The EI blog has moved, now being housed within our new digital EI member magazine – New Energy World.
New Energy World embraces the whole energy industry as it connects and converges to address the decarbonisation challenge. It covers progress being made across the industry, from the dynamics under way to reduce emissions in oil and gas, through improvements to the efficiency of energy conversion and use, to cutting-edge initiatives in renewable and low carbon technologies.
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Nick Wayth CEng FEI FIMechE, Chief Executive at Energy Institute | 5 March 2021
Just a few days ago, the Energy Institute hosted International Energy Week (the successor to IP Week), a three-day hybrid conference in London. Many months ago, as we prepared, one crisis was front and centre: the climate crisis, and we framed the whole agenda around the energy transition. In recent months it also became increasingly clear that we were also dealing with a second crisis: the energy price crisis, as consumers across Europe faced record high gas and power prices. And then on the final day of International Energy Week, in shock and anger, we faced a third crisis: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Like many organisations, the Energy Institute has acted swiftly to ensure its products and services are not used by Russian companies or in other companies’ Russian operations.
Whilst these three crises have all occurred independently, they are all intrinsically inter-linked, with major short-term and long-term implications for the energy sector.
First, improving energy efficiency is something we can all do TODAY to address all three crises. At the simplest level, turning the thermostat down a degree, replacing halogen with LED bulbs and taking a bus rather than driving. These are small changes but if millions of people were to make them, they will reduce costs, carbon and dependence on Russian gas immediately. Beyond this, homes, businesses, schools and governments must do much more to understand their energy use and reduce it. At the Energy Institute we are proud to accredit – and are unique in accrediting – Chartered Energy Managers and run a wide range of training on energy efficiency.
Second, increasing renewable energy has been painted by some as part of the problem behind high energy prices. This is simply not true. The cost of renewables has fallen dramatically in the last decade, reducing the cost of supply to the grid. And whilst natural gas provides critical balance when the sun is not shining or the wind not blowing, without the penetration of renewables our dependence on gas and coal would only be greater. To make energy cheaper, lower carbon and more secure, accelerating the transition to net zero is more important than ever. Ultimately, a renewable grid will be cheaper, lower-carbon and more independent of global commodity prices and supply.
Third, Europe (including the UK) has been guilty of double-standards. Whilst we have opposed or banned development of natural gas on climate grounds in many geographies, we have increased our dependency on pipeline gas from Russia and more carbon-intense LNG cargoes from the Middle East, US and elsewhere. Up until now this could be conveniently ignored. That is no longer the case. Whilst we all want a lower-carbon future, we need to recognise the critical role gas has a transition fuel and as a long-term decarbonised energy source. It is also critical that industry focuses on reducing flaring and methane emissions, something the Energy Institute is supporting though the Methane Guiding Principles group. Sourcing gas domestically should be seen as part of the solution, not the problem. It has taken record prices and war in Europe for us to realise these truths.
These are scary and difficult times, but I genuinely believe that we can all make a difference in the short and long terms for the better by improving our energy system. As citizens, consumers and voters, we all have a role to play in using energy more efficiently, not letting dogma ignore the role natural gas still plays, and helping to accelerate the transition to renewables and a low-carbon future.
On International Women’s Day, Hannah Mary Goodlad AMEI, Head of Baltic Sea Area Development at Equinor and the driving force behind the film The Challenge of our Time, which was premiered by the EI’s young professionals at COP26, explains why the environment, energy and diversity matter.
I was born and raised in the Shetland Islands, the most northerly point in the UK. With rugged, untamed nature at every turn, Shetland can’t help but shape many to develop a spirit of restless love for our precious planet. I was certainly not unique in this regard; spending almost all my childhood outside in the wild, it was impossible not to turn into a dedicated environmentalist.
Like countless generations of Shetlanders before me, I looked towards the oceans for my living. But instead of the fishing, the merchant navy, or aquaculture, I chose energy.
Energy is fundamental. It’s not just essential, it literally defined us as a species. Energy elevates millions out of poverty, raises global living standards and connects the world. In my mind, the energy industry is a good place to pin your colours to the mast if you want to help change the world for the better. And with every fibre of my being, I get up each morning determined to play my part in shaping a better future of energy.
