maryland’s 2040 net-zero target, it will also help set a standard for other states seeking to help vulnerable populations lead in decarbonization.

Numerous stakeholders — communities, utilities, developers, governments — and solutions — CCS, renewables, the grid — together constitute the energy transition. And at this complex intersection lies opportunity. 

By connecting people to new technologies and stakeholders, we can create a pathway for communities to benefit from and shape this massive shift in our built environment. Ultimately, our success will depend not just on high-level policy and innovation, but on unifying each part of this complex ecosystem of people, infrastructure and technology. 

Hear more from Jennifer at the Summit

Meet Jennifer and learn more about how to power a people-centric energy transition at the Summit (24-26 June 2024, Boston).

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