Invenergy Blog: March 31, 2022
Interviews With Innovators: Shannon Stewart, Director, Environmental Compliance and Strategy (ECS)
Invenergy has become an industry leader over the past twenty years thanks to our versatile teams full of innovative thinkers, subject matter experts, and industry veterans. We’re pleased to welcome Shannon Stewart, who recently joined Invenergy as our newest Director, Environmental Compliance and Strategy (ECS). Below, Shannon discusses her extensive career in federal lands, policy and energy, and how her unique experience will help Invenergy continue to lead the clean energy transition.
Welcome, Shannon! Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your role at Invenergy.
Hello! I’m Shannon Stewart, and as a Director on the ECS team my role is to provide advice, support, and strategy to Invenergy projects that have a complex federal component. As part of the environmental team, I’ll support development of environmental permitting strategies and agency engagement for projects that are located on federal lands or have a federal nexus (such as Department of Energy funding or interconnection through the Western Area Power Administration). I will also be engaged with the Offshore Wind team through the lens of environmental permitting and the federal approval process.
What led you to Invenergy?
I’ve been working at the intersection of energy and the environment for the past 25 years and have held positions in most relevant sectors. I’ve worked on the public utility side, as a consultant advising companies like Invenergy, and I’ve supported nonprofits with their engagement on national energy initiatives. I also served in senior-level positions within the Department of the Interior, including the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), authoring energy policy and program development.
I am excited to bring my expertise to Invenergy, helping stand up more clean energy generation and transmission that will further climate change goals. I am also eager to be involved with offshore wind, the latest emerging technology, and help navigate and possibly influence a federal process that is in its infancy.
Why is it important for Invenergy to have someone so familiar with working with the federal government?
Working with the federal government is really nuanced – you can’t just think of it as a single, homogeneous entity. All government agencies have their own regulations, organizational structures, financial appropriations, and stakeholders. How they function is closely linked to why the agency was established and what it’s charged with doing.
For example, while both are federal land management agencies, the National Park Service manages resources to a non-impairment standard whereas the Bureau of Land Management manages resources for multiple uses. These missions are fundamentally different, as is the way Invenergy must engage with them.
In addition, at every level of a given agency, staff have their own personalities, their own dynamics, and it takes time working with them, digging into their agency culture to learn how to be most successful. The value I bring is that I’ve worked with most, if not all, of these federal agencies and I understand the nuances of this process.
Offshore wind is a new renewable frontier for Invenergy – can you tell us why you’re excited to work in this field?
I am excited for offshore wind! It’s so new in the United States and there are big, big goals. Stakeholders are figuring out how to play in the space, and there’s a lot of opportunity to work collaboratively with the federal government. It’s a position similar to where we were in the early days of solar, where I had a front row seat. I want to use Invenergy’s momentum and status within the industry to take advantage of these opportunities early on.
One of the biggest lessons learned from the early days of land-based renewables is that federal agencies, even with their lofty goals, didn’t draw on the knowledge and technical expertise of the development community as early or as frequently as they could have. As offshore wind takes off, I’m hoping there’s recognition from the federal government that while they know a lot, there’s an energy sector out there that knows a whole lot too, and collaboration is the best path forward.
What has surprised you most during your career in renewables?
Honestly, I’m surprised at how slow the federal process for approving renewables and transmission continues to be. We’re seeing the impacts of climate change, the goals have been set, and we now have the experience, tools and methods to make it happen. Collectively, however, we haven’t found a way to go faster. Policy reform is needed, but those federal policies must be backed by adequate funding, staffing, training, and prioritization.
I’m proud that I helped the federal government stand up policies and programs for onshore renewables, and that some of those ideas actually did lead to efficiencies. I now get to work at the front of the next big push – offshore wind – it’s a nice way to round out my experience and apply lessons learned.