Greg Wolf, the former CEO of Leeward Renewable Energy, passed away on August 3. He was 50.
Best known for building out Duke Energy's renewables division over the course of 10 years, he went on to take the helm at Leeward Renewable Energy in 2016. He left Leeward earlier this year, after four years in the CEO position there and more than 20 years in the power sector (PFR, 4/24).
His legacy as a crusader for the renewable energy division within Duke, an investor-owned utility holding company with a heavy historical reliance on coal, is evident in the 2.9 GW commercial renewable energy portfolio he helped to build there.
“Greg was key to the renewables business’s growth being recognized and valued within a large organization like Duke – not just as a business that’s ‘nice to have’ but as a fundamental piece of its strategy going forward," said Tedd Matula, Wolf's long-time colleague at both Duke and Leeward. "He navigated buy-in within Duke as skillfully as he handled external partners. He helped position the renewables team within Duke, right down to the branding of Duke Energy Renewables as a customer facing enterprise.”
Wolf is survived by his wife Christiane Westerkamp Wolf and sons Joseph and Kevin.
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Wolf was born on August 10, 1969, and enrolled at the University of Cincinnati in 1987. He played football for UC from 1987 to 1989 and remained a passionate Cincinnati Bearcat supporter throughout his life.
After graduating from UC and working in Proctor & Gamble's healthcare marketing division for four years, he earned his MBA from Harvard Business School. Following a short spell at Mead Corp, Wolf then joined General Electric, where he worked in business development for GE Power Systems as well as in energy investments for GE Capital.
He moved to Cinergy in 2003 and became a Duke employee when the two firms merged a few years later (PFR, 5/9/05). It was at Duke that he would meet long-time colleagues – and friends – Matula and Jason Allen.
“He was the type of person who wanted to hear what you had to say," recalls Matula. "He wanted to get to know the people he worked with, more than just a “Hi, how are you?” and this made him an effective colleague and leader.”
Wolf rose from vice president in Duke's communications infrastructure team to president of the company's commercial businesses – which included competitive renewables, transmission, natural gas infrastructure and energy storage – and president of Duke Energy Renewables.
Among the more memorable deals he struck was a wind development joint venture with Sumitomo Corp of Americas in 2012 (PFR, 3/2/12). Duke and Sumitomo would go on to seal several follow-up deals, including for the 211 MW Mesquite Creek wind farm in Texas, which has a 20-year power purchase agreement with Mars (PFR, 9/1/15).
The pitch to Mars showcases Wolf's attention to detail. When Mars executives visited Duke's office, he made sure only Mars bars appeared in the candy jar in the conference room.
“Vision is often a word associated with great leaders and he had not just vision but also the ability to gets deals done, always with a level head,” said Matula.
ArcLight Capital Partners hired Wolf to be CEO of its Leeward renewable energy portfolio company in July 2016. Among the innovative deals Leeward closed during his tenure were pioneering tax equity financings for the Sweetwater and Mendota Hills wind repowerings in Illinois and Texas in 2018 (PFR, 1/11/18, 10/4/18).
That was also the year that Wolf navigated ArcLight's sale of the company to OMERS (PFR, 9/11/18), while largely keeping the Leeward team together. Once the deal closed, Wolf convinced his old colleague Matula to join him as chief legal officer at Leeward (PFR, 3/25/19).
"Greg was an incredible presence in the renewable power industry," said a representative of Leeward in a statement to PFR. "He made an impression on everyone he met and we were fortunate to have the opportunity to work closely with him. He was a leader, a mentor, and most of all a friend. He will be missed greatly."
“We join Greg’s Leeward colleagues in expressing our sincere condolences following his passing," said OMERS in a statement. "As a leader, Greg used his personable approach to champion Leeward both internally and externally with stakeholders, and through his key roles in industry groups. His many contributions to the company will be long remembered.”
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Wolf, who retained strong links to the University of Cincinnati and its football team, was due to take up the chair of the University of Cincinnati Foundation, having previously served as vice chair. The Gregory C. Wolf Memorial Fund supports the school's football program in his name.
"Today, the @uofcincy family remembered Greg Wolf who left this earth too soon, yet left an impact that will resonate for generations to come," wrote Peter Landgren, president of the Foundation, in a tweet on August 8.