DeAndrea Salvador Makes Power Plays – to Decrease Energy Costs Sustainably

Written by Meg Seitz · Photography by Julia Fay

DeAndrea Salvador is one powerful woman.

And she’s teaching the Charlotte community how to use power sustainably, too.

As Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Renewable Energy Transition Initiative (RETI), she runs an organization whose focus is to decrease the energy costs of low income families sustainably. {Continued below}

The truth: Energy poverty exists when households spend more than 10% of what they’re making each year on energy expenses, respectively. And, in North Carolina, many low-income families often spend 20% of their income on energy. Which can only mean that to pay their energy bills, families must be willing to cut back on the essentials including (but certainly not limited to) transportation, medical care or medicine, and food – as well as their peace of mind. Think about it: Families who normally keep lights on at night to prevent break-ins, risk their home’s and family’s safety and security if they turn those lights off at night to save energy.

Salvador and her team as well as strategic affiliations and partners work diligently to eliminate energy poverty in North Carolina through general education and awareness initiatives and community engagement throughout Charlotte-Mecklenburg and surrounding areas. They focus on readying children, teens, adults, and families for the adoption of renewable, clean-energy technologies and the use of energy-efficient technologies.

“It was scary because it was such a new challenge for me, but I just jumped all the way into it,” she says with a sweet, honest laugh as she talks about how she formed RETI.

Salvador founded RETI when she realized energy poverty was closer to home than she ever realized. A Charlotte native, Salvador was visiting her grandmother (who doesn’t live far from Hygge West) one day, when she heard her grandmother’s neighbors talking about how hard it was to keep their home warm in the winter. They relied on a space heater which wasn’t a sustainable, efficient, or safe solution. Salvador, a life-long learner, started to research only to find there wasn’t a lot education or assistance available for families like her grandmother’s neighbors. There was short-term, perhaps a month’s worth of help, available – but nothing to support a family for the long-term in an efficient way.

Salvador, who holds a degree in Economics (and a minor in Anthropology) from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and worked previously in economic development for the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce saw an opportunity to create a sustainable solution.

“It was scary because it was such a new challenge for me, but I just jumped all the way into it,” she says with a sweet, honest laugh as she talks about how she formed RETI. And she’s not kidding.

She formed the organization and applied to Charlotte’s SEED20 in September 2013 – all while breastfeeding her first child. By the next March, she was a member of SEED20’s Class of 2014.

RETI continues to grow – in impact, engagement, and partnership. “We’re approaching this every day with the mission to help change the lives of those we interact with,” she says. “And we do a good job managing different types of partnerships – from Duke Energy to Greenpeace; my goal is for them to feel comfortable in our approach and what we’re trying to accomplish.”

Early education and community engagement continue to serve as two strong initiatives; RETI has organized workshops for all ages with groups including the Boys and Girls Club, the Girl Scouts, and STEM education organizations.

“We’re approaching this every day with the mission to help change the lives of those we interact with”

What’s next? The Energy Hero Community Festival on Saturday, September 30 to kick-off Energy Action Week that first week of October – a proclamation from Charlotte’s mayor, Jennifer Roberts.

As a CEO and mother with a husband who travels for work frequently, Salvador’s schedule varies; she’s up as early as 4:00am to get in a couple of hours of work before her two young sons wake up. She talks candidly about how agile she must be to take care of it all, and how supportive her family has been.

Another power play resource that’s allowed her to grow RETI with so many moving parts? Hygge West.

“I loved the flexibility of Hygge in time and space, but also how perfect it is for what we’re trying to do,” she shares. “I went from just-popping-in-when-I-could to now being here in a shared office space.” Salvador shares her office with Youth Empowered Solutions. Ironically, she interned for them as a high school student.

“The conversations I have here at Hygge spark ideas or help re-motivate me from a tough day,” she says. “It’s also let me see the growth of the organization, and it’s validating for partners who’ve been with me since 2015 to see that, too – now we have space to work, collaborate, host meetings. It helps verify that it’s all worth it.”

Meet the Author: Meg Seitz is the Founder and Managing Creative Partner of toth shop, an agency with one goal: Elevate your brand’s content through powerful writing, creativity, and strategy. She also serves as an Adjunct Professor with Queens University and Founding Partner of the children’s book series, “Bea is for Business”.

She’s an English major with an MBA, so she can talk Homer’s “The Odyssey” just as well as she can talk sunk costs – though she’d much prefer the former.

Meet the photographer: Hi, nice to meet you! I’m Julia. I’m my happiest self when my camera is in hand and I’m taking in this big beautiful world around me! People are my jam and the fact that this job brings so many wonderful people into my life is pretty special.

I grew up performing mostly in front of the camera! Singing, acting, comedy improv – anything on a stage or in front of a lens. The roles began to switch as I entered my freshman year of college and found a creative outlet through photography. My first “real” shoot was when an engaged friend of mine asked me to photograph her and her fiancé. Within moments of getting started, I knew that this was it. Telling peoples love stories, that is what I’m supposed to do! I shot my first wedding at nineteen, and well you know what they say..the rest is history! We’ve been together ever since 🙂