Women are global agents of change

 

Louise Kingham OBE FEI, Chief Executive, Energy Institute

Louise Kingham OBE FEI, Chief Executive, Energy Institute

Two facts put into stark relief the disproportionate impact climate change and lack of access to adequate energy have on women:

• Of the 150,000 people killed in the 1991 Bangladesh cyclone – it is estimated that 90% were women.

• Around 4 million people die each year prematurely simply from trying to cook food, heat or light their homes using solid fuels. Most of these are women and children.

We have, in a relatively short period of time, made astonishing progress in our understanding of our changing planet and the impact we’re having on it. The detrimental effects of climate change are already being felt, not only by the natural world but also on the lives of billions. Landslides, floods, hurricanes and long term environmental degradation are affecting agriculture, food security, water resources, health, human settlements and migration patterns.

Unfortunately the majority of the world’s poor are women and climate change amplifies the problems they already face. Women are more reliant on natural resources. They are more likely to be responsible for securing food, fuel and water for their families and more dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods. So they face the greatest challenges when those resources are disrupted. And women are often afforded a lower social standing and have less capacity to cope and respond to natural hazards. Society sometimes prevents them from acquiring the skills needed – for instance the ability to swim. And, at times of food scarcity, they fare worse than men.

Similarly, not having access to adequate energy affects women disproportionately. Forty percent of the world’s population still rely on wood, coal, charcoal or dung for cooking and heating. Inhaling smoke from conventional cooking fires and kerosene lamps in small homes, often without chimneys or windows, causes respiratory disease, heart disease and burns. Four million people die prematurely as a result of this each year – more than malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS combined. Most of these are women and children.

Solutions driven by women

What is clear to me is that solving these massive global challenges requires the ingenuity of both men and women. Indeed without the full participation of women, we have one arm tied behind our back. Thankfully, concerted moves are afoot to tackle climate change and access to energy. And I believe there are many positive stories to be told about women who are proving transformational in terms of the search for solutions.

Christiana Figueres is a Costa Rican diplomat with 35 years of experience in high level national and international policy and multilateral negotiations. She was appointed Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2010, six months after the disastrous climate change summit in Copenhagen. During the six years that followed she dedicated herself tirelessly to rebuilding the global climate change negotiating process. By putting fairness, transparency and collaboration – attributes found in abundance in women – at the heart of her approach she is widely credited with brokering what Ban Ki Moon described as “a new covenant for the future”.

And, on the front line, look at the fantastic work of Solar Sister, helping to tackle energy poverty by empowering women with economic opportunity. Their work combines the breakthrough potential of cheap solar energy technology with a deliberately woman-centered direct sales network to bring light, hope and opportunity to the most remote communities in rural Africa. Working in Uganda, Tanzania and Nigeria, Solar Sister involves 2,500 entrepreneurs and has benefited 700,000 people.

I am not complacent, there is much more to do. Regrettably the UK energy profession’s gender representation is poor. 61% of the top 100 UK energy companies have all male boards. Little more than 13% of the entire energy sector in the UK are women. But there is evidence of change and efforts to bring it about. Most prominently in the renewables sector where 17% are women. Still low, but better.

Women must be, and are, global agents of change. They have a vital contribution to make, alongside men, in ensuring we throw every bit of ingenuity we can at finding the best solutions to these global challenges.

 

This blog post is based on a lecture given by Louise Kingham at the University of Bath on 11 May 2017.

A low-carbon future and the case for urgency

 

Jim Skea CBE FEI

Professor Jim Skea CBE EI President

 

The transition to clean energy  is irreversible but it needs to speed up, according to Professor Jim Skea, president of the Energy Institute and co-chair  of IPCC Working Group 3


Democracies are complex animals. The consent and legitimacy they confer on those who govern is a stabilising feature of most modern societies and thankfully, generally, this serves us well. But amidst the issues competing for voter favour, short-termism and sensationalism can eclipse the long-term and the evidence-based.

A challenge this poses to those of us wrestling with intergenerational concerns such as climate change is how to sustain backing for vital action over decades – how to ensure horizons extend beyond the next election. But despite changes in energy policy in individual countries, the global shift to low-carbon is now, I believe, hard-wired into our energy system in a way that will ride out the ups and downs of short-term political cycles.

