Phil McKay

Senior Director of Technical & Utility Affairs, Canadian Renewable Energy Association

Clean Energy Career Profile

Ever wonder what it would be like to work as a wind turbine technician, 500 feet in the air? Or to work as a solar farm electrician, harnessing the power of the sun, and using it to charge a massive on-site battery system? CanREA’s Clean Energy Career Profiles ask Canada’s renewable energy and energy storage workers what they do, how they got into this line of work, and what advice they have for others looking to work in the renewable energy and energy storage sector.

In 2023, CanREA spoke with Phil McKay, Senior Director of Technical & Utility Affairs at the Canadian Renewable Energy Association to find out more about his occupational journey.

Name:Phil McKay
Job:Senior Director of Technical & Utility Affairs
Company:Canadian Renewable Energy Association

Career journey 

Phil began his career working in the automotive industry as a powertrain engineer. While he was always aware of renewable energy as a potential career path, it became clear that it was a real possibility when he saw the large wind turbines along Highway 401 in Ontario. Phil attended the University of Windsor where he obtained an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering, followed by a Master’s degree focused on wind-energy applications, researching industrial-scale wind-farm dynamics. In 2016, he joined the Canadian Wind Energy Association, which became the Canadian Renewable Energy Association in 2020. Formerly the Director of the operations program, he now leads CanREA’s Electricity Transition Hub.

A day in the life

Phil works remotely from a home office, but regularly travels to conferences and events to present, build his network, and collect knowledge that can be passed along to the industry. He starts his morning with a scan of industry news to stay up-to-date. He spends the better part of the morning writing reports for the industry, developing processes and methods for transferring knowledge across the sector, and developing events and internal programs. In the afternoons, he engages in meetings with his small team of experts, as well as industry members, government agencies and academics.

Quick advice 

“The renewable energy sector is growing rapidly, not just in size but in scope. As I found with my start in the industry, there are ways to create the opportunities that best suit an individual’s skill set. This can involve leveraging existing training and education programs, or taking a tailored or customized approach. You have to be willing to take the time to get to know people in the industry.”

“Working in this industry is fulfilling because, at some level, most of us are working towards the larger effort of fighting climate change. Everyone who is interested should come and join us!”

—Phil McKay

Important skills 

  • Collecting and summarizing technical, market and regulatory information into something useful for the people in CanREA’s networks.
  • Interpersonal skills, such as active listening and the effective communication of concepts.
  • The ability to work across various digital platforms for aggregating and analyzing information from a wide variety of sources.
  • I manage a small team of ambitious individuals, which requires planning and foresight to challenge and support them in their work.

View all Worker Profiles here