Interview with Candice Michalowicz & Tom Weirich, EDP Renewables
Candice Michalowicz & Tom Weirich, EDP Renewables
Catherine: Hi, I’m Catherine McLean, Founder and CEO of Dylan Green. And today I have with me Tom Weyrich. Tom is the Senior Marketing Manager at EDP renewables. And he’s joined by Candice Michalowicz who is the Chief Operating Officer at EDP renewables distributed generation team. Welcome, guys.
Tom: Hey, thanks for having us, Catherine.
Candice: Thanks very much.
Catherine: So I think Tom, you’re normally in Houston and Candice you’re normally in New York. Is that fair to say?
Tom: Yeah. And we’re here to Houston together, and we’re just commenting, it’s so nice to see each other. Because yeah, we kind of miss each other. We see each other virtually. So we’re definitely grateful for the opportunity to speak with you all today. But to do it together. Yeah.
Catherine: Well, I have to admit, I’ve been on a tour of the EDP Renewables offices. And the Houston office is absolutely beautiful, as is your new New York office. So congratulations on that.
Tom: Thank you so much.
Catherine: So I want to first congratulate you, Tom, I know you’ve had some really exciting life events happen recently, a new book that’s come out, you’ve recently been promoted. So tell us a little bit about yourself. And then Candice, I want to hear all of your news, because I know you also have some really exciting news, as well, recently.
Tom: Definitely. Well, I mean, much of it is thanks to Candice. And the reason I’m here at EDP renewables is 100%, due to Candice and to our colleague, Rich Dovere, who helped both co-found C2 which was then acquired by EDP Renewables, close to a year and a half ago, time has really flown. And so as a result, I came as part of the acquisition on board and in the last year moved from working primarily with the Distributed Generation business now to moving over to the North American platform. So working with teams across Distributed Generation, obviously, our utility scale business, our storage, business and our hydrogen business. So it’s exciting learning a lot of new lingo, obviously, and a lot of new strategies. So it’s been great to do that. And in the middle of all this change, and in the middle of coming out of COVID, right, and coming together in the office, I said why not? let’s just throw another project at it. And so I wrote this book on the side. So I started out as an op ed, for a department mentor of mine, literally called Bill Holmberg, who passed away, and I couldn’t make his funeral. And so I said let me write up this op ed. And in interviewing other people for this op ed, it became really obvious that you know what, maybe we should write a book about the early risk takers and renewables. So it kind of came all together. And I got pinged by one of my old mentors at Georgetown University, who started up an entity called the Creator Institute, whose premise or reason for being is to create 1000 new authors in the market every year. They’ve created 3000 new authors in the last three years, 40 of whom are New York Times bestsellers. And so he approached me and said, “Hey, you have a story to tell, you should do it.” And, here I am. So I kind of conflated that opportunity to write that on Bill Holmberg,, with this opportunity to write this book. And before I knew it, I got signed on with New Degree Press, who’s my publisher. In October, we’ll be launching this new book called we took the risk. So it’s been a good year, 2022 so far has been a good year, so we’re really happy about it.
Candice: And then we can’t wait to read it.
Catherine: Yeah, no, absolutely. Candice tell us about yourself?
Candice: Sure. My career in renewables actually began about 12 years ago, at dinner on the back of a napkin, so I sort of fell into the space. I was having dinner with my childhood friend who told me about the solar 101s from a technical perspective, as well as from what a renewable energy investment looked like. And at that time, it was a very young industry, it sounded like it was just on the cusp of this explosive growth. And I was really energized by that. And so I joined working as an analyst at a firm that was looking at European markets. So looking at feed and tariff opportunities in Italy, and Spain and France at the time, which really led into other opportunities as leading diligence for assets. So, which was one of the best experiences that I had. Because when you’re doing due diligence for projects, you have to evaluate, why a project, why you should invest in a project, right? Uncover all the liabilities, understand the risks, everything is questioned. And so for me, that was the best on the job training because I got to pull in experts, advisors, engineers, lawyers, to basically be my teachers. I did that for a number of years and then fast forward to 2014. My colleague Rich and I, we were seeing a void in the DG space, which was projects at the time that we thought were 200 KW up to about five megawatts. And these projects were too small for developers to want to keep on their balance sheet. But too large, but too large for developers who don’t want to keep on their balance sheet, but too small for institutional investors to want to participate in. So our philosophy was, well, what if we could create some standardization and be able to scale these opportunities to make them approachable for these institutional investors. And that’s what we set out to do. And so we started with a small portfolio of the first school district in New York, which led to municipal municipal opportunities in Massachusetts, which led to Ground Mountains in New Jersey. And slowly but surely, we aggregated meaningful megawatts in the DG sector. And fast forward to about 2019, we were approached by EDPR, or at that point, we had built our portfolio to operating over 15 states, 150 megawatts and a strong pipeline. And one of the exciting things was EDPR, obviously is known for their robust utility scale opportunities, and us being able to complement that with their DG arm.
