Chairman and CEO of Asera Group, Inc.
Hometown: Vallejo, California
"I have always used my Civil Engineering background as a policymaker to analyze issues. I believe that civil engineers are engineers who care about the environment, and I wanted to give back to the community by reinvesting my knowledge through teaching students.”
CEE Alumni Larry Asera was honored with the 2022 Campanile Excellence in Achievement Award during the Cal Charter Gala and Awards Ceremony on May 12, 2022. The Campanile Excellence in Achievement Award is given to alumni that push the boundaries of what is possible and whose professional achievements reflect the excellence of a UC Berkeley education.
This award honors Asera’s notable accomplishments as an engineer, entrepreneur, public servant, and educator. A bio video of his life accomplishments can be viewed here, and the complete list of award recipients is available online.
Asera has served as an expert and keynote speaker at many global energy forums on critical issues such as climate change and greenhouse gas emission reduction and also was a professor of engineering technology at CSU Maritime. He currently serves as the Chairman and CEO of Asera Group, Inc, an energy and environmental engineering company that is a recognized pioneer in developing solar photovoltaic energy systems. We interviewed Asera to learn more about his career trajectory, expertise, and influences at Cal.
Compiled by Pooja Nerkar
The grandson of immigrants from the Philippines and born in Vallejo, California, Asera is the first Filipino American elected to public office in the U.S. mainland. His grandparents settled in Hawaii in 1906 and then migrated to California in 1925. In 1973, at 24, Asera got elected to the Vallejo City Council.
At 27, he became a member of the Solano Board of Supervisors and eventually the board chairman at age 29, the youngest board member and chairman in the history of Solano County. Later he served in Cabinet-level roles for the State of California. After serving as vice president of Pacific Gas & Electric company (PG&E), Larry founded the Asera Group of companies in 1996, specializing in renewable energy resources and sustainable communities.
Larry Asera has distinguished himself as a public servant and entrepreneur. He attributes his success as a clean energy and environmental technology leader to his education at Cal, where he earned a degree in Civil Engineering in 1970. He continued his graduate studies at UC Davis and is currently a Trustee Emeritus; afterward, Asera was an Urban Fellow at the Sloan School of Management at MIT.
How do you use your degree in your career?
Asera says that his first inspiration to think about his future career was a new elective in 1970 sponsored by Professor TY Lin. Although a renowned structural engineering professor in the CE Department, TY Lin headed up “The Art and Science of Engineering” course to teach the upper division CE students about engineering beyond just science.
“That one course was a major influence in changing the definition of an engineer as just the designers of high-rise buildings, subdivisions, streets, or sewer systems. It raised my own consciousness about the role of the civil engineer as it relates to the environment, the community, and our society. That inspired my journey from becoming an engineer, entrepreneur, and public policy maker advocating clean sustainable development communities,” said Asera.
Another influence on Asera’s career was his CE Professor, Hans Albert Einstein, son of the great physicist Albert Einstein. Although not a part of the formal curriculum, Professor Einstein indirectly introduced to those students interested in the technology known as the “photovoltaic cell”.
People commonly think Albert Einstein won the Nobel Prize for his theory of relativity. However, Einstein received the award primarily for his work and explanation of the photovoltaic effect - the conversion of sunlight into electricity. “Since that time,” according to Asera, “I have incorporated this technology, now referred to simply as solar energy, into my career as the basis for my projects requiring renewable and clean energy resources.”
The trend between these experiences at Berkeley, whether it be learning from Prof. TY Lin in “The Art and Science of Engineering” course or Prof. Hans Albert Einstein about the “photovoltaic effect", is that Asera had non-traditional experiences. These experiences at Berkeley helped him become the multi-dimensional leader he is today in the clean energy and technology industry and his journey as an engineer, entrepreneur, public servant, and educator.