With Geology and Chemistry degrees from Glasgow University and Imperial College, I have spent the last decade working for Equinor, the Norwegian energy company. Firstly, in a variety of subsurface roles and more recently, within the renewables and low carbon section of Equinor. From various roles across UK offshore wind operations, I then moved back into projects and now lead the offshore wind area development within the Baltic Sea.
Like many, I want the energy transition to accelerate. And also like many, I get frustrated with the pace of change. But if the winter of 2021 and recent geopolitical developments has shown us anything, it is a strong heads-up to how unpredictable and uncertain the energy landscape will be. The road towards 2030 and beyond is going to be bumpy and one thing is for certain, this is not a one-horse commodity race. The ongoing energy crisis underlines the fact that our energy systems face significant risks if they rely too much on one supplier for a key element. Customers need sustainable, affordable, and reliable energy. And the answer to that trinity challenge is not a one technology monopoly – it is a diverse jigsaw of integration, balancing and bundling.
An energy system diverse in name and diverse by nature, is something we all need to power ourselves towards.
Diversity means several things to me. It’s about feeling comfortable and bringing my true self to work, feeling valued and empowered to contribute. It’s about having my biases challenged daily to enable me to see past assumptions, to approach a challenge from all angles and to handle risk more effectively. What an authentic diverse culture ensures is that in turn, we can make the road easier, with less hurdles for the next generation and the ones following in our footsteps. I am forever humbled and left with huge admiration for the women who went before me to ensure that I would have an easier path.
We all know that diversity matters, it strengthens all of us, it builds us up and makes us better. But what’s becoming increasingly clear is that diversity also makes sense in business terms. The latest research from McKinsey finds that companies in the top quartile for gender or racial and ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above their national industry medians. Better balance makes for better business, quite literally.
Diversity has never been more important, because the energy transition is going to take all of us. Everyone’s part in this journey is important. Together we can break the bias and empower a diverse society, a diverse workforce, and a diverse industry to rise to this challenge. We also need to make the energy transition accessible to all. Because here’s the thing; if you have access to something, you can be involved. And when you’re involved, you can make a change. As many people as possible need to understand that they can contribute and really make a change.
I’m incredibly proud to work in the energy industry and I cannot think of a more motivating job. To wake up every morning and know that I am playing my part in shaping the future of energy – what a privilege, what a responsibility and what an absolute joy!
The Energy Institute Climate Change Award, part of Engineering UK’s Big Bang Competition is awarded to projects which focus on creating a lasting reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, as a contribution to the UK’s goal of reaching net zero by 2050.
Gianpaolo, 17, winner of the 2021 Award discusses his winning entry, HydroCharge…
The bright idea
I designed and built a fully functioning prototype of a product that can charge mobile devices in an eco-friendly way whilst in the countryside and I named it “HydroCharge”.
It uses flowing water and has a high-capacity internal battery that can quickly charge a device whenever needed, even when on the move, and has a versatile anchoring system that allows it to be quickly and securely held in place in a multitude of situations. I was delighted when my project won the Energy Institute Climate Change Special Award as part of the Big Bang Competition.
My initial inspiration came from my love of the outdoors and the many camping and hiking trips I have undertaken both as a Scout and in the Duke of Edinburgh programme.
Hikers, campers, and people living in remote areas frequently find themselves unable to use mobile devices for sustained periods due to lack of charging capabilities. The aim of my project was to enhance a user’s experience in the countryside by providing a charging solution in situations where it was otherwise not possible and to do so in an environmentally friendly way.
Mobile devices allow people in the countryside to benefit from access to emergency services, communication, navigational assistance, and entertainment. These services can improve the safety, practicality and overall enjoyment of a countryside experience. By making the remote outdoor experience more appealing and accessible, it may also attract a greater number and variety of people to discover and enjoy nature.
Developing the idea
I ultimately set out to create an eco-friendly charger that was lightweight, portable, easy-to-use and cost-effective.
I followed a structured process across idea conceptualisation, design, development and testing, with multiple iterations for each key aspect—paddle, gearing, anchoring, and waterproofing—ensuring that they met requirements.
I identified stakeholders and obtained their input throughout the process. I developed the brand name “HydroCharge” and designed a logo to accompany it, as well as a marketing poster.
I identified several ways that HydroCharge could be improved in the future, such as adapting the product to make it possible for it to be charged by solar, wind, or hand power via inexpensive modular add-ons and a second USB port. I plan to call this newer version of the product “EcoCharge”.