 Why am I certain?

 First, although in some quarters it may not be fashionable, we should not underestimate the power of evidence. The Fifth Assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the most unequivocal articulation yet of the direct link between human activities and the changing climate. And the evidence continues to mount – 2016 was the hottest year ever recorded , underscoring the urgency of emission reduction and adaptation.

How our economies respond to this challenge also calls for the application of evidence, by governments, the private sector and through institutions such as the Energy Institute, which works to bring the best expertise and knowledge to bear in the public debate.

Secondly, the global agreement reached in Paris sent an enduring signal. The world’s nations have escaped the prisoner’s dilemma and committed to decarbonise for the sakes of both our shared environment and their economies. Paris will survive any doubts– as we have seen in the continued commitments from China, India and the EU.

Thirdly, technological innovation, spurred by cost reductions in clean energy, is an unstoppable driver for change. The cost of manufacturing one watt of solar PV cell capacity fell from $76.67 in 1977 to a staggering 36 cents in 2014, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. This, combined with cost reductions in storage, is opening up extraordinary new possibilities. Global investment in renewable power capacity reached a record $265.8bn in 2015, according to UNEP, which was more than double that for new coal and  gas generation.

Likewise in oil and gas, climate change has become a mainstream, existential issue. The Energy Institute’s recent International Petroleum Week, attended by IPCC chair Dr Hoesung Lee and UNFCCC executive secretary Patricia Espinosa, saw meaningful dialogue about the industry’s role in defining pathways to decarbonisation and bringing on the technologies such as carbon capture that will make it possible.

But is it enough? 

The test of human ability to avert the most dangerous impacts of climate change won’t be whether we decarbonise, but how quickly we do it. With the weight of scientific evidence and the strength of international resolve behind us, the pace of clean energy investment must speed up.

Just as the horizons for tackling climate change are beyond a single electoral cycle, so too are those for investing at scale in new technologies. The smartest companies have spotted the direction of travel and are taking the long view. And they will certainly reap the benefits.

This blog post was first published as an article in a supplement of the New Statesman on 28 April 2017, you can read the full supplement here.

Fueling the pipeline of women in energy

Jaz Rabadia MBE MEI Chartered Energy Manager

Jaz Rabadia MBE MEI Chartered Energy Manager

A recent report by PWC in association with POWERful Women (PfW) shared that only 6% of executive boards seats in top 100 UK-headquartered energy firms are held by women, a  troubling statistic in the age of women empowerment, diversity and inclusion targets and a changing energy landscape.   With International Women’s Day 2017 only a few weeks away (8 March), what more can we do to attract, retain and promote female talent in the energy sector?

Energy is all around us; in the food that we eat, the roads that we travel, the homes that we live in and the businesses we work in. It’s something we all take for granted. Yet it’s not something we are taught at school.  Most of today’s energy professionals have fallen into the sector by accident and never looked back. I want tomorrow’s leaders to join because they want to, with a purpose and on purpose. The energy industry is incredibly diverse and full of opportunities to learn, to grow but most importantly to make a difference.  Offering careers in oil and gas, renewable energy, energy efficiency, product innovation, energy policy and public engagement to name a few, the sector has something for all skill sets.

So how do we attract more women into energy from an early age? The process needs to start at home and then must continue on into schools. We need to raise awareness of the range of energy careers available and showcase the many amazing women already working in energy. As practitioners, we have a duty to reach out and inspire the next generation of energy professionals.  So where do we start?  By volunteering to talk at a school careers event, by posting fun facts about your role on social media or by just sharing your career experiences with your daughters, grand-daughters, nieces and the young boys in the family too!

But once we’ve jumped the first hurdle and attracted some women into this male dominated sector, what can we do to ensure we keep them? Similarly to other industries facing this challenge, the key is to provide, development opportunities, job satisfaction, flexibility and inspirational role models. As someone who entered the energy sector as a young female, I know too well how important these all are.

A collaborative environment that allowed me to be creative, to grow and to develop others is what has kept me in this industry for over a decade. I’ve had many supporters over the years who have been fundamental to my progression. Through the Energy Institute, I have obtained Chartered Energy Manager status, won the Young Energy Professional of the year award and now sit on the Energy Institute Council. These achievements have not only boosted my confidence, but given me a sense of professional credibility when I most doubted myself. We need to do more to promote, showcase and champion the women making waves in the energy sector. So, shine a light on a female energy professional you know, enter them for an award, put them forward for a guest blog, or simply tell them they inspire you.

