Online educator Cole lauded with lifetime achievement award for sustainability

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Vera Cole, energy and sustainability policy program chair, was awarded the Epstein Lifetime Achievement Award for her roles with Penn State’s energy and sustainability policy online programs offered through Penn State World Campus and with the Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Association.

The Sustainable Energy Fund chose Cole based on her lifetime of work dedicated to moving society towards a sustainable energy future.

“I appreciate the opportunity to spend my life doing work that I enjoy and that I hope helps make the world a better place for present and future generations,” Cole said. “I like to think this gratitude shines through and perhaps that is why I was selected.”

Through the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences’ John A. Dutton e-Education Institute, Cole develops and teaches courses related to energy sources, implications and policy. Cole is president of the Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Association, a nonprofit organization dedicated to informing and educating the public on renewable energy production, energy efficiency and sustainable living.

Cole said the award is a reminder that sustainability is valued and is a growing priority. She said she’s thankful for those who have inspired her to push for a sustainable path forward and is proud to be selected as a leader in the field.

“I believe the most important contributions we make are those that help to awaken one another, on a personal and meaningful level, with a change in perspective that lasts a lifetime,” Cole said. “I appreciate those who have done this for me. I want to continue to pay that forward by making personal connections while teaching online or in the field.”

The award is named after Eric Epstein, a Pennsylvania-based government reform activist, nuclear watchdog and sustainable energy advocate. Epstein was a driving force behind the establishment and growth of the Sustainable Energy Fund. Past winners of the Epstein Award include solar energy expert Ron Celentano, Maureen Mulligan of Sustainable Futures Communications and Nora Mead Brownell of Epsy Energy Solutions, LLC.

“We are thrilled to award Vera Cole with the Epstein Award,” said John Costlow, president and CEO of the Sustainable Energy Fund. “She has greatly impacted the sustainable energy community throughout her career.”

Cole authored the book “Pennsylvania Homeowner’s Guide to Solar” and developed its online companion tool “SunnyMoney,” to evaluate environmental benefits and sizing and financial options for solar installations. She has co-developed and co-instructed innovative hands-on solar training workshops that have reached hundreds of people interested in sustainability practices. In 2012, she won "PA DEP vs. Cole in Commonwealth Court" over access to solar rebate records, cited as the fifth most important right-to-know case of the year. Cole has made multiple guest appearances on NPR and ran for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 2016, all in support of sustainable energy policy and public understanding.

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Last Updated September 22, 2017