Ever heard of Wiwa v. Royal Dutch Shell Co.? My solar story started as a University of Pennsylvania college student in 2002, working as an intern for Judith Chomsky out of her home in Philadelphia. Judith, flanked by her two huge, slobbery Mastiffs, was representing Ken Saro-Wiwa’s family in a lawsuit regarding human rights violations and oil spills in Nigeria. My job was to look through reams of discovery for evidence of malfeasance. That experience spurred my interest in clean energy. It also led to a complete lack of interest in attending law school despite my father’s best efforts at convincing me otherwise.
My first job after college was with New Jersey Public Interest Group in a two-year fellowship program for recent graduates. The pay was terrible, but it was great for my career. Directing door-to-door summer canvass offices also gave me invaluable sales experience. After the fellowship program I took a job as a clean energy advocate at Environment New Jersey. One of many initiatives I worked on in that role was the development of the state’s first Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) incentive program.
In 2007, my husband and I drove across the country and moved to Oregon. I grew up in Salt Lake City so I was pretty desperate to move West. I joined the Renewable Northwest staff and became a member of the Energy Trust’s Renewable Energy Advisory Council and the Citizens’ Utility Board of Oregon’s Board of Governors.
After 7+ years in the non-profit policy advocacy world, I decided to expand my horizons and learn a thing or two about business and project development. It was absolutely the right choice at the right time. I was a utility-scale project development manager at RES Americas and led Atkins’ U.S. power and renewables services business before joining SunPower in 2015.
At SunPower, I manage global market strategy in our corporate market strategy and policy team. One of the most interesting and challenging parts of my job is its scope, since I work with all of our business and product teams globally. My responsibilities include providing guidance on corporate multi-year strategic plan development, advising on strategic business initiatives and market entry in new countries, and fostering early stage business development. I also lead market development initiatives in Canada, Hawaii, Utah, Oregon and Washington and energy storage in California.
Earlier this month, I accepted an invitation to serve as the Chair of SEIA’s new Women’s Empowerment Initiative. I decided to serve as Chair because I believe we have the ability to achieve near-term goals that will drive real change for women in our industry in 2017.
What motivates me to work in the solar industry? I want my two young children to live in a world powered by 100% clean energy. This is certainly achievable in their lifetime. I am also an energy nerd. Solar, combined with complementary technologies – energy intelligence software, energy storage and electric vehicles – has the ability to completely transform the way customers and utilities interact with one another. Working in the solar industry creates endless ways to blow my mind.
Suzanne speaking at a SEIA Women’s Empowerment event in San Francisco, October 2016.
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