Additional modifications could further enhance functionality, such as an LED to indicate battery charge, shorter ropes to make the anchoring system easier to use, and reduced weight and construction cost.
I feel very happy with the outcome of my project, which meets an unmet need, helps people to enjoy the countryside more and showcases the ability to power devices in an eco-friendly way.
From what I have learned through this experience, I would give the following advice to someone undertaking a similar design project:
Plan work in stages, building in sufficient contingency to provide a cushion for any unforeseen difficulties and allow time for multiple iterations of testing and development. Testing in a real-world environment is especially important.
Allow ample time and be efficient in early stages; the success of the build is largely dependent on initial idea generation, research, evaluation and design, in order to ensure the best methods are selected before going forward.
Challenging questions from judges inspired me to find ways to improve my project further and, on a personal level, the process has given me the confidence to believe that I can turn my ideas into reality and has inspired me to pursue tackling climate change as a career.
This competition has helped bring awareness to an underused method of sustainable power and, hopefully, it will also help inspire others to make more eco-friendly choices and to find other ways to help tackle climate change.
The 2022 Big Bang Competition is now welcoming entries from students aged 11-19, closing date 20 March.
Nick Wayth finds serious intent and big change for the energy industry amid COP26’s early outcomes…
We’re halfway through and it’s that jittery point in a COP where we’re all hoping and fearing for the UN talks. Arcane and unwieldy, will they deliver the vital overarching agreement needed to keep Paris alive, to firm up its rulebook and, ultimately, to add up to a future within 1.5C?
Whether Glasgow lives up to those expectations or falls short, we’ll know in just a few days. But if that’s all we focus on, we’d be ignoring the significance of what we’ve already seen in week one.
Greta Thunberg and others on the streets of Glasgow have suggested that COP26 has failed – but having been around the Blue Zone myself last week, hearing and talking to delegates about the multilateral deals reached across a range of sectors, I’m certain that COP26 is already transforming what global society expects of the energy industry as well as the industry’s willingness and ability to live up to those expectations.
Yes, I’m an optimist, but I’d pick out three early COP26 outcomes that have left my glass half full and that have the potential to hit climate change where it counts.
Beginning of the end for coal?
First, a convincing body of countries, banks and organisations have signalled determination to rein in the dirtiest fossil fuel. Burning coal makes the highest contribution to global carbon emissions; an end to its unabated use would be a monumental step towards the 1.5C goal.
Thursday’s array of pledges and commitments were cumulatively significant. The Global Coal to Clean Power Statement, which 46 countries have now signed, was hailed by the UK as bringing ‘the end of coal in sight’, committing them to the phase-out of coal-fired power during the 2030s (for major economies) and the 2040s (for the rest of the world).
The addition of five of the world’s top 20 coal power generating countries – South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Poland and Ukraine – is encouraging, less so the absence of the biggest players China, India, USA, and Japan who together account for 76% of the world’s coal-fired power generation. But it comes on top of separate commitments by 25 countries and public finance institutions, including the US, to end international public support for the fossil fuel energy sector by the end of 2022.
This is significant not just for the end of coal and its emissions, but also for what will replace it. The UK has already cut its coal consumption for the power sector by 95% since 2000 and is on track to take coal permanently off the grid by 2024. As other countries follow us on this journey, we have the opportunity not just to share our experience and good practice on coal phase-out, but also to export technologies and know-how in replacements – fast-growing renewables and smart grids.
Reining in potent methane emissions
Second, what’s been agreed on methane is as notable as coal.
The short-term potency of methane as a greenhouse gas makes cutting these emissions one of the fastest ways of mitigating manmade climate change. In fact its impact on the climate is 28-34 times that of CO2 when looked at over 100 years, and even greater in the shorter term.
So the Global Methane Pledge to cut global methane emissions by 30% of 2020 levels by 2030, brokered by the US and EU with more than 100 other countries last week, could have a very significant impact – according to the IPCC it could prevent 0.3˚C of global warming to 2040.
Energy has a major role to play in this, with a third of methane emissions originating from fossil fuels. The fact that these pledges are for 2030 reflects the urgency of this shift, and adds pressure for operators individually and through partnerships such as the Methane Guiding Principles, of which the EI is a supporter, to move further and faster.
