Meet our advisory board

Ed Ahnert

President, Retired

Ed Ahnert retired from ExxonMobil in 2005 after almost 28 years service with the company, over fourteen as head of the ExxonMobil Foundation and contributions manager for Exxon Mobil Corporation and thirteen years in various positions in the Treasurer’s department.

Ahnert graduated from Rice University with a bachelor of arts degree in English literature. He earned a master’s degree in international relations from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

Vikas Bharathwaaj

Executive Director

Vikas Bharathwaaj is an Executive Director at Morgan Stanley and been a member of the Firm’s Energy Investment Banking team since 2008. He has held various roles in its Calgary, Houston and New York offices.

Having led and executed several strategic and capital markets transactions for his clients in Oilfield Services, Upstream E&P, Refining, Chemicals and Metals & Mining, Vikas is currently responsible of the Group’s Oilfield Services coverage and execution initiatives.

Bill Currens

Senior Vice President

Bill Currens serves as senior vice president of financial planning and analysis for Duke Energy. He is responsible for the business and financial planning functions of the enterprise, including oversight of the company’s financial forecast. He also manages the design of policies, processes and systems that support the finance function.Before assuming his current position in 2018, Currens served as Duke Energy’s senior vice president, controller and chief accounting officer.A native of High Point, N.C., Currens earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in accounting, both from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 2015, he completed The Executive Program at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia.

He is a certified public accountant in North Carolina and currently actively serves in the community on the board of directors for the Renaissance West Community Initiative, the United Way of Central Carolinas and the N.C. Zoological Society.

David Fountain

Senior Vice President

David Fountain currently serves as SVP and Vice General Counsel for the Tennessee Valley Authority.  He joined TVA in June 2020 after more than 20 years with Duke Energy and its predecessor companies Carolina Power & Light (CP&L) and Progress Energy. Before joining TVA, Fountain served as Duke Energy’s SVP – Legal, Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer and Corporate Secretary.

Prior, he served as Duke Energy’s North Carolina President where was responsible for the strategy and financial performance of the state’s largest electric utilities. At varying times in his career, he has led the legal functions supporting the company’s nuclear, commercial transactions, state and federal regulatory, corporate governance, human resources, litigation, EH&S, internal audit, and ethics and compliance departments. A triple Tar Heel, Fountain earned JD, MBA, and undergraduate degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

Christina Jeffress


Tina Jeffress is an associate at ScottMadden, Inc, a management consulting firm specializing in the electric utility business. Tina served as president of the MBA Energy Club in the 2017-2018 academic year, supporting 40+ students as they recruited for energy roles. In this capacity, she also contributed to the Energy Center’s conference planning, corporate outreach, and fundraising efforts.

She received the Core Value Award for Leadership at the 2018 MBA commencement ceremony. Tina holds an MBA from UNC Kenan-Flagler with concentrations in Energy and Sustainable Enterprise and a BA in International Development and Spanish from UCLA.

Steve Newby


Steve Newby is the Founder, President and CEO of Summit Midstream, and a member of the board of directors of Summit Midstream Partners, LP, and Summit Midstream Partners, LLC. Mr. Newby is responsible for the company’s strategic investments and day-to-day operations. His background includes over 17 years of oil and gas experience with a focus on the midstream sector of the energy industry.

He is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.S. in business administration with a concentration in finance. He is a board member of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Georgia, and in 2012, was named one of Forbes Magazine’s Most Powerful CEOs under the age of 40.

Brian O'Hara

Senior Vice President

Brian O’Hara manages policy and regulatory affairs for Strata Solar, as well as overseeing strategic internal efforts like our “First Time Right” program. Before joining Strata Solar, Brian was President and Founder of the Southeastern Wind Coalition, where he led wind energy development, policy and advocacy efforts in the Southeast. He has also worked as an engineer on offshore oil and gas drilling in West Africa and has led development teams and finance efforts in the U.S. real estate industry.

Brian has extensive experience in energy, project development, project management, engineering, policy and finance.

Paula Sims

Board Member & Advisor

Paula has 30 years of corporate experience in aviation and utility industries. She held positions of president, chief operating officer, svp of corporate development, chief integration officer, svp of operations, vp of strategy, audit manager and human resource manager with Progress Energy. She also spent 15 years with GE Aviation in various engineering, operations and plant management roles.  She transitioned to Kenan-Flagler Business School in 2012 and served as a professor of the practice of leadership and organizational behavior and executive coach.  Paula was appointed to Pinnacle West Capital Board of Directors in 2016 where she chairs the nuclear and operations committee and is a member of the governance and finance committee. Pinnacle West Capital is an S&P 500 company based in Phoenix, Arizona, which provides retail and wholesale electric services in the state of Arizona.  She also serves on an advisory board for Strata Solar, LLC and as a board member for McKim & Creed.  Paula earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering for Virginia Tech, a master’s degree in engineering from Boston University, and a master of business 

Sherri Stuewer

Vice President, Retired

Sherri Stuewer was Vice President – Safety, Health and Environment for Exxon Mobil Corporation. In this role she is responsible for developing, reviewing, and coordinating ExxonMobil’s worldwide efforts in the environment, safety, and health areas. Prior to her current assignment, Stuewer was strategic planning manager for ExxonMobil, general manager of the Exxon Company U.S.A. supply department, and manager of the Exxon refinery in Baytown, Texas. Over her 30-year career with ExxonMobil, she has held a variety of technical and managerial positions in refining, planning, and logistics.

Stuewer is a member of the Board of Trustees and the Engineering College Council at Cornell University. She is also a board member of the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas and the Bermuda Institut of Ocean Sciences. She is a past chair of the Industry Advisory Board to the International Energy Agency. Stuewer holds a B.S. and M.S. in Engineering from Cornell University. She is married and has two daughters.

Chris Vlahoplus

Internal Advisor

Chris Vlahoplus serves as internal advisor and liaison for key client relationships and work. He also provides mentorship across the firm and closely supports ScottMadden’s analytics capability. Prior to this role, Chris had been a management consultant to the energy and utility industry for 28 years, serving 20 years as a partner. He led ScottMadden’s clean tech & sustainability practice area for six years, including a role as co-leader of the firm’s nuclear consulting practice. During his tenure, Chris assisted more than 40 companies focusing on electric generation business management, merger integration, strategic and business planning, organizational restructuring, and management models.

Prior, Chris worked in nuclear safety at Duke Power Company. He earned a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of South Carolina, an M.S. in nuclear engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and an M.B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Ed Finley

Vice President

Ed Finley currently practices law in Raleigh for clients in utility related matters. From 2007 through 2019 he served as Chairman of the North Carolina Utilities Commission after initially being appointed by Governor Easley.  While on the Commission he served as First Vice President, as a member of the Executive Committee, and Chair of the Electricity Committee of the National Association of Regulatory Commissioners.

In addition, he served on the Advisory Council to the Board of Directors of the Electric Power Research Institute. He served as President of the Organization of PJM States, Inc. Between 1974 and 2007 he practiced law in Raleigh.  He has undergraduate and law degrees from UNC-Ch.