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Leading with Passion & Dedication | Damien M Tholomier

Damien M Tholomier


A seasoned professional in the field of electrical power systems and grid automation, Damien Tholomier plays an essential role in the management and optimization of the electrical systems of the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Electric Co-Op. Damien is a senior executive with 30 years of experience working for Fortune 500 companies in energy-related sectors such as power, oil & gas, mining, transportation & renewables. He worked for Sentient Energy (USA), AECOM- Bechtel Power Corporation – Schneider Electric in Canada, and Alstom T&D in France and Germany. Thanks to his broad experience, he has developed a solid product, software, and engineering solutions background complemented by his passion for business and eye for strategic vision. He is now the CEO of the last electric Co-Op in Quebec, Canada, with a service territory of 469 square kilometers, 437 kilometers of distribution line, and serving 7 000 customers and 16 municipalities.

According to Damien, we live in an era of constant evolution. While exciting, it also introduces many uncertainties, such as globalization, tech disruption, environmental changes, cybersecurity, and penetration of distributed energy resources. “Our biggest challenges at our Co-Op in the next 5 years will be to support the significant growth in electricity demand due to the electrification of transportation and the efficient decarbonization of the economy,” he says.

“Our biggest challenges at our Co-Op in the next 5 years will be to support the significant growth in electricity demand due to the electrification of transportation and the efficient decarbonization of the economy,” he says. “We must adapt our business model and organization to keep pace with our world’s changing demands for innovative products and projects while investing in new infrastructure and continuously offering a reliable and affordable service.”

To transform the organization and business, Damien’s qualities come in handy, which include his commitment to the vision and mission of the Co-Op and supporting and coaching his team to implement planned changes effectively. As a transformational leader, Damien empowers and intellectually stimulates the Co-op’s direct reports, by being a role model, providing support for individual needs, and offering coaching and guidance for growth.

Becoming A Dynamic Leader

Insights from Damien

According to Damien, a dynamic and visionary leader is someone who has a clear idea of how to envision the future. It is important to set concrete steps to plan and execute a vision, as well as lead a team toward accomplishing its goal. Damien believes that understanding the traits essential to develop in this role may help a leader inspire others efficiently and effectively.

Damien shares, ‘’Becoming a renewable energy developer (wind, biogas, or solar generation) requires new ideas, activities and processes while remaining fully focused on our distribution utility role and responsibility. That leads to success.’’,Damien joined the electric Co-Op in January 2021 and decided to diversify their activities and develop clean energy projects with the board of directors. “You must be persistent and courageous to transform the mission of an organization that has not changed since its foundation (80-year operation as a distribution utility). I was ready to challenge existing policies, technologies, and institutions to transform the organization and the team,” explains Damien. “Persistence is key to progress toward achieving a goal or completing a task despite the challenges you may encounter. He believes that success cannot be achieved overnight; rather, it is a process that requires patience, resilience, and perseverance.

Damien has created an agile and adaptable workplace environment where every employee is involved in discussions that contribute to overall brilliant ideas. To generate ideas within the Co-Op, regular brainstorming and strategic sessions are held with Damien’s team and board of directors. “To think big and outside the box,” he adds. “I coach my team individually (asking them questions rather than giving them directions), I facilitate a culture of acting on good ideas by analyzing rather than by chasing perceptions (data vs. thoughts).” Damien is taking the organization to new heights with this brilliant approach to leadership and his mindset.

He also encourages creative thinking by facilitating 15-minute ideation and solutioning sessions and providing a stimulating work atmosphere (currently renovating our office to promote creativity). “Based on my experience working for large corporate organizations and startups, and now a Co-Op, I would say that finding success starts with finding your purpose. Today, I redeploy my time, energy, and talents to serve others at work, home, and community,” elucidates Damien. “As a leader, I also want my team to feel capable of achieving their goals and the cooperative’s objectives, so I make it a priority to personally help them meet individual milestones and goals.”

Building A Strong Organization

The mission of Saint-Jean-Baptiste Electric Co-Op is to be involved in the energy transition and focus on members’ needs by ensuring a reliable and affordable electricity supply. The Co-Op aims to diversify its activities through clean energy projects while promoting the resources of its territory and respecting the community.

Saint-Jean-Baptiste Electric Co-Op was founded in September 1944 and established under the Rural Electrification Act in September 1945. Today, they are the last electric Co-Op in Quebec. An electric cooperative is a private, not-for-profit company that aims to safely deliver electricity to its members at the most affordable price possible. As member-owners, their members receive ownership and a voice in the cooperative, capital credits/rebate, and locally owned.

Saint-Jean-Baptiste Electric Co-Op is one of Canada’s 151 distribution electric utilities (18 Investor-owned utilities, 90 municipalities, 34 Cooperatives, and 9 government-owned utilities) and one of more than 34 electric cooperatives nationwide.

With a member-centric approach, the recent Grid Modernization plan incorporating smart grid technologies developed by the Co-Op’s leadership team will revolutionize its service delivery. These advancements will enable remote monitoring, rapid pinpointing of issues, and expediting resolutions, thereby offering faster and more reliable customer service. Additionally, these innovative approaches will enhance efficiency and significantly improve member experience, ensuring seamless electricity provision even in the most remote areas.

For the days ahead, Damien and his team will continue to work on developing a wind farm project that has been set in motion since mid-2021. “We turn our 5% chance of success into a 100% reality. On 29th January 2024, Canadian electric utility Hydro-Quebec retains eight bids from five developers totaling 1 550 MW of wind power,” states Damien. “The Co-Op’s 100 MW Monnoir Wind Project, in collaboration with Boralex, was one of the eight projects Hydro-Quebec selected as part of its Request for Proposal launched in March 2023. The wind farm will be situated in Monteregie in Quebec province. Commercial operations are slated to begin in December 2029.”

Damien and his team are working towards a fullyintegrated, smart electrical grid to support the increase in electricity demand and technological developments. By investing in a robust and intuitive grid, they prepare to deliver modern and innovative electricity services to their members. To support the Grid Modernization plan, they are currently investing in some key areas of upgrade and development that will provide valuable remote visibility and control at key switching locations, significantly reducing their response times to dynamic electric grid conditions or outages. The three areas are:

  • Upgrading their meter technology. Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) is the latest metering technology, using advancedmeters to track consumption and power quality in real-time. The deployment of AMI technology across our entire service territory will allow faster detection of outages and enable members to be better informed on their usage patterns, monitor the service status or outages developments.
  • Deploying an advanced distribution management system (ADMS). An ADMS will enable improved grid efficiency and resiliency, allowing the electric Co-Op to remotely respond to outages and other grid conditions quickly and safely but also better control our demand during winter peak periods.
  • investing in asset modernization thanks to Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA).

“There is so much in store for the organization, and we are actively committed and working towards achieving the highest priorities and offering the best possible services to our members,” concludes Damien.

" If you are struggling to generate innovative ideas for your business, then look no further than regular brainstorming and strategic sessions with your team and board of directors. At my Co-Op, we make sure to think big and outside the box by regularly hosting these sessions. Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo and push the limits of what’s possible. With the right mindset and team, anything is achievable. "

Damien M Tholomier


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