Earth Stewardship Advocate: Kimberly Ann Johnston Pioneering Sustainable Solutions in Energy

Kimberly Ann Johnston | Founder and CEO of NextGen Energy Partners
Kimberly Ann Johnston | Founder and CEO of NextGen Energy Partners

The winds of change are upon us, propelling us towards a transformative future, one marked by exponential advancements in sustainable energy. Industry leaders have become the pioneers of progress, charting a course towards a greener future. They spearhead research and development, investing in groundbreaking technologies like solar, wind and geothermal power. Their commitment champions responsible practices, ensuring minimal environmental impact throughout the energy life cycle.

As the global demand for resilient and carbon-free energy solutions intensifies, precursors like Kimberly Ann Johnston play a pivotal role in shaping the trajectory of the energy sector. With over three decades of experience in the energy domain, Kimberly epitomizes expertise and leadership as the Founder and CEO of NextGen Energy Partners. Her journey is one defined by a relentless pursuit of excellence, marked by a commitment to unlocking the potential of sustainable energy technologies.

At NextGen Energy Partners, Kimberly leverages her extensive experience to offer highly specialized consultancy services to governments, utilities, research institutions, and community-led organizations. Her focus on resilient power sector infrastructure, energy security priorities and climate risk mitigation stresses her dedication to building a sustainable future.

Kimberly’s impact extends past boardrooms and consultancy sessions. As a frequent speaker at prestigious global forums like the United Nations and NARUC, she shares insights on clean energy technologies, industrial decarbonization and transportation electrification, inspiring action and driving meaningful change on a global scale.

Join in uncovering insights into resilient power infrastructure, carbon-free solutions and global energy transformation!

Empowering Energy

Settled in Houston, Kimberly was a young working mother in the 1990s who eagerly embarked on her career journey. Houston—known as the energy capital of the world—offered a thriving and advancing market spanning oil and gas, midstream, power, and utilities sectors.

Kimberly’s passion throughout her career has been to foster economic growth and enhance access to low-carbon or carbon-free energy across communities. She excels in shaping intelligent policies and regulations that drive the growth of emerging energy markets while ensuring energy security, job creation and greenhouse gas reduction.

I believe in creating opportunities for sustainable energy that benefit everyone,” says Kimberly, reflecting on her career trajectory. Her contributions have been instrumental in landmark initiatives such as the launch of one of the largest midstream IPOs and the establishment of the Texas competitive energy market, now a leader in wind energy production in the US. Kimberly’s efforts have accelerated the adoption of sustainable and reliable energy solutions across various markets in the United States.

Kimberly’s journey demonstrates dedication and expertise driving significant transformations in the energy sector and paving the way for a more sustainable future for all.

The Resilience Factor

In a defining moment, Kimberly, like millions of other Texans, faced dire circumstances during Winter Storm Uri. “My family, along with 4.5 million other Texans, were suffering life-threatening circumstances,” she recalls. The Texas Freeze of 2021 inflicted over $100 billion in economic damage, claimed numerous lives and left several energy companies bankrupt, necessitating a significant financial bailout.

This catastrophe underscored the critical need for robust energy security infrastructure to safeguard communities and regional economies from extreme weather events and escalating summertime demand. “The systematic failure demonstrated the urgent need for energy security infrastructure development,” Kimberly emphasizes.

In the aftermath, Kimberly found herself inundated with requests for assistance from various stakeholders including utilities, policymakers, regulators, and investors. This experience prompted her to retire early from EY as America’s Power and Utilities Partner and establish a specialized energy consulting firm.

I realized the importance of catalyzing public-private collaborations to innovate and scale next-generation energy technologies,” Kimberly explains. Her firm aims to bolster energy security while advancing decarbonization goals and ensuring a resilient and sustainable energy future. This reflects the necessity for proactive measures to mitigate the impact of climate-related disasters and drive positive change.

Uniting for Sustainability

Being a frequent speaker at global energy conferences including the United Nations, there are different aspects of sharing insights and experiences with a diverse audience. For instance, following six federally declared natural disasters striking Houston, Kimberly took action by convening high-ranking government officials, global mayors, financial institutions, and energy leaders at the United Nations Conference of the Partners (COP). Collaborating with the Resilient Cities Network and Coalition for Rainforest Nations, Kimberly aimed to ‘spark public-private collaborations to mobilize climate finance towards energy resilience projects and nature-based infrastructure.’

Attending COP26 in Glasgow, COP27 in Sharm El-Sheik and COP28 in Dubai, Kimberly found inspiration in witnessing diverse cultures uniting to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Over the years, COP has evolved from primarily government and NGO participation to include a strong presence of the energy and financial sectors, all working together to accelerate pathways to net zero emissions.

While some COP presentations felt like ‘preaching to the choir,’ Kimberly notes significant initiatives emerging such as global climate disclosure frameworks, carbon market regimes and methane reduction consortiums as well as loss and damage funds. These initiatives highlight the importance of finding common ground and leveraging diverse expertise and resources for a sustainable energy future.

