Dr. Rebekah Shirley is the Deputy Director for Africa at the World Resources Institute, where she leads a team of over one hundred and fifty researchers and practitioners in designing and delivering partnerships, platforms, and tools to grow the markets for Africa’s sustainability solutions, centering people, nature, and climate. Rebekah was previously WRI Africa’s Director for Research, ensuring WRI’s analysis methods, data and outputs are of the highest-quality, and directly supports the delivery of these findings to targeted audiences through high-level engagement and local-level partnership.  

Rebekah moderating panel sessions at the COP26 SDG7 Pavilion, Glasgow, Scotland, November 2021

Before coming to WRI, Rebekah held 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 turning actionable research insights into solutions and influencing the global dialogue on energy and sustainability, Rebekah has been named an ESI Africa Elite Energy Industry Leader and an Energy Institute Energy Leader, Africa Utility Week’s Outstanding Young Leader in Energy, a GWEC Revolutionary, and most recently, the World Energy Justice Young Scholar 2023.

Rebekah has over fifteen years of experience in environmental research, energy analytics, and interdisciplinary research management – two in energy regulation, six as a full-time research analyst, and seven directing non-profit research teams. 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. 

Rebekah hosting the Africa Youth Advocacy Clinic on Just Energy Transitions convened by WRI Africa, CMU Africa and partners, in Kigali, Rwanda, May 2022

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 and sustainable technologies. 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 is a regular and vibrant public speaker on environmental sciences and sustainability solutions. She is a TED Speaker, an SXSW Speaker, gave the prestigious Madeleine Albright Annual Guest Lecture, and is featured by Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership.

A University of California Chancellor’s Fellow, Rebekah is now visiting faculty at Carnegie Mellon University, where she lectures and mentors young graduate students. Rebekah also volunteers her time to impactful causes in the environmental sciences by sitting on boards, advisory committees, and judging panels. Rebekah is Chair of the Board for Energy Peace Partners, board member for Climate Action Platform, Africa, and appointed to the board of trustees at UK charity Ashden, where she promotes climate solutions in action. She is an Energy for Growth Hub Advisor for Africa and the Caribbean, advisor to the Journal of Caribbean Environmental Science and Renewable Energy, and is also a founding editor and Executive Editorial Board Member of the burgeoning IOP journal Environmental Research: Infrastructure and Sustainability.

Rebekah in conference with the Women Leaders Network including former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, Sustainable Energy for All CEO, Damilola Ogunbiyi, CEO of the European Climate Foundation, Laurence Tubiana, and Managing Director at World Resources Institute, Wanjira Maathai, Kigali 2022

Rebekah lives with her husband Brian in Nairobi, Kenya, where they enjoy music, cooking, outdoor adventure, and traveling together. Brian, a finance specialist, is the Investment Director for CAMCO, a major international climate & clean energy fund. Together they are working towards a clean and sustainable future for families like theirs.