This CEO is finding win-win scenarios for clean energy

Energy Storage executive Sonia St-Arnaud on the importance of partnerships, moving fast, and the opportunities for new talent in clean energy.
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Canary Media’s Charging Up column chronicles gender diversity and notable career moves in the climatetech sector. Got a person or event you’d like to see us cover or a hot job tip? Let us know!

Sonia St-Arnaud knows a win-win scenario when she sees one

Sonia St-Arnaud is president and chief executive officer at Evlo Energy Storage. This interview has been edited and condensed for brevity.

How did you end up on this career path?

After graduating, I worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers for a year before moving to Hydro-Québec, North America’s largest renewable energy utility. I began working in accounting, finance, and strategic planning, and I realized that to provide better advice to the VP of operations and the project team, I needed to understand the technical aspects. I worked closely with many engineers, asking them to help me understand the electrical grid.

Eventually, I decided I wanted to be more involved in the core business and develop projects. I switched to a project development director position, where I developed power plants and transmission lines between Canada and the USA, and negotiated power purchase agreements with wind farm developers and Hydro-Québec.

One day, the president of the generation division asked if I wanted to commercialize innovation on a global scale. I accepted the challenge because I thought my mix of finance and technical understanding was a great formula for success. I examined all the innovations at Hydro-Québec and chose to focus on battery energy storage systems because they are crucial for the clean energy transition, helping integrate intermittent renewable energy and improving grid resilience.

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

That it’s really important to maintain your professional network. That sounds very simple, but when I started as a manager, I got this advice and it has been valuable, because when you have a professional network, you can share advice and experience when you need it. You can say, I’m having a tough day, and I need your perspective.” Sometimes in innovative product development, you can encounter problems that need to be resolved quickly. With just a call or a text, you can ask, Have you seen this before? Do you have a contact?”

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

Whenever I bring a new way to do something, some people may see it as a barrier, especially when it comes to innovation. In really traditional sectors like engineering, people might say, We don’t know that,” and it can hinder your ability to move fast on a certain project or initiative.

I think the solution to this barrier is to have open discussions. It’s important to say, I think you don’t feel comfortable with that, can we put something in place that will make it easier for you to accept?” The solution is to speak up, take time, and establish trust. And while differences can be a barrier at the beginning, they are also really important because when you have different people around the table, you have different ideas. This environment creates the possibility to be more creative.

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

Sometimes we might think that climate tech requires really sophisticated expertise, like mechanical, electrical, and software engineers with PhDs. It’s true, we do need that. But at the same time, when we do projects, a procurement team is really important because we need to be on time, on budget, and reduce costs. I think HR is important too; we need to do good recruitment. We need the same jobs that other industries have, but at an accelerated rate because the industry is growing so fast.

What is your superpower? 

My ability to establish strong relationships. I like people, so I build strong relationships with my employees, my suppliers, and my customers. I also want to see win-win scenarios and create real value, so you often have to work together to find solutions that will deliver that.

Career Moves

Ali Monge, previously with Longi Solar, is now VP of marketing at MGM Transformer Company.

Katlyn Lawver, previously with New Leaf Energy, is now VP of pre-construction at storage project developer Convergent Energy and Power.

Kelsey Hultberg, previously with Sunnova Energy, is now executive VP of communications and chief of staff at Amperon, a provider of AI-powered electricity forecasting and analytics.

Kiley Kroh, previously with RMI, is now climate and energy content lead at Google.

Nicole Tomasin, previously with Solare Power, is now head of sales at SolaX Power U.S., a China-based maker of solar inverters, EV chargers, and residential batteries.

Check it out

You’ve probably been hearing a lot about the projected surge in electricity demand and what it means for climate goals. We’ve been thinking about it too — and last week we hosted a panel of experts to talk about the best path forward for utilities and regulators grappling with the data center-driven boom in power demand. If you missed it, no worries! You can catch the recording here.

Eric Wesoff is editorial director at Canary Media.

Maria Virginia Olano is editorial producer at Canary Media.