Sarah Simmons - Energy and Environment Practice at Sussex Strategy Group

Bio Summary

Sarah Simmons is a member of the Energy and Environment Practice at Sussex.  She has in-depth knowledge on matters related to the electricity system, energy supply and natural environment.  In her capacity as Senior Associate, Sarah works with clients to understand their concerns and implements top-line government relationship strategies. 

Most recently, Sarah was Government Affairs Manager for SunEdison Canada, a large-scale solar PV developer, helping to navigate the policy, planning and procurement market for solar power generation across the country.

Sarah is well-known in the Ontario energy sector, having also worked as a core member of the FIT program team at the Ontario Power Authority during the development and launch of Ontario’s FIT program in 2009.   Additionally, Sarah has been an active member of the Canadian Solar Industries Association (CanSIA), and she formerly served as the Chair of the Ontario Solar Photovoltaic Caucus. 

Sarah has a Master’s Degree of Environmental Studies specific to electricity policy from the University of Waterloo. Additionally, she has a Bachelors Degree in Environmental Science from the University of Guelph which focused on environmental monitoring and analysis. 

Current place of work and a bit about what you do:

I’m a Senior Associate in the Energy and Environment Practice at Sussex Strategy Group.

Sussex Strategy Group is one of Canada’s premier independent public and government relations firms, with a network of public affairs and communications specialists located in key centres across the Canada.  Sussex clients include corporations, associations and non-profit organizations, and we assist clients at government, community, and media relations at the federal, provincial and municipal levels. 

I’ve been with Sussex since January 2012.

I’m my role, I’m a lead consultant on client files, having the opportunity to work develop and implement government relations strategies and advocate on behalf of clients.  My focus is on policy, programs and procurement related to electricity sector in Ontario.  This includes renewable generation, conservation, demand response, smart grid, energy storage, etc., as well as matters related to climate change.

Where you went to school and other training you have (post-secondary degrees and certificates):

BSc, Environmental Sciences, University of Guelph (2006)

MES, Environmental Studies, University of Waterloo (2009)

Involvement with WiRE

Why did you join WiRE?

-          Networking

-          Interested in engaging with those just starting in the energy sector

-          Good volunteer opportunity

-          Enjoy the people, consider many of the people in the sector to be friends

-          I believe in the mandate of the organization

When did you join WiRE?

Became active last summer.

What has your involvement been with WiRE?

Primarily involved on the marketing committee.  I’m also the lead on the twitter account.

3.    What made you interested in renewable energy?

I’ve been a nature lover from a young age. Particularly biology and ecology.

I was inspired by a high school environmental biology teacher to get involved in environmental sciences in University.

While I focused on sciences in undergrad, became very interested in policy related matters in the energy sector, particularly around both community energy planning and low-income energy poverty.

I had the opportunity to work on the FIT program at the OPA, and gained extensive exposure to renewable energy development.

Developing renewable energy has always been important to me in that it will be essential for the transition to the low-carbon economy.  In my view, climate change is not only an environmental/economic issue, but an equity/social justice issue.

4.    Do you have any advice for women who want to enter the RE field?

The electricity sector is a close knit group of people.  It’s important to take advantage of networking opportunities to get to know the key players.  Look for opportunities to build your profile inside and outside your company.  Take advantage of volunteer opportunities, get involved in boards and working groups.

5.    What challenges have you faced in the field, and what actions have you taken to overcome them?

There’s a steep learning curve within the electricity sector.  Taking time to read rules, reports, analysis, and asking a lot of questions.  It’s important to find people you trust to bounce ideas off of.

6.    What are you proudest of in your professional life?

In 2012, I received the President’s Award for my volunteer efforts with the Canadian Solar Industries Association.  It was such an honour to be recognized by my peers.

7.    What’s your favourite innovation in renewable energy so far and/or what are you looking forward to the most in this field?

I don’t think that I can pick one.  Although, I have to say that distributed solar, storage, along with electric vehicles is very exciting in the near term, and there are lots of innovations required to take advantage of these technologies from a software and demand response perspective.

8.    What’s a quote you really like?  

 Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new. – Albert Einstein

9.    Anything else you’d like to share?

I also volunteer for the Hillside Festival in Guelph.  I’ve been a crew chief for the Transportation Crew, which is responsible for shuttle busses and transportation of performers to the festival.

By Victoria Alleyne, Chief Executive Officer at CatalystsX and WiRE Volunteer