Led by Robert Freling, SELF has become one of the world’s leading NGOs that designs and implements solar energy-based solutions for those living without access to electricity.
Robert A. Freling, Executive Director
Bob has been the Executive Director of the Solar Electric Light Fund since 1997. Under his leadership, SELF has installed over 550 solar energy systems in 16 countries, making it one of the world’s leading nongovernmental organizations that designs and implements solar energy-based solutions for those living without access to electricity.
An early advocate of access to energy as being essential to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, he is widely considered an authority on the subject of energy poverty. During his tenure he has broadened SELF’s mission and vision to address the implications of energy poverty in developing countries. In 2000, he developed the Solar Integrated Development Model, an innovative approach for using solar energy to help communities improve their health, education, food and water security, and economic development programs. As a result, in 2003, SELF completed its first “Whole Village” project in Nigeria, utilizing solar energy to provide electricity for health clinics, schools, street lights, mosques, homes, micro-enterprise centers, and electric pumps that deliver fresh water for drinking and irrigation.
He currently serves as the Co-Chair of the U.N. Foundation’s “Sustainable Energy for All” Working Group on Energy and Health, which focuses on identifying ways to provide access to renewable energy for hospitals and health clinics. In 2008, he was presented the King Hussein Leadership Prize by Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan to honor his exceptional leadership in promoting sustainable development, human rights, equity, and peace.
A native of Dallas, Texas, Bob is fluent in six languages and received a Bachelor of Arts in Russian Studies from Yale University and a Masters degree from the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Southern California.
Follow him on Twitter: @BobFreling
Jeff Lahl, Project Director
As project director, Jeff combines a strong and varied management background, solar expertise and international development experience to lead all of SELF’s unique and challenging projects. He has had overall responsibility for implementing SELF’s fieldwork in Haiti, Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi, Kenya, Benin, South Africa, Lesotho, Nigeria and Bhutan.
Previously, he worked in the solar energy industry as a system designer and specifier, as well as a community college instructor. He first became involved with solar electrification for international development as a Peace Corps volunteer from 1993-95 when he managed the Kingdom of Tonga’s solar electrification program. Jeff’s career in solar started over 20 years ago when he founded a company that designed and built solar homes.
Karen Allen, Director of Development
Karen brings 30 years of development and public affairs experience in conservation and wildlife to SELF. Before joining the team, she was the National Advancement Director at Chimp Haven where she raised funds to house and care for more than 200 retired biomedical chimpanzees living at the sanctuary. Prior to Chimp Haven, she ran her own fundraising and communications consulting firm. Among her clients were the African Wildlife Foundation, the Smithsonian’s Environmental Research Center, and the National Zoo. She has also served as Public Affairs Director at Conservation International, and has consulted on the development of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, serving on its Advisory Board for 20 years. Her work at SELF brings her full circle to her early career when she spent time in the bush in Central and South America, where she witnessed first-hand the consequences of energy poverty.
Darren Anderson, Project Manager
Darren is a photovoltaics (PV) designer, installer and certified electrician with extensive international experience. He has led solar projects in Nigeria, Philippines, and Tanzania and joined SELF after three years as the co-founder and technical director at Sungrid, a PV manufacturing and distribution business in Australia. Darren is active in the grassroots sustainability movement and has served on the board of directors for several community organizations including the Fremantle Environmental Resource Network, the Vancouver Renewable Energy Cooperative, and the Vancouver Biodiesel Cooperative. Darren is a graduate of the Master’s Program in Renewable Energy for Development at Murdoch University in Perth, Australia.
