Charging Up with ChargerHelp!

March 22, 2023

In honor of Women’s History Month, we wanted to celebrate women in the clean energy industry who are helping accelerate EV adoption. We sat down with Samantha Ortega, Government Relations Manager at ChargerHelp!, an EV charging reliability management company, to discuss the company’s origin story, female entrepreneurship, and their workforce development support.

Here is that interview, edited for length and clarity.

Shakaya, Gen180: Hi Samantha, thank you for joining me today. My name is Shakaya and I work with Generation180, and I’m here to learn a little bit more about ChargerHelp. So let’s kick it off. At Gen180, we are really big fans of your organization, but there might be some of us who are unfamiliar with the organization, so I’m wondering if you can tell me a little bit more about ChargerHelp and your role directly. 

Samantha, ChargerHelp: Thank you, Shakaya. And it is a pleasure to be here with you today. ChargerHelp is a technology company that enables technicians to diagnose and repair and maintain electric vehicle charging stations. We’re supporting the repair and resolution of the hardware and software for Level 2 and DC fast chargers. We’re helping increase the reliability of the charging stations so that the EV driver has confidence in the charging infrastructure and can have a seamless charging experience—and also we’re providing support in the workforce development of maintenance technicians in low income communities. I am able to provide different perspectives and best practices in keeping the infrastructure operable and ensure that when local, state, and federal government create different policies and programs, that they put equity in the forefront of those efforts. 

Gen180: Wonderful, wonderful. Especially around infrastructure—as individuals make that transition to EVs, we want them to be more comfortable in the community as they learn how to charge their electric vehicles. So, I’m wondering if you can tell us a little bit about the origin story of ChargerHelp. Right. So why did it start? What’s your mission?

Samantha: So we’ve definitely come a long way since the company was founded. ChargerHelp started in early 2020, so right before the pandemic. Kameale Terry and Evette Ellis are the co-founders of ChargerHelp, and they set out on a mission to create a company with strong core values, based on equity and inclusion. Kameale, our CEO, worked for a software company where she led multiple EV deployment projects, which gave her insight into the EV industry and partnered with Evette, our co-­founder and Chief Workforce Officer, who has 20 years of workforce development recruitment, training, and placement experience through the Department of Labor’s Job Corps system. They both set out on this venture to create an opportunity for local individuals to participate in the clean tech industry. The company has grown now, where we have manufacturers, established EV charging companies, utilities, fleet operators, and even municipalities as customers. 

Kameale and Evette, co-founders

Evette Ellis & Kameale Terry, ChargerHelp Co-founders

Gen180: Oh wonderful! For individuals outside of organizations that work on clean energy, what’s the best thing you would want someone to know about ChargerHelp? 

Samantha: Well, Shakaya, there’s so many things that I could mention, but to give you some insight, I want to highlight our field service technicians. We have the best technicians working for ChargerHelp all throughout the US. They work through various weather conditions and environments. They’re always communicating with each other and giving each other insights  and feedback on what they’re working on. So the support that they have for one another is amazing to hear and see as they may be working on the same issue across the country. When they have an opportunity to snap a photo of their working location for the day and share it with the team, it becomes worthwhile with all the work that we’re doing externally, and so our technicians are helping improve the reliability of the charging stations and supporting the industry and creating those sustainable standards. 

Gen180: Great. What’s something we might expect from ChargerHelp within the next year, or what are some fun plans you have in the works? 

Samantha: We’re very thrilled that we’re seeing major changes on the federal level with the  passage of the Inflation Reduction Act and other bills that will support the manufacturing of parts here in the US. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill and the recently-released final rule for the NEVI Formula Program. We’re excited to see that minimum standards were developed to ensure the long ­term reliability of charging stations along federal highways. We will continue to work with states and utilities to ensure that best practices are adopted. Our technicians are doing an amazing job in capturing data to help solve those issues. 

We’ll also continue to support in the workforce development and training for local folks, and we recently announced the partnership with SAE International’s Sustainable Mobility Solutions to support the training and credentialing for those existing skill sets. 