Tom: And it was amazing, because when that happened, it was such a smooth transition, right. And we were really welcomed. I mean, it was really great to be all these people coming up to us going “we want to learn more about DG.” “How does this complement the offerings EDPR has to market?” Right? We’ve deployed and we own and operate, EDPR globally operates, about 14 gigawatts right of globally. We’re the fourth largest renewable producer globally. Now, looking in the US, we’re right now going from the fourth position to the third position, hopefully very soon, in regards to ownership and ownership of renewable energy assets. So it’s been an exciting time. And I think this kind of complemented EDPR’s overall offering, as they developed simultaneously the storage business unit, right, and the hydrogen business unit, so kind of all the stars aligned. And, they’ve been just accommodating in the team. How many, I think it was like 20-25, folks came on part of the acquisition and now we’re clocking of over 50 plus, right. Yeah, just for DG. So it’s been really exciting!
Catherine: That’s wonderful. I love to hear stories of female entrepreneurship. So Candice, I know that you majored in art history. So you’ve talked a little bit about, obviously, how you transitioned in and excelled in clean finance operations with your story of your childhood friend in the napkin. But I’m curious to know what recommendations you have for those looking to get into clean tech might not necessarily fall into it like you did?
Candice: Sure. I think there’s probably two things around those questions. One is what individuals can be doing to participate in clean tech, and then what we can be doing as an industry. So just separate that for a second. As someone who is excited to potentially join the renewables sector, I would say the number one thing they should do is to watch the market growth sectors. So really be cognizant, if you think about over the past few years the rise of energy storage, the future of green hydrogen, carbon capture technologies, EV infrastructure, and obviously the increase in solar adoption throughout the US, which, to me all these fall under DG and in some respect. And so to really be mindful about what within those I would say, piques your curiosity. And then from there, I always believe opportunities come to those who show up. Don’t necessarily look for your dream job, but look for a job that’s going to give you the most exposure to various different elements of the organization. And from there, sort of build on what, what you’re attracted to, what you’re successful in, and what motivates you, and continue to participate down that path.
Tom: And have a simple analogy. Sometimes the door doesn’t open to opportunities, but a window does. And you have to build a ladder to get to jump through the window. Right. So I mean, that’s a thing to that point. And, and I think those centers, the other technology group I’d definitely add is also the AI software demand response system, because that is king. I think that’s going to be something that’s new, very useful for us moving forward, figuring out how we create this grid infrastructure for the 21st century, right? And really advanced ourselves to be able to integrate as many renewables as we can, right to prevent congestion, the transmission lines and a lot of those issues that we’re facing in today’s grid.
Catherine: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. I’ve seen just an enormous amount of opportunities in the SaaS space. Everybody has a SaaS product they’re trying to get into the industry. And I definitely have a lot of experience with ladders and windows from high school. So I agree with you on both.
Candice: And just quickly from an industry perspective, I think we, as an industry sometimes have a perception issue. I think we could use some rebranding, and then we have brilliant folks like, Tom, who are at the forefront, which is, I think, partially it’s how do we demystify utilities? How do we promote energy as the community impact and a valuable contribution to society? And I think, in doing that, that will help retain talent. And also, once we have that talent it’s on us to make them flourish within the organization.
Tom: It’s also I think, this constant understanding of mission every day, you come into the office, right and feeling a call. I mean I was talking to somebody earlier today about we all want her to be in renewables, right? We all want renewables, we believe in the mission, we see the opportunity has to provide equitable and equal access to everybody, no matter what socioeconomic class, you are in renewables, right? Or at least aspire to do that. Right. And so having that mission, that calling I think then adds that much more momentum to why we’re here every day. Right. And, and I think we’re very fortunate, I would at least call myself fortunate here at EDPR, to have that opportunity to come in every day, look around the room, see a diverse group of folks all working towards the same mission going, let’s do this. There’s nothing stopping us. Right. And I think that kind of can do attitude is something that’s very much found in renewables. And that’s something we can all be really proud of, right that we have so many viewers like Candice, and others, who inspire us every day with their leadership traits come in and just do our best. And that’s all we can ask for. Right? In a job; in a perfect dream job. Yeah.