Progress on methane has long been seen as lagging, despite the IEA estimating that it’s technically possible to avoid 75% of current methane emissions in the natural gas supply chain, and that up to half could be avoided at zero net cost.
Transforming the financial proposition
Third, I think Glasgow has done something else that until now has held back the global energy transition. It’s acted to provide the tools. And by tools I don’t mean technology – we already have most of the technology and know-how – but the finance.
I was formerly responsible for building the business case in bp for its diversification into renewables. I’m pleased to say I was largely pushing at an open door there, but I know that’s not the case everywhere.
There’s no silver bullet on mobilising capital for the transition, but a cumulative raft of public and private finance initiatives from week one in Glasgow will go a long way toward dissolving boardroom barriers to emissions reductions. This includes broad coalitions like the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, and more targeted measures like the declaration on the just transition in South Africa. This latter formal partnership, which will deliver $8.5bn over the next 5 years to accelerate South Africa’s decarbonisation, could prove a good template for financing the transition around the globe.
And in the UK, by 2023 firms will be forced to disclose their plans for transitioning their operations to meet the UK’s 2050 net-zero target. Although formal net zero commitments are not mandatory, societal pressure is likely to lead many firms to put them in place. The acceleration of this will mean acceleration of low-carbon heating, energy efficiency improvements, and other emissions-reducing measures.
Week two is important, but signals matter
In addition to these three areas, week one saw other promising developments – on clean energy, deforestation, as well as some (but not all!) individual country commitments. To mix my metaphors, the devil of all of this will be in the detail, and the proof in the pudding. But that is perennially the case at intergovernmental summits, it’s the nature of the beast.
Irrespective of that, and of whatever the crucial UN process delivers by this coming weekend, I believe COP26 has already sent signals that will filter through our industry, that strengthen our hand to go back to our organisations, our stakeholders, our employees and our investors, to say with certainty that this is happening, change is coming fast, and we need to get out ahead of it.
The Energy Institute is committed to providing the workforce with the necessary professional skills, know-how and recognition to deliver this change. Our task, and that of the entire industry, as we come out of COP26 has to be to step up, to play our part in implementing the outcomes to the highest level of ambition, holding our political leaders and industry peers to account, and working together to deliver emission reductions and a just transition that is good for everyone.
I’m now five months into my journey at the EI and I thought it timely to share some perspectives. It’s been a whirlwind of meetings – with staff, volunteers, trustees, industry partners, other professional engineering institutions, Government, and many others. It’s been wonderful to meet so many amazing, professional, and dedicated people. I am also very lucky to be part of such a fantastic team at the EI.
The world of energy has never felt as important or as fast moving. And once again energy is grabbing the headlines, all for the wrong reasons: fuel supplies drying up on UK forecourts and natural gas at record high prices, with knock-on effects from retail energy providers going out of business to issues in the food supply chain. How many of us understood the linkage between gas price and chicken supply? (Find out more on the links between food and energy on our podcast: Energy in Conversation S1 Ep1 – Food waste? Not cool).
We are living through a seemingly huge paradox of the need to urgently decarbonise society due to the climate crisis, whilst at the same time we see the panic, fear and real-life impacts on people when energy supplies fail. So, as we approach COP26, how do we reconcile this need to accelerate the pace of decarbonisation and keep the lights on and people moving?
I fundamentally believe we can do both and ultimately transition to an energy system without carbon. And not only that but one that will be more affordable, more democratic and more equitable – if we do it right. The EI is committed to supporting society to deliver this. We have set our own target to reach net zero well before 2050 and plan to nearly halve our carbon impact by 2030. More importantly, we are helping the energy sector work towards net zero at pace, as we continue to ensure that energy is better managed and understood. Let me share some examples.
First, we have a critical role in developing the energy workforce of the future, ensuring energy professionals have the skills required to deliver the massive challenge in front of us. Qualifications, such as our Chartered Energy Manager are playing a critical role in equipping individuals with the knowledge to better manage energy. We also need to build a workforce that far better represents society – not just because it is the right thing to do, but because it is the only way we bring the breadth of perspectives, experience, and knowledge to tackle this crisis. Our Young Professionals Networks across the world are shining examples of developing the brightest new talent into the energy leaders of tomorrow.