EV technicians on the job

ChargerHelp! technicians taking part in an EV workforce training lesson 

Gen180: Wonderful, fun things. I want to touch on that vocational training component a little bit more and wondering if you can share one of your favorite success stories around teaching individuals and technicians?

Samantha: Partnerships are very important at ChargerHelp, and what we see as a continued success to private charging companies is connecting with local workforce development organizations to establish accessibility to training and equitable pathway for disadvantaged  communities to participate in the clean tech industry. 

“What we see as a continued success to private charging companies is connecting with local workforce development organizations to establish accessibility to training and equitable pathway for disadvantaged  communities to participate in the clean tech industry.”

So just last year, in partnership with LACI, the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator and Tritium Charging, we hosted the first all-women EV charging maintenance technician cohort in Los Angeles. It’s a mouthful, but a very amazing workforce development training that we had. Women were able to learn about an industry that is predominantly male, and they learned about a completely new industry, how to repair the charging stations. They were able to tour the Tritium facility and also learn about other skill sets that they could reapply in other parts of the industry, such as administrative support and project management. 

Gen180: Great. What would you say are your hopes about our clean energy future, either personally or professionally?

Samantha: I would say that the commitment that states are making to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The transportation sector is one of the largest CO2 emitters, but we have seen many  states issue executive orders to address climate change and to allocate resources, and with the electric vehicle supporting infrastructure, the legislators are focusing more on equitable access to reliable chargers and not just the deployment of the chargers, so knowing that we have states moving towards these goals and that we can breathe cleaner air every day makes it all worth it. 

Gen180: I agree. Okay, so thank you so much, Samantha, for coming to hang out with me. I have one last question for you, and it’s… do you drive an electric car? 

Samantha: Shakaya, I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t currently, but definitely working in the clean tech industry and being more conscious about the impact that I make has shifted the decision. So whenever I travel or take a vacation, I definitely rent and test drive different models of electric vehicles, and it is honestly a great experience. 

“Whenever I travel or take a vacation, I definitely rent and test drive different models of electric vehicles, and it is honestly a great experience.”

Gen180: Wonderful. Well, as you shop around and test drive, Generation180 does have a Going Electric pledge, so if you feel excited, I encourage you to sign it, and it’s just you pledging to go electric next month, next year, or five years.

Samantha: Awesome, will do! Thank you.

Gen180: Thank you!



Corporate America: we’re with you! (And we’re watching you.)

March 10, 2021

This article is from the March 10, 2021, issue of Flip the Script, a weekly newsletter moving you from climate stress to clean energy action. Sign up here to get it in your inbox (and share the link with a friend).

It seems almost daily we’re hearing another awesome corporate pledge to meet new clean energy goals. This is a GOOD thing. Corporate commitments, from automakers, investment firms, and energy companies, are exciting market signals that we’re headed in the right direction. The challenge now will be to move from aspiration to action—and so far, the scorecard for business is mixed.

While many companies are indeed beginning to follow through, it won’t be easy for some major companies, especially those with longstanding ties to the fossil fuel industry, to simply shift their business models overnight, or even to break free from decades of a head-in-the-sand mentality steeped in climate denial and deception. Despite their admirable pledges, these businesses are showing that while talk is cheap, follow-through is a heck of a lot harder. It’s clear that, when it comes to ensuring corporate promises are delivered upon, increased regulatory and public pressure will be key.

Below are a few examples of how, when the rubber actually meets the road, businesses are squirming to shirk their climate commitments—and why we need to keep up the pressure on them to do better.

Exhibit A: Companies at Climate Risk

A big sticking point right now is whether the U.S. government should require companies to disclose the risks they face related to climate change—including potential financial losses related to extreme weather or rising sea levels. Proposed legislation would make it mandatory for thousands of companies (including banks, manufacturers, and energy producers) to use a standardized method to inform investors about social and environmental risks. Supporters say it’s a critical step toward reducing emissions, and that companies owe it to investors to share potential risks, especially if the information could affect a company’s stock price.

