Mary Johnson

SunEdison founder Claire Broido Johnson is building a clean energy future

Blog Post created by Mary Johnson on Feb 12, 2018

Claire Johnson cartoonClaire Broido Johnson, founder of SunEdison, has spent more than two decades creating companies and divisions within companies and developing clean energy projects. 


She said the clean economy, including clean energy, is the only way for a future.


“Investors and particularly early stage investors have only been paying attention to clean energy beyond hydropower and geothermal in the last 30,” Claire said. “It’s been exciting to help solve huge environmental problems by introducing solar, wind, energy storage solutions and more.” 


Since 2011, Claire has been the president of CBJ Energy, a leading financing, operations and business development energy solutions consultancy in Baltimore. In that role, she has helped to create, manage and grow successful businesses and products in the clean energy space.


Having grown up outside Chicago, where acid rain had devastating effects on water environments and more, it’s what Claire always intended to do.


“The climate changes we see today have been driven in large part by how we use energy,” she said. “I wanted to be a part of the solution – not part of the problem.”


Claire helped to create her environmental science and public policy undergraduate major at Harvard University before obtaining her master of business administration from Harvard Business School. In between undergrad and grad school, she worked at the International Energy Agency, Deloitte & Touche, and Enron.  


Then, in 2003, she and her business partner, Jigar Shah, co-founded SunEdison — what would become one of the largest solar energy services providers in North America.


“At one point, we had 7,200 employees and more than $10 billion in revenue,” Claire said.


They sold the company in 2009 to MEMC. Then Claire served as energy-efficiency advisor to U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and became the Acting Program Manager for the Office of Weatherization and Intergovernmental Programs within the Department of Energy.


“We were responsible for hiring nearly 90 people overnight and delivering $11 billion of the economic stimulus package without any waste, fraud or abuse to over 2,400 municipalities,” Claire said.


Shortly after her work with the U.S. government, Claire founded CBJ Energy in 2011 to begin consulting with a variety of companies, as well as financiers, contractors, developers and building and land owners, to complete projects such as retrofitting commercial buildings and installing ground-mounted solar.


Her clients have included technology and building optimization company Katerra, solar developer Power52 Energy Solutions and home energy solutions company Next Step Living.


“Clean energy is mainstream now,” Claire said. “Solar and wind — which can have a huge impact on climate change — are everywhere and are here to stay.”


It is a relatively simple concept that Claire said she wishes were not so politicized.


“Even if it is as simple as looking at your own backyard and figuring out how to reduce your own energy use, it’s worth doing. Make sure that where you live is energy efficient. Buy solar power via community solar programs or put solar on your roof. Recycle. We have to collectively solve this problem”


Claire said it’s not only important for women to raise their voices but also for the men working within the largely male-dominated energy industry to listen.


“Clean energy is an interdisciplinary field,” Claire said. “But — and more so with older generations — there is this assumption that women do not know as much as men do when it comes to finance and engineering. I would tell women starting in the industry to take as many finance courses then take finance-oriented positions with profit-and-loss responsibility — because she who holds the money holds the keys to the business.”


Claire said she one day would like to create a larger, more inclusive energy company to help solve climate risk problems in the world today.


“I love building and working with teams of people to empower and enable them to be successful,” she said.