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Mark Silberg (WCAS '14)



Rocky Mountain Institute

Advancing resilient, sustainable electricity systems

Mark Silberg helps bring light to the world—literally. As an associate at Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) Silberg supports electric utilities, regulators, and other stakeholders to deploy new, sustainable power systems such as microgrids that utilize renewable energy sources.

“The newest trend relates to questions of grid resilience, which is the intersection between adaptation (to man-made and natural disasters) and climate mitigation through distributed energy resources and renewable energy,” says Silberg.

As a manager of an RMI industry consortium made up of over 1,500 decision-makers, Silberg works side-by-side with utility companies, state regulators, consumer and environmental advocates, financiers, and other experts to help problem-solve issues and create solutions for the transformation of electricity systems.

Recently, Silberg has supported collaborations between the federal government, industry stakeholders, and Puerto Rican citizen groups to begin co-creating a regulatory structure and legal framework for the energy system in Puerto Rico. The goal is to “reduce costs in electricity and energy on the island, increase the reliability [of the system] to reduce the frequency and severity of blackouts in the event of another storm, and ensure that the system transitions from one that is predominantly fossil fuels (and very expensive), to one that is more distributed, more intelligent, and lower carbon,” says Silberg.

“I think the multidisciplinary nature of the ISEN program... and, more broadly, undergraduate study in the humanities, prepared me very well for playing this role in shifting the system." — Mark Silberg (WCAS '14), Associate at Rocky Mountain Institute

Silberg has also worked alongside members of the Navy, Army, Air Force, national labs, and others, to build an innovation platform supporting the deployment of distributed resources. The team’s main initiative was to help ensure that in certain extreme scenarios, such as a major storm, physical attack, or cyber-attack, more military installations in the US are prepared for those events and can maintain consistent power supply in emergency situations.

Silberg’s interest in renewable energy took shape during his time as an undergraduate at Northwestern where he was involved in the both the Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN) and the environmental policy community.

In 2014, he received his bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Northwestern’s Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, with a minor in environmental policy and culture, and a certificate in energy and sustainability. In 2016, just two years after his college graduation, Silberg was given the prestigious honor of being named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in Energy.

“I think the multidisciplinary nature of the ISEN program, in particular, and, more broadly, undergraduate study in the humanities, prepared me very well for playing this role in shifting the system. I have to come from a perspective of empathy to drive collaboration and innovation,” says Silberg.

Understanding the social and political complexity of the human dynamics in these projects has allowed Silberg to guide diverse groups toward forging alliances and ways of working together that allow them to move forward faster than they otherwise would.

While he is excited about the work that’s already been done to advance renewable resources, Silberg is most excited about what’s to come.

“The conversation has shifted from one of 'will renewable energy ever be cheap enough, will it ever be able to scale, will the system ever be reliable enough', to a conversation now embracing the fact that this is a huge economic opportunity by providing services and value to the grid and customers,” says Silberg. “What gives me hope is, it's already happening, and now it's just a matter of how long the transition will take.”

* Editor's Note, November 2022: Mark Silberg is now Special Advisor of Climate and Energy to Governor Jared Polis.