November 14, 2023

Honoring Stephen Bickel

By: Jenna Barron

On November 1st, Stephen Bickel, passed away due to injuries sustained in a biking accident. We are grieving the sudden loss of our colleague and dear friend.

Stephen’s significant contributions in the last half decade changed our field. After an influential career managing standards for energy efficient products, Stephen decided that the race against a changing climate was a calling he wanted to heed. Stephen joined the pursuit of inclusive financial solutions, and his strategic vision for achieving rapid, massive investment in energy upgrades for everyone shaped new approaches to access and affordability.

In addition to his work with Clean Energy Works, Stephen was President and co-founder of LibertyHomes, a nonprofit that seeks to assure all families, regardless of income, can live in homes and communities that are resilient, safe, healthy, affordable, and energy independent. Stephen and his LibertyHomes co-founder Jill Ferguson published the first two peer reviewed independent evaluations of utility investments made with the Pay As You Save® system. Together, they have created numerous resources to inform and empower champions of PAYS® and inclusive utility investment and serve as trusted advisors to utilities, program operators, utility commissions, federal agencies, and field organizers.

We mourn with Stephen’s family. His mother, Nancy Bickel, wrote that the family especially appreciates hearing how people knew Stephen and any memories about his life. For those among the many who Stephen reached over the years, we invite you to share a reflection with his parents and family by posting a message on the CaringBridge site dedicated to Stephen. 

Stephen’s legacy lives on through all who learned from his expertise and generous assistance, including everyone at Clean Energy Works and so many colleagues beyond. 

Stephen Eliezer Bickel, a caring extrovert and a passionate environmentalist, died November 1, 2023.

Born on May 29, 1968, Steve grew up in Berkeley, California with his parents Nancy and Peter and his older sister Amanda. The Bickel home was full of dinner parties, statistics graduate students, and generosity. Steve graduated from Berkeley High School, completed his B.S. degree at Oberlin College, and earned an M.S. in biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

Steve took a year off from college to serve in the California Conservation Corps, where he developed a deep appreciation of the natural world. After completing his masters, Steve began to work with a variety of environmental organizations. From 2002-2018 Steve worked at D+R International, an environmental consulting firm, where he became Executive Vice President of Innovation and a partner in the firm. While at D+R, Steve managed EPA Energy Star programs, expanded the use of data analysis, introduced applications of behavioral science, and increased the adoption of energy-efficient products.

After reading the 2018 International Climate Report, Steve decided that he was not doing enough to combat the climate crisis. He left his comfortable job to found a nonprofit and be on the front lines of climate mitigation. The nonprofit, LibertyHomes, has the goal of upgrading homes for all families, regardless of income, to make them resilient, affordable, and energy independent. He hoped to reach all 120 million homes in the U.S. and had succeeded in achieving scale in 10 states, most recently California. The co-founder of the nonprofit, Jill Ferguson, plans to carry on their work. 

Steve was as passionate about his friends and family as he was about his work. He was generous, kind, and playful. He loved to learn and was constantly listening to podcasts, reading academic articles, and asking people questions about a huge variety of topics. Steve had an ability to converse with anyone and seemed to know something about everything. He was a devoted mentor to many young people, offering them internships, biking with them to work, and keeping up with them for many years. 

He had a lifelong love of both food and cooking, nourished by his mother. As a young boy he would flip omelets while his sister read to him. As a father, he made elaborate Sunday brunches with his daughters to teach them to cook. He loved games—but not losing—poetry and all kinds of art, and could fall asleep anywhere. 

Steve and Eliyana Adler met at Oberlin College in the kosher/halal co-op, where they built a community of lifelong friends. They married in August 1993. They lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for nine years, while Eliyana received a doctorate in Jewish History and they had three daughters—Rana, Maya, and Selah. In 2002 they moved to Silver Spring, Maryland, where they raised their family. Steve loved to sing with, read to, and get on the floor to play with his kids. He taught them all to cook, play bridge, and be independent thinkers. The family enjoyed camping and seeing plays, as well as holiday visits to family and friends all over. In both Cambridge and Silver Spring, the family was a part of vibrant observant Jewish communities.

In 2022, after Steve and Eliyana divorced, Steve moved to Boulder, Colorado, to be close to family and the mountains. He threw himself into a routine of running, biking, working, cooking, and spending time with family. He died as a result of a bike accident. 

Steve is survived by his parents Peter and Nancy Bickel, his sister Amanda Bickel and brother-in-law Peter Mayer, his daughters Rana, Maya and Selah Bickel, and their mother, Eliyana Adler, and a host of affectionate colleagues, friends and extended family. 

If you wish to honor Steve with a charitable gift, you might consider the California Conservation Corps Foundation, The Innocence Project, or Community Cycles in Boulder.

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