The challenge now will be to move from aspiration to action—and so far, the scorecard for business is mixed.

Some businesses are on board and see the benefits of greater transparency on climate. In response to investor demands, several countries, including the U.K., have moved to make climate risk disclosures mandatory. But major companies in the U.S. continue to oppose such regulation, preferring instead to self-police. BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, considered by some to be a corporate climate leader, instead supports a voluntary global reporting standard, arguing that federal oversight is unnecessary and would introduce legal pitfalls for companies. Business groups are calling for flexible disclosure requirements along the lines of those being developed by the G20-led Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures—but these would be far laxer and harder to verify.

Corporate leaders with empty plans and promises

Exhibit B: Is fossil fuel divestment actually happening?

Worldwide, banks, insurance firms, and other big investors are under growing pressure to stop loaning money to fossil fuel companies, buying their stocks, and underwriting their expansion plans. Activists have issued widespread calls for investors to divest from dirty fossil fuels, and so far more than 1,300 institutions have made this commitment, keeping an estimated $14 trillion out of coal, oil, and gas development. In theory, big companies would support fossil fuel divestment, since it provides them a way to honor their climate commitments and to support wider net-zero emission and carbon neutrality goals.

But that’s not necessarily what’s happening. For example, although BlackRock vowed to divest from coal-mining companies a year ago, it still holds $85 billion in coal investments, and at a recent virtual forum CEO Fink disparaged divestment efforts as “greenwashing.” The CEO of Bank of America, the world’s fourth-largest financier of fossil fuels, also dragged his feet on the issue. Climate activist and writer Bill McKibben called this response from the financial community “rigid and so short-sighted,” concluding that “the money men were saying, essentially, go to Hell” and were engaging in their own form of greenwashing through “dodges that, for the time being, allow them to keep lending vast sums of money to the fossil-fuel industry while insisting that they’re very worried.”

Exhibit C: Carbon offsets don’t do nearly enough

Finally, let’s take a look at the steps that companies are actually taking to achieve their net-zero or climate neutrality ambitions. In many cases, the solution is carbon offsets: rather than directly reducing their own emissions, companies seek to lower their environmental impact by supporting “carbon dioxide removal” elsewhere, such as through reforestation efforts. Dozens of large companies, including Apple, Walmart and British Airways, have cited carbon dioxide removal in their pledges for climate neutrality. Shell, for example, aims to achieve its net-zero emission goals by capturing 120 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year through “nature-based” offsets by 2030. Meanwhile, the company still plans to spend handsomely on oil and gas and to increase its fossil fuel output.

Because of planetary limits, the total volume of offsets that companies rely on will quickly exceed the planet’s ability to provide them…

The problem is, offsets alone won’t do the trick. As Bloomberg columnist Kate Mackenzie explains, companies are making unrealistic assumptions about the “negative emissions” that would come with carbon dioxide removal. Because of planetary limits, the total volume of offsets that companies rely on will quickly exceed the planet’s ability to provide them; yet, recent net-zero commitments “behave as though these constraints don’t exist.” Without genuine action to actually slash emissions in the near term, Mackenzie writes, “net zero risks becoming a fairytale providing cover for the heavy-emitting industries, particularly those in the fossil fuel sector who have aggressively blocked climate action.”

Looking ahead

It’s still not totally apparent how some big companies—particularly the world’s major polluters—will be able to achieve their climate commitments without drastic changes in how they operate. But it’s clear that moving forward, they’ll need to provide more specifics about their intentions. This means providing information on the risks they actually face from climate change, how they’ll shift their investments from fossil fuels, and what they’ll actually do to slash (not just offset) their emissions in the near term. (By near term, we’re talking the next 10-15 years, the urgent timeline we face to really get emissions under control.) Despite admirable commitments, the danger of corporate greenwashing remains very real, and we need to remain vigilant to ensure that ambitious words are followed by genuine, impactful action.

Head here to see a list and track progress of some of the biggest corporate players’ commitments; head here for help with personal fossil-free investing.