PfW is a great initiative designed not only to showcase but also most importantly to develop the best women in the industry. Developing female leaders within the sector is crucial to ensuring we have a seat at the table and are able to influence decisions at the highest level. As members of this growing industry, we are surely the best ambassadors of it, so let’s shout about how great it is from the solar paneled rooftops and help each other on the climb to the top. If each of us inspired just one more woman into the sector, imagine the difference we could collective make.

Happy International Women’s Day to all the women (and men) who have inspired and supported me throughout my career in energy

Who really decides the future of our industry? Answer at IP Week 2017

raphael-vermeir

Raphael Vermeir CBE FEI Chairman, IP Week Programme Board

Only a few weeks left before International Petroleum (IP) Week 2017 is upon us.

The programme is now set, although, in all fairness, there is always going to be last minute rearrangements due to travel, availability and other difficulties. But this year, our main challenge so far has been in fitting in so many relevant presentations.

This is a nice problem to have, caused, I believe, by several factors: first the success of last year’s IP Week, second the global political scene and associated energy policy decisions and finally my desire to address “who really decides the future of our industry”. This last factor led us to invite not only NOCs, IOCs, OPEC, ministers, government bodies and regulators of course, but also financial institutions, Climate Change key players, traders and new technology gurus.  And we have been able to gather an impressive line-up of speakers from all these organisations – notably Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo, OPEC’s Secretary General, Dr Hoesung Lee, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, H.E. Dr Mohammed Bin Saleh Al-Sada, Minister for Energy and Industry, State of Qatar, and Igor Sechin, Chief Executive Officer of Rosneft, Gretchen Watkins, Chief Executive Officer, Maersk Oil and Saif Humaid Al Falasi FEI, Group Chief Executive Officer, Emirates National Oil Company.

So the agenda is a lot fuller. Under the theme of “Shaping the industry’s future”, we will be looking at the forces impacting the supply and demand scene, identify the key players in this new world and their response to the challenges they face. A significant portion of the programme will address climate change. We will also receive input from disruptive technology experts as well as new financial players, see how the lower prices have been dealt with and how the gas industry will cope in this environment.

I am particularly looking forward to the discussions with OPEC, the reactions to political developments in the US, Russia and the ME, the role of natural gas and specifically of LNG, the importance of the Far East and Africa on the demand curve and of course how the unconventionals have fared.  The climate change sessions should also be particularly interesting.  It will be a busy and I trust very engaging programme – it will also be great to catch up with so many colleagues and make new connections over the three days of IP Week activities.

I leave you for now with a scene setter from BP, who have just released their Energy Outlook report, which reviews long-term energy trends and develops projections for world energy markets over the next two decades

‘The global energy landscape is changing. Traditional centres of demand are being overtaken by fast-growing emerging markets. The energy mix is shifting, driven by technological improvements and environmental concerns. More than ever, our industry needs to adapt to meet those changing energy needs’ – Bob Dudley, BP group chief executive.

I look forward to welcoming you at IP Week 2017.

 

Setting the agenda for 2017

Louise Kingham OBE FEI Chief Executive

Louise Kingham OBE FEI Chief Executive

Now in its third year, the EI’s Energy Barometer is becoming an established channel for gathering evidence from our members to inform policy decisions. Our last blog detailed some of the ways it informed our messages to policy makers and laid the foundation for further engagement around Brexit negotiations and industrial strategy in 2016. A look at the media coverage of the 2016 findings also demonstrates why this initiative, and our members’ participation, is so crucial. So as we prepare to send invitations to take part in this year’s survey, here’s a preview of what to expect in 2017.

The survey and report will focus on policy, markets and investment. On climate issues, we will again explore professionals’ expectations for emissions targets and the most effective ways to meet them. We’ll also look into drivers of the low carbon economy and the potential role of adaptation measures in the UK. Of course Brexit will be on everyone’s mind throughout 2017, so we hope to capture our members’ views on priorities for negotiation and transition plans, as well as forthcoming industrial strategy. We’ll also think about whether Brexit might have any impact on energy prices and the labour market in the short term.

