Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet announces new CEO and Board Chair

Source: press release, 28 February 2022

Simon Harford, Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet Chief Executive Officer
Simon Harford, Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet Chief Executive Officer (photo: The Rockefeller Foundation)

The Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP) has announced that Simon Harford will join as its inaugural Chief Executive Officer and UNICEF’s Ravi Venkatesan will serve as Board Chair. These key leadership appointments mark a significant milestone for the Alliance, which was launched during the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November with USD 10 billion to accelerate investment in green energy transitions and renewable power solutions in emerging economies worldwide.

With more than 30 years of experience at the intersection of finance, business-building and global development across both emerging and developed markets, Harford comes to the Alliance from Actis, a leading global investor in sustainable energy infrastructure and champion of responsible investing in growth markets, where he served as Senior Adviser and co-head of Africa. Together with Venkatesan, they will provide critical leadership in the Alliance’s quest to unlock USD 100 billion in public and private capital over the next decade to reach one billion people with reliable, renewable power; avoid and avert four billion tons of carbon emissions; and create, enable, or support more than 150 million green jobs and drive economic growth.

“The Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet is a unique partnership model spanning the public and private sector based on deep support from major philanthropy. I strongly believe in the power of access to energy and the opportunities a cleaner energy sector brings for the environment, society and the economy. I’m conscious of the responsibility to lead the Alliance and want to thank all who have worked hard to set-up this extraordinary platform and bring it to where it is today,” says new CEO Simon Harford.

“I am excited to have the opportunity to work on the defining challenge of our time,” says Ravi Venkatesan, UNICEF’s Special Representative for Young People and Innovation. “The Alliance will show that a coalition of committed partners and a lot of innovation can make a meaningful reduction in carbon emissions and a big leap in energy access.”

“In November, we launched the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet at COP26 in Glasgow to an extraordinary reception, most consequentially from nations eager to transition their economies to green electricity and connect their people to the jobs and power they need to compete in the 21st century economy,” says Dr Rajiv J. Shah, President of The Rockefeller Foundation. “Simon is the right leader to realise GEAPP’s potential; he brings the experience, the values and the connections to build on this early momentum and to change energy for good for everyone.”

“Ravi is one of the most passionate and innovative leaders in the world today, as he’s shown over a long, illustrious career,” says Per Heggenes, CEO of the IKEA Foundation. “The Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet has an ambitious aim to cut emissions, create jobs and connect people to power. To reach its potential, the Alliance needs leaders like Ravi who inspire and enable impact in the countries where it is most needed. I’m convinced that with Simon as the new CEO and Ravi as the new Board Chair, the Alliance is in a strong position to build the transformative partnerships and programs that can solve some of humanity’s most urgent challenges.”

“The Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet can become the leading platform for supporting decarbonisation of power in developing countries and providing access to reliable clean energy, jobs, and economic development,” says Andrew Steer, President & CEO of the Bezos Earth Fund. “These two excellent appointments demonstrate the passion and professionalism that GEAPP will bring to the agenda.”

Venkatesan, who is also founder of the Global Alliance for Mass Entrepreneurship (GAME), a coalition in India which aims to improve enabling conditions for broad-based entrepreneurship and rapid and sustainable growth of the micro, small and medium enterprises that propel the economy and create millions of decent jobs, brings invaluable insights gained over three decades as a leader in the business sector and philanthropic community. Venkatesan previously served as Board chair of the Bank of Baroda, India’s second largest public sector bank, Infosys Ltd., Microsoft India, Cummins India. He is currently a Trustee of The Rockefeller Foundation and Board member of Hitachi Ltd.

In their new roles, Harford and Venkatesan have bolstered the Alliance’s growing leadership team which also includes Clare Boland Ross as Chief Strategy and Program Impact Officer, Sundaa Bridgett-Jones as Chief Partnerships and Advocacy Officer, and Joseph Nganga as Executive Director for Africa.

Focused on distributed renewables, grid-based renewables and fossil fuel transitioning, the Alliance was founded with an initial USD 1.5 billion in philanthropic commitments by The Rockefeller Foundation, IKEA Foundation and Bezos Earth Fund, alongside billions of dollars in investment capital from multilateral and development finance institutions, as well as country partnerships and “delivery” partners that will provide significant policy, technical, and project development capacity.