Climate Leadership in LA: Interview with Dawn Wilson

Posted by on Tuesday, July 25th, 2017

Tell us about your work on climate change.

My work on climate change has evolved through the years. I was originally a real estate attorney who transitioned into environmental law. Since I love working with people, I eventually moved into management on the business side, where I was first involved in direct climate actions with real impact. As the SCE facilities director, LEED certification became our standard for all new and major remodeled units, we installed drought-tolerant landscaping and purple pipe recycled water systems to save water and energy, and we built an energy efficient and environmentally intelligent LEED Gold Data Center on a brownfield site. From there, I became the Director of Environmental Affairs and Sustainability, where I am now directly involved in developing SCE’s climate policy to transition us to a clean energy future. I am proud to say that SCE is on track to obtain 50% of our power from renewable sources by 2030. And we have been number one in the nation for three years in a row in the number of new solar customers connected. My team is directly involved with getting funding to install the charging infrastructure needed for the widespread adoption of zero-emission electric vehicles. I am particularly proud of my work on behalf of environmental justice communities to make certain that they are not left behind when it comes to reaping the benefits of clean energy systems and access to charging stations.

What inspired you on your career path? And what or who inspires you now?

Believe it or not, I was originally inspired to become a lawyer by watching Perry Mason on TV! But my biggest inspiration then and now has always been my father. I remember being carried on his shoulders during the civil rights marches back in the ’60s. That experience gave me with a deep desire to always work hard for fairness and justice. When my father retired as a professor from UC Berkeley, people came from all over the world to participate in a symposium honoring him. It was humbling to see how his work had inspired their lives and careers. That experience crystallized what success means to me. I want to inspire others to make a difference.

What are the barriers you face in work — and what could make your job easier?

My biggest issue with developing good policies, particularly in the current political climate, is getting people to listen to each other. We tend to surround ourselves with people that think “like us” and dismiss other points of view. We pre-judge people based on who we think they are, who they work for, or what party we think they belong to. We frequently judge the message by the messenger. My job would be easier if we could all step out of our comfort zones and really listen to the substance of the ideas being offered. Open our minds to alternate points of view. None of us is always right. Our truth is never the whole truth. There are always things we don’t know or hadn’t considered, since we all know different things and have different life experiences. If we could stop vilifying and start listening, we could get so much farther together.

A genie grants you two wishes that will help fight climate change. What do you ask for? The third wish is for anything you want (sky’s the limit!).

Well, after the first wish, we wouldn’t have climate change! But assuming that was beyond the genie’s power, I would first wish for a battery technology breakthrough so EVs wouldn’t have range limits, we could have heavy-duty long range electric trucks, we could easily store energy from renewable energy sources, and we wouldn’t need fossil-fuel peakers to back up the grid. My second wish would be to have EV chargers and solar panels everywhere! As my final wish, I would eliminate hate so people would always listen to each other with compassion.

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