Each year we take a deeper look into 2-3 areas on professionals’ and policy makers’ minds. This year we’ll be asking members in more detail about decarbonising heat, new business models in the energy industry, and trust between industry, government, and the public.

In response to feedback from young professionals, we are planning a section in the report which puts a spotlight on the unique perspective of Graduates. They will answer some tailored questions about the best ways attract and retain young talent, and how they foresee their own job might be transformed over the course of their career. We hope those new to the industry will share their vision for the future, and a fresh look at what attracted them to the industry and keeps them in it.

As always, the survey questions are intentionally diverse – there’s no need to be an expert in all the areas covered. It’s the respondents’ experience inside the industry that makes the responses valuable. And all the responses truly are valuable: the survey results will determine our key messages to policy makers for 2017 – specifically around priorities for Brexit negotiation and transition, industrial strategy, and how to make the UK more ‘pro-innovation’.

Invitations to join the EI College, the group which will be surveyed, will be sent by email in mid-January.  Watch for yours, and I hope you’ll accept this unique opportunity to contribute to the energy debate should you be one of the limited number of members to receive an invite.

For more details about the Energy Barometer, including past reports and media coverage, visit knowledge.energyinst.org/barometer

Empowered by our members

Dr Joanne Wade FEi

Dr Joanne Wade FEI, Chair, EI Energy Advisory Panel

A core aim of the Energy Institute (EI) is to support our members in achieving their professional and learning goals. But equally,  EI members support us as we work towards improving the energy system. By sharing their knowledge, they help to shape the messages we use to drive progress and engage with policy makers and wider industry. The Energy Barometer survey is one of the most powerful mechanisms through which EI members can provide this vital input.

The 2016  survey, conducted in February, was launched just days before the referendum on UK membership of the EU. The general mood in the country of uncertainty and concern about the future was reflected in many of the survey responses, including important detail about areas of concern for energy professionals.  After its launch in Westminster, the report and its findings – particularly those around the potential energy-related impacts of exiting the EU – were picked up by the BBC, Telegraph, Guardian and others. It was recognised as bringing unique insight into the expectations of those working at the heart of the energy industry.

Post-referendum, attention has shifted to the future. The EI has endeavoured to offer an evidence base to policy makers as they set priorities for Brexit negotiations, heat decarbonisation and future industrial strategy.   They welcomed this knowledge, which again was gathered through the support and engagement of EI members contributing to this vital input through written evidence, our recent Brexit debate, and presentations to the Parliamentary Group on Energy Studies.

The EI has also collaborated with the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Association for Decentralised Energy to provide cross-sector recommendations on industrial strategy and productivity, two high priorities for Theresa May’s government going forward. The EI’s submissions continue to be underpinned by the expert contributions of our members which form the narrative carried across these activities.

During the next, crucial, year for the development of UK energy policy, we will continue our efforts to support Government decision-making with a solid evidence base. To be effective, we will rely on our members’ on-going  participation in initiatives such as the Energy Barometer. Collaboration will be increasingly important next year as two new Government departments – DExEU and BEIS – finalise their strategies and begin putting them into action.

Thank you to those who have shared your insights so far. I hope you will continue to support this important work if you are invited to take part in early 2017.

Invitations to join the EI College will be emailed to a limited number of members in early January. Those who accept will be sent the Barometer survey in February. For more information, visit www.energyinst.org/energy-barometer.

Recognition creates inspiration…still, and is so very necessary

Louise Kingham OBE FEI Chief Executive

Louise Kingham OBE FEI
Chief Executive Energy Institute

 

 

The Karen Burt Award was launched in 1998 in memory of Dr Karen Burt, an eminent physicist and active member and Council office holder in The Women’s Engineering Society. She campaigned tirelessly to promote the recruitment and retention of women in science and engineering – a cause which is still very much alive and important today as it was when she first began simply because of the scale of shift we have to make.

This Award in particular recognises the best newly qualified female Chartered Engineer and aims to encourage more women to achieve Chartered Engineer status in either engineering, applied science or IT. This year’s winner, Clare Lavelle, was nominated by the Energy Institute so we were especially delighted for Clare when she won.