Catherine: Yeah. I think that’s a really good point. Tom, I know that you mentioned earlier, Lieutenant Colonel Bill Holmberg recently passed away. He’s a mentor of yours. You said he inspired you to write your book. Can you talk about the mentorship he provided? And give us a little bit more of a preview of the book?
Tom: Yeah, definitely. So I met Bill when I first started a while ago, let’s say in 2003, at the American Council on Renewable Energy, so I just come from Silicon Valley. It had been the second bubble burst, moved back to the East Coast, knew that DC was the one place I still had a really firm network from my college years. And from years before the Whiting Case, I worked as a legal analyst. And so I came back to DC and came back to AIG and basically through a friend found out about acorn, this thing called renewables, and employee number two at Acorn, Mike Eckhart and Bill Holmberg had been on the original board representing the biomass and biofuels industries. And he was this six foot three gentleman in his 80s, at that point highly decorated, highly decorated with Navy Cross and a Navy Seal, and so forth from his service in Vietnam and Korea in the Korean War. And he had an amazing heritage of working the EPA, to DOE, and really being one of the first advocates for biomass, biofuels and bio based products, right, and their role in the energy sector as feedstocks. And so he throws an example, every day would walk in, he’d still run at least one to two miles a day, where he would cut into the office, right? So imagine the six foot three gentleman who’s super fit, who’s 80, and every day he would walk in and go, Okay, what’s our mission today? Right? And he would ask us, us, 20 year olds, and we have kind of looked at him going well, we’re looking to you to tell us and why are you here today, right. And it was his uncanny way of getting us to think and every day there was a mission every day, their goals, right? We would benchmark or progress or success. And also he was fantastic about introducing us to tons of folks, both he and Mike Eckhart, one of the valuable things they told me to do is every day when you talk to somebody, have them introduce you and turn to three more people as a 20 year old, right? If you think about that, you do that every day 360 days a year, Rolodex quickly expands right. And it’s a Rolodex for life. And so that was one of the traits he gave me was just be persistent, go after people, more than likely people will respond back to you, especially in renewables. So even if you send a LinkedIn message, or you go out there but you sincerely say listen, I’m learning about X, Y, and Z, I’d love to connect with you. You know, that’s something I’m really proud of also with renewables is that people are accessible right and so that’s a persistence kind of audacity. Something that I see in Rich and Candice also was fearlessness in a lot of ways, right? Okay. You might not know the market perfectly, but you know at least enough to start talking about financing mechanisms and understanding at least Little bit of policy and cobbling that together and then building a team, right.
And so from Bill I learned, I think anyone who’s had military service, right, especially my other boss at a core a few years later, Dennis, again. It’s amazing to work for somebody from the military, because they’re just so clear and precise in their directions, right, and their goal, and you feel like you’re the center of their world when they’re talking to you. Right. And also another trait that I feel we need more and more these days, especially as we’re distracted, right? How do we be present with the colleagues that we’re working with, and being president, truly given only the respect, but also engage in intellectual curiosity in terms of what you’re talking about? Right and mapping out plan. The reason that the book also came together really well was the titles is We Took the Risk, and I believe that in the initial days of renewables, right, from 1979, forward, we have these risk takers who went out there and help define the market, right? And similar to the analogy of a rocket ship going to orbit, right, you need that initial visionary entrepreneurial thrust to get a company or an entity or some entity right up and going. So just like a rocket, you need that executive, that initial executive or founders, entrepreneurs to get the rocket ship to orbit. And then you take different executives, different types of management style, right to keep the rocket in orbit, and then usually you need another, basically, you need more thrust to get to the moon. So I feel like we have some renewables industry in an age and time where we’re told to avert risk, or mitigate risk, right? I’m actually with this book trying to show through these examples in these entrepreneurs that we actually should do the opposite. We actually should be empowering individuals to take risks to get us to that tap path to the moon right and break us out of orbit around our planet. Right. So again, that analogy was a little rusty but you got the point but, I think Bill Holmberg is an example like Candice and Rich. I covered John Cavalier story, John Cavalier, as we all know, is probably the most well known financier on Wall Street covered a story with Nancy Floyd, who is the first female venture capitalist in the space who got some of those initial wind turbines up that we passed by in the ultimate path coming out of the Bay Area, right? That was one of her first investments in renewables. So there’s just so many stories, right of people who helped define the industry. And I’m hoping that in this book that we finally bring their stories to life and help inspire not only people coming into this industry, or looking to know more about the history of the industry and, and who said what up, but also for those of us who have been in the industry for 15 plus years because listen, we still have a lot of good years left in front in front of us, dammit let’s take a risk. And let’s keep on creating impact in this industry.
