Maurice Muia is a local, state and national thought leader working on climate change policy across high capacity sectors - buildings, energy, transportation, diverse and marginalized communities and natural resources. His passion for sound clean energy policy is shaped from his experiences in the Caribbean (he is originally from St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands) and Missouri where he advises the City of St. Louis on innovative solutions for solar-ready and EV-ready building codes. Recently, Maurice was elected as a Councilman in Richmond Heights, MO. He stands for equity and service for all in his professional career and most importantly his constituents in the City of Richmond Heights.
He has also developed several utility-scale renewable energy solutions in his decade-long career as a power system electrical engineer in the state of Missouri. Maurice’s roles require shaping visionary equitable policy solutions to drive energy and transportation sectors. He is also a member of Forth’s board.
Given your experience on city council, as an electrical engineer and an entrepreneur, what is the connective tissue throughout your career?
One must be able to listen clearly to understand the challenge at hand. Everything comes after the listening phase, bias or preconceived notions should never enter the process. This is the core of my success in many areas of service on the personal and professional sides of my life.
What led to your focus on transportation electrification?
I value the transportation electrification system because it powers quality of life. After I graduated with my BS in Electrical Engineering, I began my graduate studies in electrochemical engineering. At the High Performance Materials Institute, I was the graduate student in charge of the electrical engineering part of the project. The moment I saw that we were building a fully carbon fiber monocoque based electric vehicle, I was hooked for life.
Back then, there was not a big appetite for large investments in propulsion battery technology and advanced vehicle architecture. Fast forward a decade later and you will see a new battery start-up that is either fundraising or piloting a demonstration line. My focus right now is to build the best critical materials company in the market and supply differently.
How would you characterize the importance of TE among other renewable/clean energy initiatives?
Transportation electrification is a tool and part of the solution. Separating electrified mobility from clean energy or high performing structures is a distraction. As a former power systems engineer for almost a decade, I understand the needs of the transmission and distribution system extremely well. Electrification of mobility can provide stability to a fragile and aging system that is in disrepair.
"Separating electrified mobility from clean energy or high performing structures is a distraction."
For example, coal was used to fuel the boiler in the basement, then we delivered natural gas to the home for the boiler, now we electrify that home and in turn we have removed tonnes of GHG emissions from indoors and our economy. Now is the time for transportation to go through the same evolution as we did with our homes.
Equity has been an essential principle in your professional life. What recommendations do you have to ensure TE equitably serves the frontline communities?
Equity is an essential principle in my life of service. If we can’t build the clean energy economy in frontline communities, then we’re failing! It is of utmost importance that we work with the wealth of resources in communities that are adversely affected by the consequences of climate change. If one listens, it is clear to see that underserved communities have a high level of community cohesion and generally have numerous community-based organizations on the ground doing the good work of bettering the neighborhood – this is a form of wealth.
What are the major barriers to access in TE and how can they be eliminated, particularly for underserved communities?
I see three major hurdles to cross: an unstable value chain, challenging business model development, and local ecosystem sustainability.
Currently, commodity prices for critical materials are through the ceiling. There is such an opportunity to stabilize resource acquisition, refining, and manufacturing of critical components. This will drive down costs and provide better access to EV and EVSE products and services.
"For transportation electrification to be successful, we must tie the environmental and economic performance together."
Hence, TE business models must find ways to be fiscally prudent as they provide numerous social benefits to communities in which they operate. These are the barriers that we must pierce through.
You were critical in implementing the SiLVERS community carsharing program in St. Louis. How is the program going? How is it overcoming/addressing EV barriers in the city? Where do you still identify gaps? Do you see it expanding?
The SiLVERS program is running smoothly. Our seniors in North and South City love the service. They can have their fresh fruits and vegetables delivered or take a ride to a YMCA fitness class to keep themselves fit. The use of electric vehicles decreases the concern for idling, pollution, and noise. In addition, these EVs are in historically underserved communities such as The Greater Ville, where The U.S. Supreme Court had decided 6-0 that racially restrictive housing covenants were illegal. Currently, the ride reservation process is not digitized, I would like the team to tackle that soon. This program will certainly expand, I am sure of that! The SiLVERS program has been greatly accepted by the community and these programs bring tremendous benefits to our elders.
I receive calls and emails from California, Minneapolis, and even as far as Hawaii. They ask about SiLVERS, AMP, and even our EV Ready policies in the St. Louis metropolitan region that cover 1.3 million Missourians. This activity gives me hope that we will serve all communities with better, cleaner and more accessible mobility options.
Is there anything that we haven’t mentioned that you feel is important or that you’d like to highlight?
I would like to illustrate the “three pillar” philosophy that I have developed over time. Government, NGOs and private firms all have a role to play when solving societal challenges.
They ebb and flow as they are called to contribute to, in this case, a clean energy economy where transportation electrification can thrive. I say this because not one of the three is more important that the other; but together with a common vision and mission, we can achieve a clean energy economy for all.
"Finally, we must remember where the critical materials for our clean energy economy come from and the communities that provide that mineral wealth to the rest of the world."
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