Jennifer, you are not exactly new to the energy industry. In fact, you have been an ardent supporter of renewable energy from the inside of other regulated industries. For our readers, please share your professional journey with us.
Thank you very much for the honor of being featured this month! I am an attorney by training and spent a large part of my career serving three State of Florida Chief Financial Officers practicing insurance law and regulation. During this tenure, I was appointed Chief Counsel to the State of Florida Insurance Consumer Advocate representing the insurance buying public. It was in this policy forward role that I realized at how important a reliable utility infrastructure is to Florida’s economy, especially in the wake of natural catastrophes when time is of the essence in repairing homes, businesses, and communities. I began to collaborate more with energy professionals and when the opportunity presented, I joined the industry so that I could help develop clean and resilient assets to the grid.
In 2019, I joined a solar developer as Senior Counsel and raised more than $71 MM of debt and tax equity proceeds in the advancement of projects across the country. Last year, I joined EDP Renewables North America Distributed Generation as the team’s Capital Markets Consultant where I coordinate with external debt and tax equity counterparties to guide and close financing transactions for the company’s nationwide distributed generation and community solar asset portfolio.
EDPR is a global renewable energy company that is present in 28 markets, including a fairly significant presence in the United States. How is the culture of the company impacted by its global portfolio?
EDPR’s story in the U.S. began in 2007 when they embraced the growing demand for clean energy and acquired Horizon Wind Energy, now EDP Renewables North America (EDPR NA). Since then, EDPR has more than tripled its renewable energy generation, becoming one of the world’s largest producers. In North America, we operate more than 8,200 MW of renewable energy projects that generate power, enrich rural communities, and accelerate growth toward a sustainable future. From development of onsite distributed energy resources and community solar to revolutionizing the storage and hydrogen sectors, EDPR is a leader in the U.S. energy transition.
The commitment to working with our customers on their carbon net zero journey ties into our culture of innovation and teamwork across all geographies and business units. Our corporate slogan “Changing To-morrow Now” isn’t just a slogan – it’s part of our DNA and passion to make an impact in the communities we serve. From our internal ED&I efforts to working with local workforce development initiatives to pro-motion of STEM education amongst students and equitable access to energy via community solar, we are a team of “doers.” It’s because of our culture of innovation, inclusion, and persistence that we continue to challenge the status quo and revolutionize the U.S. energy transition.
“Social Dimension” is how your company describes the people-part of sustainability. That is a unique way to cover the “S” in ESG. Please elaborate on the different examples of social dimension from both perspectives: internal and external.
One of EDPR’s core values is a commitment to our people and our relationships.
EDPR is continually investing internally in our teams through career development and internal leadership opportunities as well as mentorship programs. Our employees are our greatest asset – it’s not just the technology that attracts customers and stakeholders to EDPR – it’s the people and the talent we’ve assembled. As a company that works in the sustainability sector, we believe that we must also be focused on how sustainable we are with individual team members’ time and overall wellness. It’s only by having a wholistic focus on individuals that allows us to challenge everyone to be their best and reach their career potential. This is accomplished through a variety of efforts, most importantly our ED&I initiatives that build a diversity roadmap focused on impacting sustainability and our global action plan.
Externally, we are customer and stakeholder centric. We service everyone from commercial entities and corporations to rural communities. In addition, we’re active community members in the cities where our regional and site offices are located. We believe that our work in sustainability is strengthened by the partnership of external stakeholders who share the same values and aspirational hopes for a more just and sustainable U.S. That’s why we engage in efforts that range from local workforce training to dedicated STEM education outreach to girls in middle/high school – we believe that we need to build up the next generation of dreamers and innovators in our industry – and we need to start changing tomorrow now.
How have these policies and corporate culture attracted you to EDPR and do they contribute to your staying with the company?
For me, the commitment to people and our culture of innovation, inclusion, and persistence at EDPR is unmatched. I am passionate about the energy transition, but that is not the only thing that defines me as a person and contributor to the industry. I am also an LGBTQ+ Hispanic woman, and have felt unable to bring my true authentic self to the workplace in prior roles. It is quite the opposite experience for me at EDPR. My background and whole self is valued as an asset, and I have been empowered by EDPR’s leadership team to spearhead the company’s ED&I efforts as the co-chair of EDPR’s internal PRIDE SynERGy group. I am very proud of the work the PRIDE group is doing to advance internal initiatives – such as advising on and reviewing corporate communications and benefit offerings – and taking part in external volunteerism and advocacy opportunities in support our community. The work is self-generated by our group with a direct and supportive line to the EDPR’s leadership team. In this respect, EDPR “walks the talk” in its commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion and it is a large reason why I committed to joining the company.
Turning to renewable energy specifically and your business platform, is it your hope to grow into the Florida market?
With operating projects in 17 U.S. states as well as in Canada and Mexico, and development prospects all over the nation, we believe Florida has a leadership role in the country’s transition to a carbon neutral future. As a proud Floridian myself, there is much that we can engage on – especially on the ground level in local communities.
The role of distributed generation – i.e. onsite solar and storage – will play an immense role in creating grid resilience and well as providing access to clean energy. As climate change contributes to changing weather patterns, Florida businesses – large and small – have the opportunity to work with us to build up resilience that not only impacts their business, but the state as a whole. From a technology perspective, that includes growth in technologies related to onsite solar (carports, rooftop solar), EV mobility, storage, hydrogen, microgrids and incorporation of demand response technologies. There’s also an immense opportunity for starting with energy efficiency – such as LED retrofits at large manufacturing and warehouse facilities – and reducing current energy demand. The possibilities are endless and we look forward to working with businesses, schools, and municipalities across the state on their net-zero carbon journeys.
You are an annual attendee of Florida’s Women in Energy Leadership Forum. What has the Forum enabled you to do?
I am a big believer in the Forum as an incubator of thought leaders whom I wish to innovate alongside. During the pandemic, the Forum adapted to a virtual platform. Despite the physical connection, I gained amazing insights from the presentations of leaders including Catherine Stempien and Kimberly Greene, who were extremely vulnerable in sharing remarks on COVID-19, the concurrent social justice movement, and the ways these events impacted leadership and company investment in people and community. The presentations confirmed that I had committed to an industry that is listening before leading and a place where I am equally safe to lead and apply my talents. In subsequent forums, I have had the opportunity to watch and sit alongside thought leaders such as Shannon Pierce and Bentina Terry, prominent lawyer-leaders in the space with a passion for energy and ED&I in internal and external forums. My takeaways from these interactions are crucial in furthering my own contributions toward the social dimension component of EDPR’s ESG and challenging the company to surpass its sustainability goals.
In closing, what advice would you give to the 2nd year college student looking for a career in energy?
Financing renewable energy assets and contributing toward ED&I leadership at my company was not a planned stop on my career path; I went to college and majored in Communications before deciding to go to law school to be a litigator. My best advice for that second-year college student is to breathe into the journey. You do not always know where life will take you, but an attitude of YES! and maintaining an inherent curiosity will move you toward a passion that you may not have set out to pursue.