Catherine: Yeah, it’s so interesting. I’m really excited about it. Tom, I think that it is important because our industry, the people that are coming in, I think they need to know how far we’ve come. Because I think sometimes it can seem really like, oh, my gosh, this is so daunting. Are we making progress? And the answer is we’ve actually made a lot of progress. And so I think reflecting on those wins kind of keeps that energy level up to keep your fight.
Tom: And you have a famous quote: “you don’t know your future if you don’t know your past,” right. And we enter the renewables industry. We’re constantly innovating. We’re constantly creating new technologies. Right. And to your point, are we benchmarking ourselves? Right? Are we taking those moments to celebrate where we’ve come and how far we’ve come? Right? I think that’s more and more important, not only in the context of renewables, but also in the context of the modern workplace, right? As we’re being asked to give it our all, are we taking those moments to really celebrate reaching goals and project delivery, right, but also really enjoying who are with the kids, you’re with your colleagues, how many countless hours a week, right in a year, and you want to like who you’re working with, ultimately not only does that create a better work environment, but also all of your deliverables and products are that much better.
Catherine: Working for myself, like I’ve had to like myself.
Tom: Liking yourself is the first step. That is the first step.
Catherine: Like that Saturday Night Live episode, like, “I’m wonderful, people like me.”
Candice: And your best hours are at work, and it’s like, who do we want to spend it with and what’s the mission, and the drive, the passion?
Catherine: Totally, totally, totally.
Tom: Also, you want to, you want to empower people to reach their potential and be their best, right? And I feel like here I’m really fortunate because every day I’m being asked, you have the potential to reach it, right. There’s nothing stopping you. And I think that the messaging of removing, I know Mike Eckhart was my first boss and renewables, right, he told me we’re banning the word barriers, barriers are being forbidden. We are not mentioning the word that is that is the word that’s not gonna be used and I espouse that trait ever since, we do we just don’t talk about barriers.
Catherine: Yeah. It was, “good enough, smart enough and DARN IT people like me.”
Tom: Yeah, exactly. There we go.
Catherine: We are the same age, tom. So you know when I’m referencing.
Tom: Don’t age us.
Catherine: You can’t be old because you’re only six months older than me. So if you were old then I would be old and I’m not old. So I want to talk about Walmart, obviously a big part of this conversation, and I’m interested to learn more about your partnership with Walmart, EDPR’s partnership. Candice, can you tell us about how this came about? And what EDPR hopes to accomplish through this partnership?
Candice: Sure. Well, I guess this ties in a little bit about taking risks. The relationship with Walmart started about five years ago. And really in our conversations with them the feedback that we got was, everyone’s sort of pitching them the same thing, right? If you think about the usual solar states, you have California and New Jersey, Massachusetts, and they were looking for something different. And so we said, challenge accepted, and we sought out to find an opportunity that nobody else had put forward in front of them. And so that led us to an opportunity for an incentive program in South Carolina that was on the cusp of being enacted. And so we put together a DAC and said, We think this would be an amazing opportunity to participate in it. It’s about to be released. And their feedback was, this sounds great. Let’s move forward with seven stores. And so we suspect successfully executed on those seven stores, which led to a few more opportunities. And I think Walmart immediately saw from us, one was just our alignment as owners and operators. So we’re looking to flip the projects, we’re in the projects for that 25 plus years, which means that everything from the development to the asset management decisions that we make was focusing on safety, quality, and alignment with them. I think they were really impressed by and a lot of the standards that we have used in our projects has become a baseline for how they operate with other folks. I also think that one is just our portfolio approach. So instead of thinking about things on a site by site basis, we’re thinking about things on a holistic basis. Okay. As well as I think just being customer centric, you’ll always hear from us how can we help you achieve your goals? What can we do for you? How can we optimize your portfolio? And what can we do to help to achieve your new renewables on a five year basis, ten year and long term. And so what started, as a couple of stores has now successfully grown to 60 plus operating and counting, which I think is really a testament to the relationships, the quality and the commitment that we have to our partners.
Tom: And a lot of what Candice mentioned, it’s just a sales pitch right on a social safety fund. Right. As you’re looking at safety, regarding inverters, and the panels and things like that, it really does matter immensely to have a track record where you have a good team also on the ground. And I think that’s also a big differences are team members like David Wolfert from construction, and many others, dedicated themselves and actually were on site. I mean, they went out there on their site and said, let’s talk to each of these procurement leads for Walmart, let’s get on the roof, but show them what’s going on. Right. And I think that hands on approach shows maybe that difference also, it goes back to my comment about, listen, we all have the same solar panels, we all have the same technology amongst all the competitors, right. But it is the people and is the team behind it. That’s what makes the difference, right? And really delivering on a project. That’s a good quality.
