Eryn Stewart is a Project Director at Lumos Energy, a leading clean energy advisory group to Indigenous communities. She is also the Director and Creator of the 20/20 Catalysts program a national award-winning capacity-building program, under the not-for-profit the Indigenous Clean Energy Social Enterprise. She is a graduate of the University of Waterloo’s Environment and Business program. Prior to Lumos Energy, she worked at various organizations including Suncor Energy and the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. She is quickly being recognized for her work in this sector and was one of the proud recipients of the Corporate Knights 2018, 30 under 30 Leaders in Sustainability award.
Finding Aboriginal Power
Eryn went to study the Environment and Business program at the University of Waterloo with the goal of eventually becoming an Environmental Lawyer. While studying at Waterloo, she entered their co-op program which enabled her to try a number of different job placements. Through co-op, she gained skills in the fields of energy systems, research, and public policy. Through her co-ops, she also quickly discovered that she did not want to go into law!
In her graduation year, she came across a book called Aboriginal Power written by Chris Henderson, her current manager and founder of Lumos Energy. While reading this book, she realized that the intersect between Indigenous leadership and clean energy was not a topic being talked about in the climate and sustainability conversation. Eryn decided that she wanted to be a part of the energy transition and support communities lead clean energy projects.
With another job already lined up after graduation, she decided to take a chance with Lumos Energy. While at a conference, she saw Chris and decided to have a conversation about his book. She had questions about some of the ideas in his book, specifically about his capacity-building program interests. Sensing her enthusiasm, Chris asked her to draw up a business plan for the 20/20 Catalysts Program and meet with him two weeks later!
The rest is history, and she started working at Lumos Energy, they created the 20/20 Catalysts Program, making their vision into a reality.
Indigenous Inclusion: Working with Lumos Energy and the 20/20 Catalysts Program
Working at Lumos Energy as a Project Director, she is actively involved in various clean energy development projects within Indigenous communities. In her role, she is tasked with making sure communities maximize the social, environmental and economic benefits that can come from clean energy projects. She primarily leads projects in the areas of energy education and literacy and community energy planning.
Currently, she is excited to be working on a guide called the Arctic Community Energy Planning and Implementation Toolkit a project for the Sustainable Development Working Group of the Arctic Council. This toolkit can be used in communities interested in developing their own energy plans and projects. The toolkit will be based on past projects and experiences and will include proven practices to make these energy plans into a reality. The final guide is due to be published in May 2019.
Along with working for Lumos Energy, Eryn is also the Program Director for the non-profit organization, the Indigenous Clean Energy Social Enterprise, running the 20/20 Catalysts program. Running now for 4 years, the team and network of people involved is bigger and stronger than ever. It is also the recipient of the 2018 CANWEA Group Leadership Award.
The program runs for 3 months in the summer supports 20 Indigenous Community Energy Champions or “Catalysts” learn the technical and project know-how to develop a clean energy project. The program is led by 35 of the most talented and knowledgeable Indigenous clean energy leaders, and clean energy practitioners. The program provides technical support, intensive sessions, and mentoring among several other tools to support these individuals carry out a clean energy development project.
Just Getting started
So what does Eryn say about Indigenous communities’ role in the future of the clean energy industry? Well, the possibilities are endless; and we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. Eryn explains that while there are over 125 projects over 1MW that have significant Indigenous involvement, this is not enough.
For starters, there are still over 175 remote communities, many of which are Indigenous, in parts of Canada that are still diesel reliant. Eryn says there are concrete opportunities for these communities to be drivers in the switch from diesel to cleaner energy sources.
She also is very interesting in looking at smaller projects that can have a big impact -like more energy efficient homes, energy conservation campaigns, and building EV infrastructure in communities.
Eryn also works with WIRE to host an annual Indigenous Women in Renewable Energy event. WiRE and the 20/20 Catalysts Program have a partnership to support each other’s mandate and programming efforts.
Leading by Inspiration
Eryn explains that her dad and Chris Henderson are two of her biggest role models and inspiration. She finds their work ethic, generosity, leadership and most importantly their drive has attributed to much of her success. She says she is challenged everyday and is constantly learning to be a better version of herself. She wouldn’t have it any other way.
She asks anyone who is interested in getting involved in the clean energy sector to have drive and be bold. “If you really want to see change, seize any opportunities, and do it yourself” says Eryn.
Eryn encourages any individuals or organizations interested in working with Indigenous communities on clean energy projects to first go and take an Indigenous cultural awareness course. “It is our duty as Canadians to truly understand how our colonist society has impacted the rights and livelihood of Indigenous peoples. We all need to be better allies to support Indigenous communities’ rights to self determination” says Eryn.
She also challenges more women to take on technical and leadership roles in the clean energy industry. “The clean energy sector is riddled with gender inequality. I feel this is largely due to the lack of female presence in the sector. In the clean energy sector, only 18% are women, and only 5-6% of those women are in technical or leadership roles. As a sector, we need to do better!” says Eryn.