When the U.S. Department of Energy announced a call for solar-home builders in a 2011 competition known as the Solar Decathlon, Stevens students and faculty leapt at the opportunity, joining forces with two fellow institutions to design and build Empowerhouse. Stevens returned to Hoboken with two top prizes (for Hot Water Efficiency and Affordability) and a 13th-place overall finish. The home constructed by the team is now serving as a permanent Habitat for Humanity residence for a family in the nation’s capital — the only home from the 2011 competition to become an actual residence.
That success would not have been possible without incredible generosity from friends and alumni such as James “Jay” Lewis ’93.
Lewis, now Chief Operating Officer of the North American energy retailer Just Energy, earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer engineering during his four years at Stevens. He oversees planning, policy and program development for the company — a leading natural gas, electricity and green energy provider operating in 13 states, six Canadian provinces and the UK.
Lewis grew up in Brick, N.J., and was always interested in computers — since at least the fourth grade, when he wrote a school paper discussing the need for computers in everyday life. His engineering background proved invaluable immediately upon graduation, when he entered General Electric’s prestigious management development program. Later, when completing an
MBA at New York University, he once again drew on his Stevens education.
“I came out of Stevens with tremendous analytical and problem-solving skills,” Lewis stresses. “These skills helped me get a job at General Electric, which was at that time perhaps the leading company in the world. Without the foundation Stevens provided, I would never have gotten in.
“Later, when I pursued an MBA, I was ready for the program — again because of Stevens.”
When his subsequent employer, Enron, collapsed suddenly in 2002, Lewis applied his problem-solving skills yet again and, partnering with four others, formed Houston-based Just Energy Texas LP, a regional marketer of deregulated electricity. In 2007, the company was acquired by Energy Savings Group, where he continued in progressive leadership roles. During steady growth and expansion, the firm rebranded under the name Just Energy in 2009. Just Energy expanded into solar energy in 2010.
The Solar Decathlon team proved a natural fit for both Lewis’ personal and corporate interests. A 2011 visit to campus to meet President Nariman Farvardin convinced Lewis to that the time was right to give back to the University.
He was especially taken, he says, with the team and Stevens’ plans for a comprehensive sustainable energy research program.
“It was eye-opening; I was extremely impressed about where Stevens is headed,” Lewis recalls. “It’s amazing what our school has accomplished even in the past year, and I feel great about where we’re going next. I am fortunate to be in a position to help Stevens, and I want to do so. In fact, we can help each other.”