Dr. Rebekah Shirley is the Deputy Director for Africa at the World Resources Institute, where she leads a team of over one hundred African researchers and practitioners in designing and delivering 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.
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. 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 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 was a University of California Chancellor’s Fellow, and is now visiting faculty at Carnegie Mellon University, where she mentors young graduate students. She is an Energy for Growth Hub Research Fellow for Africa and the Caribbean, and founding editor of the burgeoning IOP journal Environmental Research: Infrastructure and Sustainability. Rebekah sits on many boards, advisory committees, and judging panels in environmental sciences, and most recently was appointed to the board of trustees at Ashden, where she promotes climate solutions in action.
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.