Candice: Yeah. And I think it’s doing the right thing too, because rapid shutdown technology, for example, was in the process of being enacted as code in different states at different times. When you’re talking about a rooftop installation for us whether or not it was code or not, it’s the right thing to do. So we’re gonna use technology. We’re also thinking about from a rooftop perspective, if there’s an HVAC repairman that needs to go on to the rooftop, or how are they going to navigate between the solar panels to be able to get to the HVAC units. And so we’re creating little bridges between wire management so that folks can easily access things. And so just treating, treating the rooftops, treating the stores as if they were our own. Think is that perspective in that alignment in order to have a successful relationship.
Catherine: Can you tell me anything about the equality piece that you mentioned?
Tom: In one context, Catherine, sorry, can you clarify?
Catherine: You mentioned, just like the second thing you said, was something about equality.
Tom: Equal access energy, right? Yeah, that ties a lot into our work with community solar. Right. So we’ve talked about the DG business, we talked about it. So the supply side, right? We, in addition, very much are one of the largest owners and operators community solar facilities in the northeast. And with that one of the most recent projects that I was particularly proud of, on the on the EDI front, equal access front, is we did a project called Mines Press in Westchester County in New York, where it was one of the first community solar plus storage facilities in that part of New York State. And what was fantastic was the majority of the off taker was sent over to Catholic Charities who in turn was using the power to help green all of their low to medium income housing throughout New York State. And what’s great about that is this is a perfect example where a nonprofit, also a corporate entity, who could be an anchor tenant, right can step in, and be the guarantor of being that anchor tenant, and then help pass on those savings, or the green attributes of the community solar facilities to those folks in low to medium income housing. So for us, that meant something right, we weren’t just creating some solar facility for one of our CNI customers, which we of course value very much. But this was a feel good where we did it for Catholic Charities who we’ll admire given their work in New York State, but then to know that at the end of the day, that power is also going to help create reliable, cost effective energy for those that need it the most. I think that impact for us, it brought home why we’re doing this right. Yeah. I don’t know if you want to add to that.
Candice: Absolutely. And it continues to be actually at the forefront of what we’re doing from a community solar perspective. So we work with low income housing authorities, other charities, where a portion or not even the majority of the offtake for our projects, where we’re folks can benefit. And for me, this is like the true democratization of solar. Right. So you think about being able to give access to solar to folks that maybe they are restricted from a rooftop perspective, or historically have had insufficient credit scores we’re able to be able to offer more folks than ever before, the ability to participate in community solar.
Tom: And that’s new community solar, I mean, it’s a phenomenon. That’s amazing. And I know it’s expanding more and more. And we’re excited to see how far we can go with community solar, especially as we went to the Midwest and West, right. Expand our work area. The Northeast, right?
Candice: Yeah, I laugh because I’ve been working on this role with the Coalition for Community Solar access for the Midwest. And it is, it is tough, tough, tough, tough, tough,
Tom: Yes, tough, tough. And I’ll put in a plug. Definitely partnering with Nikko Johnson and doing a community solar series about interviewing Jeff Kramer from CCSA, and many other entities in influencing creating community solar and getting it out there. So launching this summer, so we’ll definitely let you know. But it’s something we felt we want to add to the educational dialogue, so that as many people understand what is community solar, how they can participate in the market with community solar, and ultimately how they can impact their communities. And so we’re really excited they’ll be launching later this summer.
Catherine: Yeah, that’s so interesting. I’m so glad that you mentioned that. Because I think one thing I learned about working with CCSA is how sheltered you can be in your perception. When you’re looking at just a few states, right? You look at California, you look at New York, Massachusetts, you’re like, Oh, my God, this is wonderful. Like everybody’s doing community solar! And then you realize, actually, in a lot of these states, there’s still a lot of work to be done to get people. I don’t even think it’s the consumers on board. I think it’s more from what I’ve learned the legislature or regulator, etc, etc.
Tom: All the regulatory stuff, the interconnection issue, permitting all of that. And there was a permitting backup, as we know, across the industry, right. But it is essentially from a distributed generation point of view. Right. It’s 50 different markets. I mean, every state plays by its own rules. Our policy folks who look at DG like they’re very thankful we try to keep them focused, right? Because it’s constantly changing too. Yeah.
