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Former NYSERDA CEO Alicia Barton takes the reins at pumped storage company First Light

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Credit: Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

FirstLight Power, operator of the Northfield Mountain energy storage facility and other hydroelectric, solar and energy-storage assets in Massachusetts and Connecticut, has named Alicia Barton its new chief executive officer, effective Aug. 3.

Barton previously served as President and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) for three years as well as CEO of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC). She also co-chaired the Energy and Cleantech Practice at Boston law firm, Foley Hoag LLP, and served as chief of operations for SunEdison’s global utility business unit, leading teams building utility-scale wind and solar projects.

“I have spent my entire career dedicated to fighting climate change and building a clean energy future. FirstLight as a company, and Northfield Mountain as our region’s largest zero-emissions energy storage facility, are uniquely positioned to drive accelerated deployment of renewable energy and storage on the New England electric grid,’’ Barton said.

Studies by the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources/Levitan & Associates have identified a critical need for large-scale energy storage to harness the economic and environmental benefits of the gigawatts of offshore wind now under development off the coast of New England.

At NYSERDA, Barton oversaw the execution of long-term contracts for more than 6,000 megawatts of offshore wind and other new renewable energy resources, was a key architect of New York’s landmark Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act and served as Co-Chair of the New York Climate Action Council.

In addition to her roles at NYSERDA, MassCEC, Foley Hoag, and SunEdison, Barton has served as Deputy Commissioner for Policy and Planning for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP); Assistant Secretary for Environmental Review and Director of the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) office; and Deputy General Counsel at the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA).

Barton will succeed John R. Shue, who has been CEO of FirstLight since 2016 and is retiring.

Barton stated, “For years I’ve appreciated FirstLight’s century-long record of providing clean and reliable hydropower to New England and its stewardship of tremendous natural resources and recreational facilities in Massachusetts and Connecticut. I look forward to building on our strong relationship with all the communities we serve.’’

Executive comments

Energy industry, environmental, and civic leaders throughout the region are praising FirstLight’s selection of Barton as CEO:

  • Elizabeth Henry, President of the Environmental League of Massachusetts, said: “Alicia Barton has a profoundly deep commitment to accelerating our transition to a clean energy future. Her decades of leadership on behalf of the people of Massachusetts and then New York proved time and again that fighting climate change can and should drive economic growth and opportunity. ELM looks forward to working with Barton in the race to decarbonize New England’s energy grid.
  • Rick Sullivan, President and CEO of the Western Massachusetts Economic Development Council, said: “I am thrilled that Alicia is coming back to Massachusetts to continue her leadership of our clean energy revolution. Alicia is a true professional dedicated to the environment and clean energy innovation and deployment. Her honesty, integrity, commitment to community and civic engagement and superior management skills are why she has risen quickly through important leadership positions. I look forward to working, again, with Alicia on issues of clean energy and improving the Western Massachusetts economy.”
  • Ken Kimmell, President of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said: “I have had the pleasure of working with Alicia for seven years during our service in the administration of Governor Deval Patrick, and I have seen firsthand that she is an extraordinary leader. If we are to tackle the climate crisis, we need leaders like Alicia–leaders who are bold and innovative and have a proven track record of inspiring and directing the transition to clean energy at the pace and scale that is needed in this moment.

Barton currently serves on the boards of many non-profit and mission-based organizations, including the Alliance to Save Energy, Greentown Labs, the Environmental League of Massachusetts, Efficiency Forward and the Advisory Board for the New England Women in Energy and Environment (NEWIEE). She earned her juris doctor from Boston College Law School and bachelor’s degree in Natural Resources from The Ohio State University.