Second, we are working with many of the largest companies across energy, from renewable players to integrated oil and gas companies, to develop the technical practices required to make energy cleaner, safer and more efficient. We are already active in everything from offshore wind to hydrogen to sustainable aviation fuels. And as always, there is much more to do as we think about integrated power systems and the role of digitalisation in the energy system. Our dedicated Technical Team will continue to collaborate with industry to develop good practice across these innovative new areas.
And third, we have an important role in using our trusted and unbiased role as a chartered membership body to convene our Fellows, members, and experts from across the energy sector to help debate and inform society on how we tackle the biggest energy challenges. The recent discourse around hydrogen colours or the role of heat pumps has become emotional and divisive. Whilst, people may not always agree, our role is to help convene that discussion in a constructive manner, relying on science to help inform better decisions.
I, for one, don’t have the answers but what I do know is that if we come together as an industry and as energy professionals, we are going to be much better placed to help solve the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced. Our role has never been more important as society looks at our sector to keep the lights on and to deliver the energy transition at pace.
As the Energy Institute prepares for several events before, during and after COP26 I’d love to hear your thoughts on what more we should do.
Today is a very exciting day for me. It is my first day as Chief Executive of the Energy Institute. It is a huge privilege to take on this role, particularly at such a pivotal moment for the energy sector. I feel very fortunate to inherit the incredible legacy and fantastic team built by my predecessor, Louise Kingham. It would be premature to comment on how I see the future of the EI. I have a lot to learn, and I have yet to meet the full team and Council, let alone the many individual and corporate members. However, I will share a few perspectives now and look forward to sharing more in the coming weeks and months.
In some respects, my career journey has followed a similar path to the EI. The EI was formed in 2003, through the merger of the Institute of Petroleum and the Institute of Energy. At this time, most of its members and activities were focused on oil and gas. My career also started in oil and gas, joining BP in 1999 – just after the merger with Amoco. I initially worked offshore in the North Sea and then the Algerian Sahara Desert, working on a giant gas project. I was lucky enough to move through a succession of fantastic roles, which took me to many places around the world, exposing me to a diverse set of experiences and many amazing people. I saw the boom-and-bust cycles, new technologies such as deep water, shale production and the early investments made by oil and gas players into renewables in the early 2000s. For my final few years at BP I had the privilege of leading BP into areas, such as solar and offshore wind.
The EI has evolved its focus and priorities too. From a predominantly oil-and-gas-focused membership, today the EI works with a broad range of individual and corporate members from across the energy industry, including those focused on renewables, bioenergy and CCUS (carbon capture use and storage). The EI has also expanded its reach internationally, bringing together global professionals, focused on tackling climate change and bringing universal access to energy. I passionately believe this breadth of expertise, technology and perspective is going to be critical in delivering a net-zero future. The UK and US Governments’ recent announcements of further accelerations in carbon emission reductions truly underpins the need for the energy sector to work together, and with other sectors to deliver this.
The EI has a critical role in working with its members to develop the skills and standards that will help develop new technologies, such as carbon management and demand-side management, as well as reducing emissions in conventional areas, such as fugitive methane reduction. I also believe that the EI has an important role in providing an impartial and unbiased platform to facilitate debate, thought leadership and fact-based information on the optimum pathways to achieving net zero.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, to succeed in delivering the energy transition, the sector also needs to attract and retain the brightest and best talent. Talent which far better represents society across every dimension of diversity. The EI has been leading on this, through its support to POWERful Women, its Generation 2050 project and through the Young Professionals Network. There is still a long way for the industry to go and I am committed to doing as much as I can in progressing this critical area.
Our sector has always been dynamic, but the task ahead demands change at a pace we’ve never seen before. I look forward to meeting many of you over the coming weeks and months. I would love to hear different perspectives on how the EI best serves all of its members and helps the energy sector progress its next and most important chapter. Please let me know what you think!
Traditionally, we tend to think of mentoring as focusing on career development – a younger or newer professional teams up with someone with more experience to help them move forward. Mentoring is certainly a powerful tool in that kind of situation and can make a big difference.
But, actually, the potential of mentoring is much wider. We all have knowledge gaps in this increasingly complex world, and a mentoring relationship can help kick start creative thinking and help with things like learning about the latest technology trends and getting a new perspective.