Catherine: Yeah, yeah. Interesting. So I want to talk next about green hydrogen, green hydrogen, again, something I’ve just been getting involved in with Jake Sussman, and his new company NBN Fuels which has been really exciting. And I’ve I saw that EDPR launched its H2 business unit called H2 Bu, which is your arm for the development of green hydrogen projects. To can you talk a bit about how the first year since the launch of this new unit has gone? And are you able to share any information about EDPRs latest for green hydrogen projects and partnerships?
Tom: Yeah, definitely. Well, we have an amazing team. So we’ve been in the hydrogen business for a while. Right? So EDPR has this history of launching new technologies a little ahead of the curve, right? So for example, we were already doing floating solar 10 years ago, right? We’re already doing offshore wind close to 14-15 years ago. So for us, we’ve been doing hydrogen for a number of years, primarily out of out of Portugal out of Lisbon, Anna Aquilas, our global head of hydrogen, she’s been doing a phenomenal job, but really focusing on us specifically on green hydrogen, right? You know, hydrogen is one of those businesses that has become a buzzword, right? Everyone’s like, Yes, I’m interested in hydrogen, hydrogen. And usually my retort is as someone who’s also new to hydrogen, right, so what part of hydrogen? Are you in? Focusing on? Are you on the production side? Or the transportation side? On the storage side? What is the application of the hydrogen you’re talking about? Right. So I think in many ways, everyone is right now trying to figure out okay, what is their role in the larger hydrogen industry? Right. And so on our end, it’s obviously been all about working on retrofitting carbon intensive industries, right. So for example, for medical facilities, steel facilities, cement facilities, right, and figuring out how do we really partner with these carbon intensive industries, and make sure we can create hydrogen on site right for off site usage. And so that’s been kind of the strategy. You know, right now we’re working towards 1.5 gigawatts worth of hydrogen electrolyzers by 2030. So that is kind of in our view right now. Right now, we’re actually working already on three projects that will range and delivery from 2020 to the 2025, including a 100 megawatt former coal facility in Portugal that we’re converting over to a hydrogen facility. So we’re kind of talking the talk and walking the walk right now already on that point, but that’s kind of the goal. And here in North America, we were really under Anna’s leadership. We launched our North American team a while back a year ago. And we have two gentlemen that I work with every day, Antonio Fayyad and Jason Stevens, who have really been developing our state of the strategy here on the ground as to where we can start making impact here in North America with hydrogen but that’s been kind of the year in recap but it’s it’s been exciting and to have the ability to walk down the hall and and talk to somebody and ask them questions on hydrogen has been really phenomenal reminds me of my Acore days when Bloomberg New Energy Finance Michael Liebreich, when it was still New Energy Finance. They needed an office in DC and so we submitted an office to them and Ethan Zindler was the editor back then. So it was great, because I would be able to walk down the hall and get BNF info, like right away, from Ethan. It reminds me of those days, where I really value that opportunity to be able to get information right away from the experts. But we’re excited to have Antonio and Jason on board. And yeah, I think we’re just gonna punch forward. But with that goal of those 1.5 gigawatts by 2030, we’ll definitely be able to do that. Yeah.
Catherine: And I think it just goes back to that mix that we always talked about, isn’t it? Like, there’s no one solution? Like just all different kinds of opportunities within this space? At the moment. I think one thing I was really surprised about recruiting for the hydrogen opportunity was the amount of enthusiasm and the amount of people that were interested because I think that there are people our age who have been in the industry for a while maybe doing solar and want to do something different, like want to do different technology. So this is a great opportunity for them to have that next chapter.
Tom: And I agree. And I think that’s another big selling point for recruiting talent into the renewables industry is that it is that versatile and chameleon look where people can jump from solar to storage, storage to wind, right. There’s all the technical needs, we’ll be playing together, right. At the end of the day, we are all going to be interconnected. I mean, that’s my goal. So I think that the flexibility of moving between technologies is something that I think speaks to a lot of people’s intellect and their ambitions to understand these technologies. And that’s another thing on that point saying now that we’re seeing both here in Houston, right? We are 100% adamant supporters of anybody and everybody has a skill set and interest in renewables: the doors wide open, we don’t care where you come from. Right. And I recently was in a meeting where I heard that oil and gas folks are saying, well, we don’t feel welcome. Well, no, you are welcome. And I’m very adamant about that. We’re an industry that’s, I wouldn’t say starving for skill sets where we’re hunting for skill sets the best market, right? And it doesn’t matter where you come from, as long as you have an interest as long as you hear a calling to come over to renewables. Right. And you have a passion for it. The doors wide open. Come on.