Reflecting on her COP experience, Kimberly emphasizes the need to ‘create a sustainable energy future for generations of today and tomorrow.’ Her efforts underline the importance of collaboration and innovation in addressing the challenges of climate change on a global scale.

Towards a Greener Horizon

For the deployment of trillions of capital investment towards next-generation infrastructure, data-driven decisions, community needs, and investor appetite must guide our choices,” Kimberly asserts. She emphasizes that transitioning to a balanced mix of carbon-free and low-carbon power systems should prioritize ‘boosting energy security, reliability and community resilience.’

Kimberly believes that a responsible transition is aligned with the interests of the investment community is crucial for ensuring the U.S. remains competitive in the global energy market. As the world moves towards a low-carbon and ultimately net-zero future, the U.S. should strive to be a leader rather than a follower.

To achieve this, Kimberly advocates for exporting America’s abundant natural gas resources and expanding technologies such as hydrogen development, renewable energy, advanced nuclear, and storage. She emphasizes an all-the-above approach to ensuring energy security while transitioning to carbon neutrality by 2050, especially during the Era of Energy Expansion. This strategy will be essential for keeping the lights on and sustaining progress towards a sustainable future.

Strategic Alliances and First Moves

Kimberly emphasizes that operating with agility is key and it requires a constant pulse on market signals, technological advancements and political landscapes. This awareness enables her firm, NextGen Energy Partners, to launch first-of-a-kind transformative demonstration projects and initiatives.

Kimberly attributes her success to extensive due diligence with a diverse team of experts. Strategic alliances with organizations like The Accelerate Group, WIRED Global Institute, NARUC, and U.S. State Energy Offices facilitate adaptability to significant transformations in the energy sector.

By knowing when to be a first mover, Kimberly’s firm benefits customers, investors and market participants alike. These collaborations and strategic decisions contribute to making strides in the decarbonization of the energy sector while ensuring responsiveness to dynamic market conditions.

The Electrification Revolution

We are embarking on a truly exciting time in electrification across the transportation and industrial sectors,” Kimberly remarks. EV battery technology promises lighter, less expensive and faster-charging batteries and offers a range of over 400 miles on a single charge. Solar technology follows a similar trajectory of advancement.

Significant progress is being made in standardized, dependable and fast-charging infrastructure which is crucial for widespread EV adoption. In the aviation industry, Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) is making notable strides.

For carbon-intensive industrial sectors, breakthroughs in deep decarbonization are emerging. These include advancements in hydrogen production, Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage (CCUS), low-carbon cement, advanced recycling, energy efficiency, and electrification technologies. Kimberly’s insights highlight the ongoing innovations driving sustainability across various sectors, promising a greener and more efficient future.

Connecting with Authenticity

Operating with authenticity and curiosity is how I lead and connect with others,” Kimberly affirms. “Integrity, humility and perseverance are values endeared to me.” These principles guide her interactions and shape her leadership approach, fostering genuine connections and meaningful relationships.

The Power of Consensus

Kimberly accentuates that consensus building across varied stakeholders is key in tackling societal and market challenges with novel solutions. Having served in government, consulting firms and Fortune 500 energy companies, she empathizes with stakeholders, having faced similar demands.

She notes, “Finding common ground becomes seamless when each stakeholder benefits by operating with shared purpose, objectives and success metrics.” This approach fosters collaboration and paves the way for effective problem-solving, ensuring that all parties are aligned towards achieving mutual goals.

Powering Through Crisis

Resilience is keeping the lights on during blue sky days and at times of crisis,” Kimberly emphasizes. “With grid modernization and infrastructure investments, we can achieve a responsible transition to a carbon-free electric system capable of handling mass renewable and electrification adoption without compromising energy security and affordability,” she adds.

This approach ensures that our electric grids remain reliable and resilient, even in the face of increasing extreme weather events and natural disasters, ultimately benefiting communities and the environment alike.

Inspiring Action

As President of NextGen Energy Partners, Kimberly focuses on mobilizing public-private capital investment towards grid resilience, hydrogen development and industrial decarbonization. A native Utahn who is passionate about nature plays a role in forming alliances for nature-based solutions and biodiversity preservation.

At COP28, my knowledge series focused on the theme, ‘No Net Zero Without Nature,’“ Kimberly recalls, highlighting her collaboration with the Coalition for Rainforest Nations. She emphasizes that pathways to global sustainability are feasible but require commitment across the board. Through collective effort and collaboration, we can work towards a sustainable future for all.

Fulfillment in Focus

Embrace your authenticity as a woman and hold true to your values,” Kimberly advises. “Invest your energy at the intersection of your passion, expertise and transformative change,” she adds. By focusing on initiatives that align with values and bring joy, while also prioritizing self-care and family, one can achieve exponential impact and fulfillment in both personal and professional endeavors.