Clare works as an energy consultant for Arup, specialising in offshore energy: offshore windfarms, wave and tidal as well as oil and gas decommissioning. She inherited her interest in engineering from her father and his enthusiasm for technology.  She studied physics and maths and enjoyed the discipline and rigour of those subjects. Luckily, Clare had a reasonably rare influence in her life which many do not, so we still struggle to undo societal norms that work against the promotion of STEM careers to girls in particular – those influences which comes from our parents and the teaching profession largely who can often themselves be unaware of the real opportunities a STEM-based education can provide.

Clare finds working in the energy sector very rewarding because energy professionals and the decisions that they make have real impact on society, climate change and people’s quality of life.  So, rightly, she feels she is doing work that has meaning. Very many congratulations to Clare who now becomes an important role model for others to see and hopefully recognise a bit of themselves in.

All change please…

Louise Kingham

Louise Kingham OBE FEI,         Chief Executive, Energy Institute

 

 

 

In the last few months I’ve been involved in various settings – apparently co-incidentally- discussing how the energy industry is set to change and in some cases why it needs to, as well as what those drivers for change might be. For me this obviously directly leads to discussion about how the EI as a professional body and learned society with a unique proposition promoting and advancing energy knowledge, skills and good practice should prepare. The fora for these discussions have been varied – workshops about the role of a 21st century Institute; our own Brexit and Energy debate, listening to a keynote speaker talking about the outcomes of the CMA report, taking part in discussions promoting diversity of thought and better balance in energy companies, engagement in a review of how the engineering community is organised and of course the EI’s own consultation process with members and other key stakeholders about its future strategy. These are conversations I relish because they make you think and challenge the status quo. Some would say I like them too much but I think it’s what keeps you relevant and ready to adapt when it’s right to do so. They also challenge your creativity.

But it’s important to recognise that many fear change – in quite a natural way because it’s a fear of the unknown and a disruption to a comfort they understand. But for the energy industry, I believe there are some real challenges which mean there are opportunities to harness. Whether it’s putting the customer at the heart of the electricity system in a way which is ‘smart’ and makes best use of technology, or whether it’s new lower carbon business models for organisations heavily invested in fossil fuels. And there are many more I could mention. The point I leave you with is that the EI thinks long term, sees the opportunities and is ready to support energy professionals and their organisations on their journey.

P.S. Change can also bring frustration so if you have downloaded the latest apple operating system on your iPhone and iPad and now find your email tricky to work with go to settings, mail and switch off ‘organised by thread’. Members I’ve shared that one with this week have been delighted!

 

The three S approach to uncertainty

Ian Marchant

Ian Marchant FEI, Immediate Past President

Life seems to be getting more and more uncertain. We are being warned about a Brexit rollercoaster and the oil price, at least in percentage terms, seems to be doing a good impersonation of an elevator; up one minute, down the next. All this uncertainty makes decision-making complex , especially when they concern long-life assets.

Against this background I have been thinking about the question of energy independence. Whilst, in my opinion, this isn’t necessarily a good goal at the national or even local level in its own right, I do believe that investing to reduce one’s dependence on and exposure to both the volatility of the global energy markets and the resilience of local energy distribution systems is something to be considered.

This is where, I believe, a combination of three Ss comes in: solar, storage and software. The cost of solar panels has come down enormously over the last ten years or so but the economics still depend upon support mechanisms, partly because of the profile of solar production. That problem will always be with us and that is where storage comes in.  Installing a suitably-sized lithium ion battery in the home or office allows much more of the solar power to be used on-site and this significantly improves the economics of the whole installation. The third leg is energy management software that can optimise on-site demand (which could include decisions on when to recharge a plug in an electric vehicle), to match the availability of locally produced or stored electricity. The same software can also be used to decide when electricity should be exported and when imported from the grid, an increasing source of value as we move to time of day pricing. Finally, the same software can work out when the stored energy can be used to provide support services such as frequency response to the local grid or through aggregation to the national grid. It really is the combination of the three that makes all this work.

Investing in solar, storage and software may not mean complete energy independence but it will certainly reduce exposure to energy uncertainty and will be an increasingly good investment in its own right. We are seeing commercial offerings starting to emerge in this space and I’m sure there will be more to come.