Jean-Baptiste Certain, Project Manager, Haiti
Jean-Baptiste (“JB”) is responsible for coordinating the implementation of SELF’s solar projects in Haiti for schools, health care facilities, water facilities, agricultural projects, and solar streetlights in transition camps. While living and working in Haiti for over two years, JB has been responsible for the local coordination of all projects, logistics, interactions with partners and Government, and the hiring and supervision of installation crews of 12 or more technicians. In 2009, he completed training with the Solar Energy International (SEI) focusing on Rural Electrification for the Developing World and Sustainable Development for Rural Communities courses. Upon completing his studies, he spent six months living in Sabana Grande, an indigenous rural community in northern Nicaragua where he was involved in manufacturing solar modules, designing and installing PV systems in local schools and households for Grupo Fenix. A native French speaker, JB is fluent in Spanish and English and is also conversant in Haitian Creole.
Kathy Cesere, Project Administrative Assistant
Kathy works closely with SELF’s project director and our teams in the field to coordinate and facilitate many of the logistics related to our work such as shipping management, procurement, expense reporting, travel arrangements, and developing project timelines. Previously, she was the executive director of the Lahaina Arts Society in Hawaii where she managed both a paid staff and over 100 volunteers, and a program coordinator with the Dartmouth Family Practice Residency at Concord Hospital, responsible for coordinating the daily activities of the Family Practice Residency Program.
Lisa Esler, Finance Director
Lisa is Certified Public Accountant and has 15 years’ experience in financial management of international projects and programs. After working with Price Waterhouse in Moscow, Russia she spent 10 years working with the Eurasia Foundation as Controller and then Director of Internal Audit. She is fluent in French and Russian.
Victoria Knabe, Office Manager
Vicki is responsible for the daily administration of SELF’s Washington, D.C. office. She is a 2015 graduate of James Madison University, with a B.A. in International Affairs and a focus of study in Humanitarian Affairs and Economics. She has been involved in volunteer efforts across the country to encourage young people to engage in community service-learning, a concept that allows volunteers to deepen their understanding of domestic and global social issues as they work with the communities that are most affected by these issues. Vicki speaks French and Spanish, and she is also a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.
Jeff Korcan, Design Engineer and Project Manager
Jeff is a design engineer and project manager, bringing to SELF over two decades of experience in designing large manufacturing systems and managing large construction projects for both U.S. corporations and the U.S. government. He has managed the installation phase of several large projects in Haiti for SELF during 2011 and 2012. Having a long standing interest in the renewable energy field, Jeff transitioned to the solar industry in 2006 after relocating to Maui, Hawaii, where he worked with several solar contractors designing and installing solar electric systems. He is an engineering graduate of West Point.
Claudalex Lauture, Senior Technician, Haiti
Claudalex is a photovoltaic (PV) designer, installer and electrician from Haiti responsible for installing and maintaining SELF’s PV systems in the Central Plateau, Artibonite and Southwest Coast regions of the country. Working with SELF in Haiti for over three years, Claudalex has led Haitian teams in installing over two dozen PV installations and has also been trained by SELF to be a trainer of on-site staff for the operation and maintenance of PV systems. Prior to SELF he worked as a solar technician at Raymag S.a, as well as PV designer/installer at Green Energy Solutions. Lauture studied Electromechanical Engineering at Universite GOC and Electrotechnique at Centre de formation technique professionnel Haiti Tec.
Steve McCarney, Project Manager, Colombia
Steve McCarney is a seasoned solar energy industry veteran, with more than 35 years in the field. Since 1976, he has designed and installed hundreds of solar electric systems in Africa, Asia, and North and South America as a technical consultant to government, commercial and residential clients. Prior to joining the Solar Electric Light Fund, he was a professor at Colorado Mountain College’s Solar Program and was vice president of international sales at Photocomm, Inc. He has co-authored numerous solar electric technical reports and training manuals for organizations such as the Pan American Health Organization, the U.S. Navy, and Sandia National Labs.
Steve gained experience while producing two World Health Organization (WHO) prequalified solar vaccine refrigerators/freezers which led to his chairmanship of the WHO refrigeration standards committee, and later to a position as a cold chain technology specialist for Project Optimize, a collaborative think tank between WHO and PATH seeking to transform the future of immunization logistics in developing countries.