Catherine: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. Absolutely. So my last question for you is around EDPRs, DEIJ initiatives, we definitely need some more acronyms in our lives. So I noticed that for the third year in a row, Bloomberg Gender Equality Index in 2022, named you one of the top companies in 45 countries with a commitment to a more equitable workplace. So Mazel on that, that’s amazing! I also noticed that EDPR, recently appointed Sandhya Ganapathi, a woman of color as your CEO. Can you talk about some of the most important and specific ways that EDPR is creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace such as your employee resource groups, your mentorship programs or otherwise? And how other clean tech companies can follow suit?
Tom: Yeah, definitely I’ll start and I’ll let you go, Candice, after this. So we’re in 28 markets globally, we just recently acquired Sunseap, which was our APAC market entry. And so it’s been great as we have a global culture already built in by the very nature of where we’re located. Right. And so it’s been a very diverse culture of, not only backgrounds, but also ideas, and approaches to renewables. And so here in North America, we have eight offices, we just crossed over 1000 employees in North America alone. And that’s primarily due to people like Sandhya Ganapathi, who has been with EDPR now for over a decade, originally overseeing global investor relations, right. And it just shows you that I think, what we built into here is that no matter what your background is, as long as you showed that occasion and passion, you can work your way up in a career within EDPR, which is something that everyone promises when they pitch you a package and say, Hey, come work with us, you have upward mobility. I don’t know if and I don’t want to judge anybody. But I would question the sincerity of that. Here, I think Sandhya is a perfect example. She started out in IR, right, and she built her way up, and now is our North American CEO. And so, under her leadership, and under the leadership of our previous CEO, Miguel Prado, we set up a whole diverse range of efforts under our EDNI initiative, including the launching of more than five or six synergy groups, ranging from a women’s synergy group, a pride synergy group, a black synergy group, Asian American synergy group, you name it, and really entrusting the employees and tapping into our employee leadership on these topics, right? And so it’s been very much a bottom up approach of let’s percolate the best ideas amongst employee level. How do we really espouse, and how do we really look at our employee handbook? How hiring processes, right? How do we look at everything and really, and give it a firm scrub and really do a a kind of a, pardon the terminology, a come to Jesus, with ourselves and go, are we really, are we following the values and that we’re espousing in not only as a company, but also through our projects? Right. So it’s been a journey of sorts, it’s been a year of setting up all the synergy programs. Also, our onboarding program has been phenomenally retrofitted under our newly promoted head of people and culture, Raquel Costa, who’s done a great job of really scrubbing our onboarding process so that every new employee is paired up with a mentor moving forward. And that’s somebody outside your department to help you adjust to the culture of industry processes. Hey, how do I get into Concur? How do I? How do I find my expense reports? Stuff like that. In our big thought process, there was listen, your first impression of whether you stay somewhere for a long time is your first day of job. So how do you make that first day of the job really encompass all the best elements of the workplace? Right? Meaning, hey, let’s invite you to join our ENI meetings, right? Hey, let’s partner up with a mentor who’s been here a while and show you the ropes. Hey, let’s do X, Y, and Z. Right? Let’s make sure you also through our Udemy education program, right, let’s make sure that your professional career goals are benchmarked in that right. So we’ve done a lot of things in the last year, I would say and definitely I would have been pretty proud like that. You mentioned the Bloomberg index. We are in the highest 30th percentile right now in terms of gender parity across the entire EDP group, which 12,000 employees. It’s pretty damn impressive, right. In addition we are recruiting from here in North America recruiting from historically black schools and colleges and universities, right. We also are doing tons of volunteer recordings in local neighborhoods, because we believe Listen, we have this opportunity to be a leader in our not only nationally, but also in our local community. So for example, here in Houston, I’m part of a volunteer group that works with black girls to engineer. We are getting high school girls who are interested in STEM careers. And what’s amazing is we’ve already started to volunteer we’re seeing their progression and our intent is to follow them through college. And then once they get Senior year, you can be sure that we’re gonna be there saying you’re gonna get recruited by EDPR. Right? So sowing the seeds at an early stage, yeah, in high school, especially in this example, right, to empower folks. But you have to start somewhere, right? This workforce of the future will not come out of nowhere. We have to start early and young. And it’s all about promotion of STEM education. So we’ve done that and we’ve also promoted a new book by a great author named Erin Fomley called STEM superheroes. And it’s gonna be the next version as a trailblazer, right with her story. But again, it’s really important to promote STEM education, especially amongst young girls. We all have something to say. And can really make an impact in this industry. So that’s something we’ve done in North America and Europe, we’ve launched a campaign called Rebels for Change, really promoting will bring light to gender parity and the issues we’ve had in the energy industry and saying, No, here’s some solutions and some guidance as to how to change things globally. So that Rebels for Change Campaign, as included advertising and promotion and workshops, that’s been going really well, too. So all in all, it’s been it’s been a it’s been great to actually see things happen and not just see it on paper.
