The interview below is part of a yearlong effort by McGuireWoods to profile women leaders in private equity. To read previous profiles, click here. To recommend a woman for a future interview, email Amber Walsh at [email protected].
With more than 25 years of executive leadership in renewable energy and finance, Susan Nickey is a managing director at Hannon Armstrong, a capital and services provider focused on sustainable infrastructure markets that address climate change. Prior to joining Hannon Armstrong, she was founder and CEO of Threshold Power. She also served as CFO at ACCIONA Energy North America and managing director of investment banking in the project finance group of Mesirow Financial. Ms. Nickey currently serves on the board of directors of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and its finance committee, and the board of directors of the American Council of Renewable Energy and its executive committee. She holds a bachelor’s in business administration from the University of Notre Dame and a Master of Science in foreign service from Georgetown University. Ms. Nickey was recognized as one of the 100 most influential people in wind in A Word About Wind‘s North American Power List Ranking in June 2018.
Q: What attracted you to principal equity investing in sustainable infrastructure, an alternative source of equity to traditional PE?
Susan Nickey: In a world increasingly defined by carbon, I recognized some time ago that the generation of clean energy must be more profitable, competitive, affordable and mainstream. It’s been my personal and professional mission to make this a reality, and it’s created great opportunities, including the opportunity to join the Hannon Armstrong team. Hannon Armstrong is the only publicly traded green REIT and offers another type of clean energy investment platform to the growing number of environmental, social and governance (ESG) investors seeking new investment vehicles.
Q: What is your role at Hannon Armstrong?
SN: As a member of the management team, I lead business development in renewables to drive investment growth, fulfilling the company’s thesis that investing on the right side of climate change will produce better risk-adjusted returns. I help identify renewable energy investing trends, the impact of public policy and financing models to address climate change from an investor perspective. In this role, I also have the opportunity to be a frequent public speaker on renewable energy trends and a thought leader on public policy and financing models to address climate change from an investor perspective.
Q: Your experience created a path for the role women play in the energy industry. Can you speak to this?
SN: Not surprisingly, for years I would typically be the only woman in a meeting. As the renewable energy industry has continued to grow and climate change issues are increasingly publicized, it has been a natural attraction for women to join the clean energy sector to pursue a career that makes a difference in providing a sustainable environment for generations to come. I believe being passionate about your work leads to a successful and rewarding outcome. As part of executive teams over the years — CFO of Acciona Energy, CEO of Threshold Power and now managing director at Hannon Armstrong — it is important for me to be a role model for women and encourage diversity and professional development of talented women in the sector.
Q: What career opportunities are there for women in clean energy investing?
SN: Now is a great time to work in renewable energy. It has become mainstream, and investors are shifting their investment profiles increasingly toward decarbonization. Estimates forecast $100 trillion could be spent globally on energy efficiency and renewable energy over the next 35 years.
In addition, investors are increasingly focused on good governance, and ESG investor metrics include diversity filters. There is a concerted effort with renewable industry organizations such as AWEA, Solar Energy Industries Association and Women in Renewable Industries and Sustainable Energy to facilitate an increase in the ranks of women at all levels in renewable energy. Hannon Armstrong is one of the companies that recognizes that diversity in a company and on a board helps create better results. Two of our seven board members are women, and 42% of our employees are women.
To contact Susan, email [email protected].
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