Energy Equity Leader Receives Top Prize in Energy Policy

Today the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania awarded this year’s Carnot Prize to Sheila Oparaocha, international coordinator and program manager at ENERGIA, an international network focused on promoting gender equality, women’s empowerment, and sustainable energy access.

The Carnot Prize recognizes Oparaocha’s distinguished contributions to energy policy. During her more than two decades at ENERGIA, Oparaocha has tirelessly advocated for a more gender equal energy sector and for women to play a central role in the clean energy transition.

Her work has supported women entrepreneurs to grow and run their own businesses in the energy sector. She has assisted electricity utilities, international agencies, and energy ministries in mainstreaming gender approaches in their institutions and operations. At the international level, she has ensured the interlinkages between gender and Sustainable Development Goal 7 to be integrated into intergovernmental discussions at the highest levels. 

“Over my years of experience, I have seen significant progress in integrating gender-responsive approaches in projects, programs, and policies. Now is the time to scale up international and national efforts and investments to accelerate the clean and just energy transition, and this cannot be achieved without greater involvement of women at all levels,” said Oparaocha.

“Promoting gender equality in the energy sector is not only fundamental to human rights,” she said, “but it also contributes to addressing pressing challenges, including reducing poverty, combatting climate change, closing the gender wealth gap, and building more equal, inclusive, and just societies that live in synergy with a protected natural environment.”

As part of the award ceremony, the Kleinman Center and ENERGIA will announce a new fellowship designed for a Penn student interested in the energy transition and gender. The Kleinman-Oparaocha Fellowship will begin in the summer of 2022, and will resemble the Kleinman-Birol fellowship, now in its fifth year, which is named in honor of 2016 Carnot Prize recipient Fatih Birol of the International Energy Agency (IEA). The Kleinman-Birol fellowship offers an immersive work experience at the IEA in Paris. The Kleinman-Oparaocha fellowship will offer a similar international work experience.

ENERGIA is an international network of like-minded organizations and professionals, active in Africa and Asia, with the common vision of equitable access to, and control over, sustainable energy services as an essential right to development. The network contributes to energy access for all by scaling up the delivery of energy services through women-led micro and small businesses, advocating for and providing technical support to mainstream gender approaches in energy policies, programs, and projects, providing the evidence base for improving energy investment effectiveness through research, and raising awareness of issues related to gender and energy.

“We are pleased to give one of the world’s most esteemed awards in energy policy to Sheila Oparaocha, whose work acknowledges the critical role of gender in the long-term goal of universal sustainable energy access around the world,” said Fritz Steiner, dean and Paley Professor at the Weitzman School of Design, home of the Kleinman Center.

“The energy transition needs to be equitable, across gender and socio-economic levels, and no one is fighting harder for that than Sheila Oparaocha and ENERGIA,” said Mark Alan Hughes, faculty director of the Kleinman Center. 

Oparaocha is the sixth recipient of the Carnot Prize, and joins a distinguished list of past prize winners, including:

  • 2019—Cheryl LaFleur, commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)
  • 2018—Piyush Goyal, India’s minister of railways and coal
  • 2017—Gina McCarthy, former administrator of the EPA
  • 2016—Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency
  • 2015—Daniel Yergin, author and energy expert

About Oparaocha

Sheila Oparaocha has nearly two decades of experience working in the gender and energy sector and currently leads the ENERGIA International Network on Gender and Sustainable Energy as International Coordinator and Program Manager. The Network, hosted by Hivos, an international organization based in the Netherlands with 50 years of experience in the development sector, was established in 1996 with the objective of mainstreaming gender in energy sector policies and programs in developing countries. Over the years, ENERGIA has emerged as a leading international network and played a key role in establishing “gender and energy” as a credible issue.

Oparaocha has a bachelor’s degree in veterinary medicine from the University of Zambia and a master’s degree in gender and development planning from the Asian Institute of Technology.


ENERGIA was founded in 1996 with the objective of mainstreaming gender in energy sector policies and programs in the developing countries. It has emerged as the leading international network of like-minded organizations and individuals with a unique niche and a firm set of shared values and commitment. The network is active in Africa and Asia, working through its member organizations and partners, which include NGOs, government agencies, academic, and social enterprises. ENERGIA’s central focus, solving the energy access problems of women in last-mile communities, is consistent with the global agenda on poverty eradication, universal access to energy, and gender equality.

About the Prize

The Carnot Prize is named in memory of French scientist Sadi Carnot, the father of thermodynamics. Carnot recognized that the power of the steam engine would “produce a great revolution” in human development. The Carnot Prize honors those leading similar energy policy revolutions that bring progress and prosperity.

About the Kleinman Center

The Kleinman Center for Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design creates the conditions for policy innovation that support a just and efficient transition to sustainable energy.

About the Weitzman School

The mission of the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design is to prepare students to address complex sociocultural and environmental issues through thoughtful inquiry, creative expression, and innovation. As a diverse community of scholars and practitioners, we are committed to advancing the public good—locally, nationally, and globally—through art, design, planning, and preservation.

Media Contact:

Lindsey Samahon

Director of Communications

Kleinman Center for Energy Policy

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