Tracy provides support to the legal function at Northland Power Inc. where she assists all aspects of Northland’s business with general corporate and commercial legal advice. Tracy also contributes to important special projects and initiatives including legal compliance and governance policies to support Northland’s overall operations and future business strategy.
Tracy brings with her a wide-range of legal experience and knowledge of the energy industry gained through over four years with Borden Ladner Gervais LLP as a lawyer in the Energy Markets Group where she worked with a number of energy industry participants and assisted Northland Power on many of its projects and transactions. Prior to joining BLG, Tracy was legal counsel at Enersource Corporation, the electricity distribution company serving the City of Mississauga. For the past four years Tracy has been with McMillan LLP as the Manager of Professional Growth & Management.
The Right Place at the Right Time – Joining the Energy Industry
When Tracy began law school at the University of Ottawa, she had Bay Street in mind. She was interested in corporate and business law and was excited for both a summer law and articling opportunity to work at Gowlings WLG, which put her in just the right place at the right time, in a very literal way. Tracy’s office ended up right by the Gowlings Energy Group – they’d ask her for assistance on legal energy files, and her foray into energy law over a summer opportunity has changed into a rewarding career spanning the industry. Following her articling experience at Gowlings, she joined the in-house legal department at Enersource, a local distribution company (LDC) based out of Mississauga; there she learned about another “side” of energy law, examining utility regulations and operations from the perspective of an LDC.
She then made her way back to Bay Street, spending 5 years at Borden Ladner Gervais (BLG), working with their Energy Markets team. She worked with utilities and independent power producers, navigating regulations, supporting project financings, merger and acquisition transactions, corporate restructurings, and carrying out day-to-day corporate commercial tasks for the firm’s energy clients.
Changing Pace: Balancing Career and Family
After several years with BLG, Tracy reached a crossroads between her personal and professional life. She knew she wanted to start a family, but was experiencing issues with infertility, a stressful and emotional topic that many career-driven women do not like to openly discuss. Her career required such an extensive devotion of her time and energy, and so she made the very difficult decision to change careers, in order to give her the time and focus she needed to dedicate to starting her family.
She switched careers and began working in a professional development role at a different Bay Street law firm. She managed the law student recruitment program and worked with law schools and universities. While the position was rewarding and seemingly less stressful and demanding, it was challenging in other ways. She found that this change wasn’t quite what she was looking for as a long-term career. But the change was worth it – Tracy was able to start a family, something she felt she wouldn’t have been able to do had she not made the difficult decision to change careers.
By the time her kids were 2 and 4 years old, she decided it was time to return to doing what she loved. It seemed the stars were aligning in her favour too. Northland Power, an independent power producer, had recently decided to create a new Legal Counsel role. Through mutual connections – it’s true what they say about being in the right place at the right time – Tracy learned about the opportunity and reached out to Northland Power. She had worked closely with Northland Power during her time at BLG and was very familiar with their business objectives, culture and team, so Tracy knew she would be a good fit. And she was right - having known Tracy’s previous work with BLG, Northland offered her the role. She’s been there since, as their in-house legal counsel, and is back doing what she loves, practicing law and working on all aspects of the business.
Different Facets of the Industry: Utilities, Developers, and Firms
Tracy discovered that utilities, developers, and law firms all had very different approaches to conducting their day-to-day operations. While working at an LDC, she found the main business focus to be on compliance, conservation and demand management, rate applications, and dealing with customer service matters. Tracy felt that working with the utility was a great way for her to begin her focus on energy law – she was able to learn from her business colleagues about a very broad set of topics related to the energy world, including market rules, distribution, and transmission, as well as the role of the Ontario Energy Board, the Independent Electricity Operator, and Hydro One. For Tracy, the most interesting project she worked on was a potential merger of two LDCs, where she found the work complex and interesting, having to balance the needs and demands of various stakeholders, and balancing expectations and growth.
Independent Power Producers and Law Firms
Working on the development side has been exciting for Tracy. As for-profit companies, developers can decide how and what they want to do and aren’t necessarily beholden to the same kind of restrictive LDC regulations. For Northland Power, they balance opportunity and risk, which has allowed them to successfully pursue projects in a variety of different procurement environments from all over the world. Tracy finds the work rewarding: she works with different renewable energy technology (ground-mount solar, thermal, on-shore and off-shore wind projects) that all come with their own unique hurdles. Tracy also finds it interesting to work in so many different jurisdictions around the world – in this way, projects can often feel like everything’s always new. While that comes with certain challenges, it keeps things exciting, and it’s hard to get bored.
Given that the Canadian renewable energy procurement market has matured and opportunities are fewer and far between, developers have been taking steps to innovate, diversify, and grow into new jurisdictions outside of Canada (such as Germany and the Netherlands for Northland Power). In line with keeping things interesting, Tracy’s role has also evolved to occasionally take on a role as “legal ambassador”, bridging the gap between local legal counsel in other countries and the Northland Power team which is based in Toronto.
Work with First Nation Partners
A unique aspect of project development, especially in Canada, is consulting with First Nations. This is a growing area as renewable energy continues to push into more remote and northern areas. Tracy enjoys spending time learning about local First Nations governance, as well as helping to resolve potential financing issues they may face. Tracy comments that it’s been an interesting and welcome change of pace working with First Nation communities compared to corporate partners; board meetings can open with traditional prayers, a facility opening is celebrated with a lively drumming and dance ceremony, and business priorities are often shaped and driven by community priorities.
Joining the Industry
Tracy’s entry into the energy industry may seem fortuitous on the surface, but what’s clear about her continued momentum to and through the renewable energy industry is an eager willingness to learn. Tracy’s advice to people looking to join the energy sector is to keep an open mind and get to know all aspects of it. Different industry players are driven and motivated by different rules – while utilities are highly regulated, developers are constantly innovating and adjusting to changing landscapes, acquisition opportunities, and procurement mechanisms. Having a broad sense and understanding of the energy industry, especially as you start your career, is a great way to help you determine where your interests and strengths lie. Not only will you be able to bring value to a company by helping to identify and tackle a variety of issues, it will also help you understand and shape the potential trajectory of your own career. Enjoy the journey and never stop learning.