Legendary General Electric CEO Jack Welch found this in the late 1990s when he made 500 of his top executives pair up with junior, tech-savvy members of staff to learn how to use the internet. He secured his company a competitive edge and popularised what’s now known as reverse mentoring.
Younger professionals often have skills that others might not – all of us are different and all of us have plenty to learn and plenty to offer.
One of the aims of the EI’s new mentoring platform EI Connect is to facilitate these rich relationships. Just a month after launch, the number of users is now into three figures and the platform is quickly gaining momentum.
New mentors are joining every day, it’s fantastic to see how enthusiastic our members are about shaping the younger generation of energy professionals. But we’re beginning to see a range of mentoring relationships taking shape, with members taking advantage of EI Connect’s versatility, using it for reverse mentoring too.
The pace of change in the energy sector is exciting but challenging. Mentoring can help to increase confidence and develop communication skills, encouraging an ongoing exchange of expertise and mutual growth.
It’s now an essential business tool, says Managing Director of OSL Consulting Engineers and EI trustee Alastair Robertson CEng FEI.
‘Mentoring is an essential part of my working life. Whatever our experience level, we are able to benefit from a different perspective and EI Connect provides a user-friendly platform to make great use of the collective experience across the EI’.
Following the launch of the EI’s new mentoring programme, EI Connect, Emily Brown Professional Development Manager at the Energy Institute discusses the benefits of becoming a mentor and the transformative impact it can have on your career.
The right mentor can change your life.
Having an experienced, trusted supporter to give you advice and help you realise your biggest career, business or life goals is invaluable.
Mentors have guided some of the world’s most influential people – Bill Gates had Warren Buffet, Tina Turner mentored Mick Jagger, and Sir Richard Branson had Sir Freddie Laker. Not everyone gets to see their name in lights of course, but as a mentor you can play a pivotal role in helping others unlock their true potential.
It’s easy to see the benefits that a mentee gets out of this relationship – after all the traditional dynamic sees you providing support and guidance to help a mentee grow and develop. There has never been a more exciting time to be connecting and sharing your experience in energy – and it might surprise you just how much a mentor stands to gain from this experience too.
How will becoming a mentor benefit your career?
Knowing that your skills and experience has helped someone else to succeed is a great feeling, but the feel-good factor of helping others progress is just the start. Here are 5 reasons why becoming a mentor will benefit you.
1. You’ll widen your perspective
It might sound obvious, but working with a mentee gives you fresh insight into how others, different to yourself, see the world and approach challenges. Don’t underestimate the power of reverse mentoring – your mentee will inevitably possess knowledge and skills that you don’t. Talent has no age!
2. You’ll hone your management skills
Through the mentoring relationship you’ll experience your mentees ups and downs, enabling you to refine, adapt and improve your own management style. Remember that not everyone is the same, and your mentee may learn and respond to things in ways that are unfamiliar to you. The ability to adapt your management style, based on others working preferences, is an invaluable skill.
3. You’ll enhance your career prospects
As a sounding board for your mentee, you’ll naturally learn how to improve your active listening and questioning skills, allowing you to develop your ability to empathise, motivate and build rapport. Be receptive to feedback from your mentee on how you can better help them – this learning will inevitably blend into your own role and aid your own development. A Sun Microsystems’ case study comparing its employees career progression revealed mentors were 6 times more likely to be promoted.
4. You’ll sharpen your problem solving skills
Working with a mentee will expose you to problems and challenges you may not otherwise have experienced before. When guiding your mentee towards a solution, you develop your own problem-solving skills in the process, not to mention gaining knowledge in new areas.
5. You’ll better understand your own experience
Your experiences may seem quite ordinary to you, but when you participate in a mentoring program you will see how beneficial and helpful those experiences can be to those upcoming in your profession. The value of knowledge sharing is immense to those that follow you – don’t be scared to share some used wisdom!
Want to become a mentor?
EI Connect is all about sharing your skills and experience in the energy sector and growing as a professional. To join EI Connect, you need to be an Associate or professional member of the EI.
Once you’ve joined as a mentor, our digital platform will help to pair you with potential mentees and guide you through each stage of your mentoring relationship with prompts, guidance and advice.
The energy sector is revolutionising to facilitate Net Zero emissions by 2050. With unprecedented changes come unprecedented opportunities. UK Power Networks Innovation Analyst, and Young Energy Professional of the Year winner, Carol Choi explains why there’s never been a more exciting time to be in the industry.
