Dr. Rebekah Shirley is the Director of Research, Data & Innovation at the World Resources Institute, Africa, where she develops research to support local implementation of sustainable development solutions.
Before coming to WRI, Rebekah completed a five year tenure as the Chief of Research at Power for All, a coalition of more than 300 renewable energy practitioners working towards universal electricity access. Over this time Rebekah built the Platform for Energy Access Knowledge (PEAK), a novel energy research engine forged through industry-academic partnership with a mission to make data accessible, understandable, and usable by the public and policy influencers alike, across the continent. Her team developed a reputation for its sharp, timely, digestible insights, thought leadership and collaborative approach to research.
For her work bringing local research insights directly to the public dialogue on energy access, Rebekah was named Africa Utility Week’s 2018 Outstanding Young Leader in Energy, an ESI Africa 2019 Power and Energy Elite Industry Leader and a GWEC 2020 Revolutionaries finalist.
Rebekah has over thirteen years of experience in environmental research, energy analytics and interdisciplinary research management. She holds a Ph.D. in Energy Resources, an M.Sc. in Energy Resources, and an M.Sc. in Civil Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. Her expertise is in power system simulation and optimization—building models for integrated electricity planning, particularly in data constrained environments. She is keenly interested in clean energy technologies and their application to industry, mobility, agriculture, and climate resilience.
Her Ph.D. research explored the integration of socio-cultural, ecological, and resource management perspectives into power system planning tools. Developing an integrated optimization modeling approach, she identified high-investment renewable energy opportunities for Borneo, Southeast Asia. Working with local civil society, her results contributed to shifting local policy away from further large-scale dam development.
Previously, Rebekah obtained a first class honors Bachelor of Arts and Science in Environment from McGill University, after which she worked with the Environmental Management Authority in her native Trinidad, launching her career in renewable energy technology. A proud Caribbean-American, Rebekah has also lived, worked and published in Southeast Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. This international exposure brings a uniquely deep cultural perspective to her work. Rebekah is a strong proponent of south-south collaboration and local community engagement.
Rebekah was a University of California Chancellor’s Fellow, and now holds a Visiting Research Fellowship at Strathmore University where she mentors young researchers. She is also an Energy for Growth Hub Research Fellow for Africa and the Caribbean, a KCRC Research Fellow for Carnegie Mellon University, and she is a founding editor of the burgeoning IOP journal Environmental Research: Infrastructure and Sustainability.
Rebekah lives with her husband Brian in Nairobi, Kenya, where they enjoy music, cooking, outdoor adventure, and travel together.