The future of electricity grids is pretty exciting.
In many countries we still look to the national transmission lines that feed power from large scale, centralised power stations to population and industrial centres, and that will continue to be essential.
But that’s increasingly combined with activity deeper in the distribution system, where advances in technology are allowing businesses and households to generate power on their own rooftops, sell it to others or back to the grid and vary their demand in response to price signals. This flexibility will help accommodate intermittent renewables, meet demand more efficiently and reduce carbon emissions. It’s now about smart demand management rather than being all about the supply.
My vision for the Energy Institute is not dissimilar. Let me explain…
The member benefits, products and services we provide from the centre are the mainstay of our contribution to the development of skills in the sector. The professional recognition, the training programmes, the good practice, the magazines and other knowledge resources and the events programme.
But if you’ve visited our new website or watched our new film, you will have seen we talk about ‘bringing global expertise together’. This means a lot more than a centralised organisation would ever be able to achieve.
In truth, the EI is a network. It stretches across the energy system, from oil and gas through to innovative low carbon technologies. It’s a global network, concentrated in Europe, South East Asia, the Middle East and West Africa. It’s an inter-disciplinary network – from engineers and scientists to energy managers, economists and lawyers. And it’s a network spanning all stages of the career journey.
My role, and that of the EI staff team, is to foster collaboration within this unique network. Indeed ‘collaboration’ is one of our core values – being inclusive and diverse in our approach, engaging with stakeholders and working in partnership.
My vision of a porous, relevant, smart model of the EI, focuses my mind on three things:
First, nurturing our volunteer base
The involvement of members in our work is our greatest strength. It’s their – your – expertise that is the foundation of our credibility and has been for a century.
More than 1,600 volunteers currently donate their time, energy and expertise to the EI. From our technical committees developing the good practice used the world over, to the programme boards of our industry leading events, the assessors reviewing applications from new professional members and the branch committee members building the network at the local level.
The same goes for our governing Council. We were pleased over the summer to see some familiar names re-elected by the membership and to welcome new faces – notably Dr Simon O’Leary CEng FEI, Dr Waddah Ghanem FEI representing our branches and Sinead Obeng AMEI representing our young professionals. Steve Holliday became our President Elect, to take up post as President next July. The leadership provided by our Council helps project the credibility and profile energy professionals deserve.
Second, better reflecting society
We probably all recognise that this is an industry that needs to catch up with the shape of society. And yet the recent data released by POWERful Women still shocked – on the boards of the top 80 energy firms in the UK, almost 9 in 10 members are men. Half of those boardrooms have no women in them at all. This is not a problem confined to the UK.
As the sector’s professional body, the EI’s role is not to accept and replicate these failings, it is to be the critical friend and to lead by example in promoting the modern, inclusive sector we should aspire to be.
I’m pleased to be able to say, at both a senior level and across the organisation, more than half of the EI’s staff are women. Our own gender pay gap is negligible – just 0.84%. And our Council is also one of the most diverse of any professional institution.
And third, to listen
If we only listened to you as members during Council elections and at the Annual General Meeting, we would be failing you.
Digitalisation makes us more readily connected and provides greater opportunity to be open and responsive than ever before.
Through our Energy Barometer survey and EI Views series we are able to gather your collective wisdom and articulate it in the public debate.
Social media – Twitter and LinkedIn in particular – allow us to maintain a conversation on topical issues in real time. We’ve introduced a ‘live chat’ function on our new website. And right now our magazine readership survey is seeking views on Energy World, Petroleum Review and our other communications. The deadline has been extended to 14 September, so please take ten minutes to complete it at bit.ly/2B6XUdB
The EI is a smart grid of energy professionals, built around a supportive central structure but increasingly interactive and far more than the sum of its parts.
It’s an organisation I love belonging to and participating in. I hope you do too. Equally, if you aren’t involved but would like to be please get in touch at email@example.com so we can talk about how to make that happen.
This blog first appeared as an article in the September editions of Energy World and Petroleum Review.