Charging Up: A chat with Nicole Luckey, SVP at Invenergy

Plus, climatetech career moves at NuScale Power, WeaveGrid, Strata Clean Energy and Enel X Way — and some Nigerian Dwarf goats, too.
By Maria Virginia Olano, Eric Wesoff

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A white woman with dark hair, black glasses and a black button-up blouse next to a stylized graphic that says "Charging Up"

Canary Media’s Charging Up column chronicles gender diversity in the climatetech sector. Part one is a short Q&A with an industry role model about their career path. Part two features updates on career transitions. Please send feedback and tips to wesoff@​canarymedia.​com.

Nicole Luckey: A policy wonk who leads with empathy

Nicole Luckey is senior vice president of regulatory affairs at Invenergy LLC. This interview has been edited and condensed for brevity.

How did you end up on this career path?

I definitely didn’t think I would be working in clean energy when I was making my way through law school — I was focused on labor and employment law. But a lot of people who graduated from law school during the recession ended up reckoning with a really challenging labor market and needed to get creative about their career path. I was lucky enough to have a job clerking for an in-house legal team at an energy company while I was in law school, and I think a lot of them were rooting for me to find something in the industry post-graduation. And there were a lot of law firms at the time that were laying off their associates, but the government was still hiring, so I chose to apply for a job at the Illinois Commerce Commission, which is the state agency regulating electric gas, water and other monopoly services. The staff there was so passionate about their jobs and willing to sit down and spend the time to get new and younger employees up to speed on pretty wonky legal and regulatory issues. I learned so much from them and later pivoted to a policy role for the chairman of the agency. That is where I got the bug to work on clean energy.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t sweat the small stuff,” or in other words, don’t let a challenging issue stop you from tackling the problem at hand. I have had more than one manager tell me that in the past, and at the time, I did not love it, but I appreciate it more now. A lot of things we are trying to do in the clean energy space are hard uphill battles, but they’re not impossible — nothing is as long as you start with the attitude that you can do something and you can work out the details in the process of doing it. I had to learn to stop saying, No, we can’t do that,” and start saying, That’s going to be really hard to do, but we can do it, and here’s how.”

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What is a barrier you faced, and how did you overcome it? 

Leaving government employment was really challenging for me. Anyone who’s worked in the regulatory space knows that there are robust revolving-door policies in place for good reason — to stop the people that are regulating a specific industry from then going to work in it for a specific period of time. Most of my work, day in and day out, was setting policy for vertically integrated electric gas and water utilities that my agency regulated, and that was the world that I knew, but because of those rules, I could not go work in that industry for at least two years. Luckily, I had a manager who had experience at the intersection of energy and the environment, and this was right when the Obama administration introduced the Clean Power Plan. That gave me a really solid base to pivot into a policy role for a clean energy company.

What do you think are some interesting, overlooked career opportunities in climatetech? 

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about careers in procurement supply chain and logistics related to clean energy. A lot of projects today use a mix of domestic and foreign-made materials — I know many of our projects do. I think Covid showed how fragile the global economy is and how critical it is to have someone who really understands how to get materials from point A to point B on time and on budget. Many of our companies are motivated to make the most out of tax credits available to clean energy projects, but that requires us to meet deadlines. So I think it’s a critical role that’s been overlooked historically, and something a lot of clean energy companies are starting to think about in a more thoughtful way.

What is your superpower? 

Having a lot of empathy for the people I encounter day to day, both in my job and in my personal life. In terms of the workplace, operating from an empathetic point of view is really important not only to how we interact with our direct reports, our teams, management peers, but also — and this is sort of specific to what Invenergy does — with the communities where we develop our clean energy projects and with various stakeholders who are engaged in the policy discussions in and around the clean energy industry. Everybody is coming into the discussion from a different point of view, and understanding different perspectives is vital to reaching our goal. It is similar in my personal life. We all have to give each other a little grace and apply some understanding and kindness to how we approach every situation because everyone’s stressed and busy, and no one’s perfect. A little empathy can go a long way.

Career moves

Karin Feldman was named interim COO and chief nuclear officer at small modular reactor pioneer NuScale Power. (In December, Canary reported on NuScale’s recent regulatory snag and nuclear power’s overall progress in 2022.)

Massachusetts Gov.-elect Maura Healey named Melissa Hoffer as the state’s first cabinet-level climate chief; the incoming administration is seeking to reach a 100 percent clean electricity supply by 2030. Hoffer is currently the principal deputy general counsel at the Environmental Protection Agency, and, according to the press release announcing her appointment, spends her spare time raising a small herd of Nigerian Dwarf dairy goats at her farm in Barre, Massachusetts.”

Two small black and white goats in a hay-strewn field
Nigerian Dwarf goats (Backyard Goats)

Rebecca Tepper, currently chief of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Energy and Environment Bureau, is being promoted to secretary of the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Adrienne Pierce, previously senior director of product management with IronRidge, is now CEO of New Sun Road. Pierce told Canary Media by email, We offer a remote microgrid management platform for fleets of systems and currently oversee over 800 systems in 20 countries.”

Rachel Robinson has been promoted to director of utility client solutions at WeaveGrid. The company develops software to help deploy electric vehicles on the grid.

Jenya Kirshtein has been promoted to director of energy services product management at electric-transportation-focused Enel X Way.

Beth Bremer has joined utility-scale solar and storage project developer Strata Clean Energy as senior manager of energy storage and development engineering. Bremer was previously with Crossover Energy Partners.

Erica Rhodes, formerly with Powur, is now commercial project coordinator at Freedom Solar Power. Freedom installs commercial and residential solar rooftops in Texas, Colorado, Florida, Virginia and North Carolina, and has installed more than 157 megawatts of photovoltaic panels since 2007.

Simbiat Yusuff has been promoted to events manager at Forth, a nonprofit focused on advancing smart transportation through policy advocacy, consumer engagement, industry development and demonstration projects.

For the record

Despite making up 47 percent of the national workforce, women make up just 13.8 percent of participants in apprenticeship programs, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Apprenticeship USA.

Graphic that says Women make up only 13.8% of participants in active U.S. apprenticeship programs

Check it out

It’s 2023 and there’s a lot to look forward to, especially when it comes to the ever-accelerating clean energy transition. But sometimes it’s good to look back, too. Here are Canary Media’s most-read stories of 2022, plus some staff favorites.

Maria Virginia Olano is editorial producer at Canary Media.

Eric Wesoff is editorial director at Canary Media.