Candice: Yeah, Tom articulated the different initiatives that we have so eloquently, and I think one of the things just highlight, though, it’s really a conscious effort on our behalf. And it’s at the forefront of what we do. And I think about the creativity, the different perspectives leads to an increase in performance and increase in retention. And also, studies have shown profitability. So for us, it’s a no brainer. And I think one of the nice things too, about DG, inherently is, is local, right. And so one of the things that we’re really proud of is when we go into communities is being able to support STEM initiatives to be able to support nonprofits. For example, the book, we’re giving a copy to all the students in the high schools that we’ve worked with, or in the schools that we’ve worked with throughout the US, it’s just ways that we can kind of continue to be able to branch and build this community, because I do think that it does start at the K 12 level, and we want to be there and to make sure that renewables is on the forefront of folks mind as a, as a career. A wonderful career option. I mean, when you think about it, we are just as if not even more competitive than the tech sector we have, we have the competitive salaries, we have the desirable workplaces, we’re a growing industry. When you couple all those things together, I think that it really speaks to the capabilities, and we’re really proud to be able to do our part to help support it.
Tom: It definitely builds loyalty. I mean, that’s the one thing, at EDPR. Is this sense of loyalty, and even folks that do move on eventually, there are alumni parties, I’m going to one at Clean Power right there. I was an honorary guest, right? Because I’m still hopeful. But there’s an alumni party going on at Clean Power next week, right? We have over 100 EDPR alum who still feel that call and they’re still together. So my joke is we have moles out there. So watch out. But in reality, though, it shows the loyalty and I think that’s also something special is that you build that loyalty amongst the team. And you’re all in it together. Right? And I’ll listen for a soul that, that tie for that calling towards renewables doesn’t stop at a one phase or continues the rest of your life, if you truly do a good job.
Catherine: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. I think these limited networks are very, very interesting. It’s the people that I know within this space, like you always do have these different networks where everybody used to work together at SunEdison, or we used to work together at SunPower, or together at SEIA. And I just think it’s great. And this is why you should always be nice to people.
Tom: What about reincarnation, right. And you get reincarnated in a new role. If you do good work in renewables that caveat, if you do good work in renewables, and you’re a good broker, right, and a good partner, you’ll get reincarnated to different roles in renewables, and I call reincarnation. And sometimes we’re on the same side of the table working together on a team. Next time, you’re opposite of each other coordinating on or negotiating a transaction, right? And it always helps to have those close ties and that’s the good news is even as the work expands and industry, it feels smaller and smaller at the same time, right? With everyone having worked together or in the past. So it’s one of the benefits of renewables is that it is a closer knit community.
Catherine: I totally agree. Like my best friend, she’s an investment banking and she always says to me because everybody is so nice that you talk to. Your clients are nice, everyone is so darn nice. When I saw you, Tom, you were spending this year trying to bring diversity into the clean energy industry from other industries and trying to do to bring in these, this talented and one of the things I always say to these new newbies into the space is don’t have your wall up too high, because everybody’s very nice here.
Tom: So thank you for your work. It takes, it takes all of us to make change, right? It’s not just one company. It’s all of us in the industry really trying to aspire to be the better versions of ourselves. And we have potential in this industry, right. So just want to add your thanks.
Catherine: Oh, thank you. I appreciate that, I think if people keep investing in the workforce of the future, then I can retire and my job will be redundant because they won’t need someone like me because it will be self perpetuating. Right? Like, hopefully, in 10 years, we’ll have it organically. But you gotta put the work in obviously, like you said, the K to 12 level. I mean, you gotta go start from the beginning. But I really appreciate you guys joining me today. And I appreciate your time and good luck with everything. And thanks so much. Thank you.
Candice: Thank you so much.
Tom: Thanks for this opportunity. And it was great to see you Katherine and good luck and I’m sure now they’re all coming together at these conferences. I’m sure we’ll see each other at all these conferences coming up this fall.
Catherine: Yes, food and cocktails, two of my favorite things.
Tom: Look forward to it. Thank you so much.