First of all, working in energy is fun
Six months after graduating, I was in the same room as the likes of Uber, Royal Mail, Centrica and Hitachi driving the discussion to build a compelling business case for the world’s largest commercial trial of electric vehicles. A year into the job, I was invited to give an hour long presentation on electric vehicles to over 100 IET members. Later that year, I delivered the UK’s first crowdsourced DNO Open Data page and set up our ‘Charge Challenge’ open innovation competition, challenging likeminded people to use other open data sources to predict the future of electric vehicle charge points. In doing so, we’re aiming to create an open culture of sharing with the end result of delivering new benefits for customers. By the end of 2020, I was bowled over to win both EI’s ‘Young Energy Professional of the Year’ award and ‘EV under 30 star’ at the inaugural EVIES awards.
As an Innovation Analyst, I spend most of my time at a computer crunching numbers, but what I enjoy most is presenting insight. At UK Power Networks I’m most well-known for my illuminating data visualisation maps. If a picture paints a thousand words, then so too can a map of electrified bus routes in London that demonstrates real benefits in air quality, or a heat map that shows where thousands more electric vehicle chargers can connect.
I also manage a varied portfolio of innovation projects that are delivering real world benefits for customers. I looked after a very technical project that tested the deterioration of overhead conductors and I also led a collaborative study with the gas network to understand the interplay between electricity and hydrogen. I’m also leading Skyline, a collaborative project to incentivise data sharing and improve the customer journey for electric vehicle owners.
Recently, I’ve also become a key member of an internal taskforce to drive forward the company’s business plan to facilitate Net Zero in the next regulatory price control period for the electricity networks, between 2023-2028.
I can’t talk about my work without mentioning the fantastic, diverse team I work with. In Innovation there’s almost a 50% split between men and women and our team originate from more than a dozen countries across the world. This means we have the best office snacks after a colleague returns from a home visit. I certainly didn’t expect my colleagues’ grandmothers’ homemade Greek dessert to be one of the things I’d miss most about the pre-pandemic world.
Reaching Net Zero will take an extraordinary technological, economic and societal revolution. Uncertainty comes with the territory. It’s my job to crunch the numbers, calculate the benefits and convince people they can be delivered. That makes my role incredibly rewarding and impactful.
You don’t need a background in energy to get involved.
As I mentioned above, the innovation team at UK Power Networks is extremely diverse as is the company as a whole. Every day I have the pleasure of working with people from all backgrounds, who each have different personal, technical and career experiences. This is particularly useful as you almost always have someone to answer a question on even the most random of topics. That kind of cultural and neuro-diversity is key to nourishing a truly collaborative and innovative environment that can tackle the unprecedented targets ahead. Not only is diversity required to develop internal capabilities, it can also help facilitate external partnerships with non-traditional players in the sector. Three years ago, I experienced this first hand as we reached out to the transport sector in new ways as the electric vehicle uptake really began to accelerate.
Less than four years into my career, I’ve seen dozens of people join with fresh new skills and viewpoints on our biggest issues. It’s been happening both within our company and at partners and collaborators. We need communication experts who help us share learnings; customer service specialists who deliver for our customers and make sure the energy transition works for those in vulnerable circumstances; economists who understand how to address market failures to facilitate faster uptake of low carbon technologies; enhanced data and digital capabilities to open up the network data; and many other new skills. Training is ongoing and never ending, so if you have passion, we can work with you to make real benefits come to fruition.
We can shape the world to make it work for all.
In 2050, I will be in my late 50s. By then, I’m aiming to look back proudly on the impact I’ve had and forward to a Net Zero world that truly works for all. That’s why I’m a wholehearted supporter of the Generation 2050 Manifesto – “We are Generation 2050. Today we are studying or in the early stages of our careers in energy around the world. Tomorrow we will be the sector’s leaders. The actions taken in 2021 will determine the state of the industry and the planet we inherit.”
Today’s leaders should already be paying more attention to what young professionals have to say. Our generation exists in a truly unique window of opportunity – with just enough time, drive, determination and skill to make Net Zero a reality. It’s a challenge that inspires me and many others and it’s what makes this such a fun time to be in energy.
I encourage you all to seize the moment and make every step along the road to Net Zero count.