A young climate activist born and raised in Ketchikan was one of two Alaskans named to the Forbes “30 Under 30” list this year. KRBD’s Raegan Miller caught up with Kiera O’Brien about how growing up in Alaska inspired her to pursue a career focused on fighting climate change.
Kiera O’Brien has some advice for other young people in Alaska who want to make a difference in their communities:
“Find something you’re passionate about and go for it.”
O’Brien is a 24-year-old Harvard graduate and climate change advocate. Her passion for clean energy earned her a spot on Forbes’ “30 Under 30” energy list this year.
O’Brien said he just got the news Tuesday morning.
“Climate and clean energy are near and dear to my heart, and (I’m) very excited to see the Forbes energy list move toward clean energy the way it did,” she said.
She said her childhood in Ketchikan led her to where she is today: working for a green energy developer called TotalEnergies as a public policy representative.
“My childhood in Ketchikan really shaped what I do today,” explained O’Brien. “And Alaska is ground zero for climate change. So clean energy is the future for Alaska.”
Her job means she works in Washington, DC, keeping an eye on federal offshore wind and solar policy.
“I monitor federal public policy — so whatever happens on the Hill, at the White House, we’re interested in, and then I bring the findings back to the company and try to deduce what exactly that means for our business and our investment decisions,” she said.
She founded two climate-focused nonprofits and worked on the federal tenders that won her company two major offshore wind farm leases worth nearly a billion dollars. This includes the $795 million New York Bight project and the $160 million Carolina Long Bay wind farm lease.
“My field is quite niche, offshore wind, particularly in the US,” O’Brien said.
This isn’t the first time O’Brien has made one of these lists — she made another “30 Under 30” list in 2020.
“I went to one a few years ago – GreenBiz,” O’Brien said. “It’s a very similar thing. However, it is specific to climate and clean energy.”
But before Forbes and before Harvard, O’Brien was a student at Ketchikan High School.
“I captained the varsity swim team while I was there,” she recalled. “I was a (program) Class Act mentor. In the band’s schedule, a handful of other things.”
He was also a summer intern for Senator Dan Sullivan in 2016, the same year he graduated from Ketchikan High School. She returned to work for him in 2021 as a mail manager.
At Harvard, O’Brien was president emeritus of the Young Republicans club. She also founded the Young Conservatives for Carbon Dividends club.
The full Forbes “30 Under 30” power list can be found here.
Quannah Chasinghorse of Fairbanks was the only other Alaskan to be highlighted by Forbes this year.
Raegan Miller is a member of the Report for America Corps for KRBD. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one. Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution at KRBD.org/donate.