M Simundac Photo Aug 29 2019 (1)

Women in Wind 2020 Q&A: Maria Concepcion Simundac Delos Santos

 

The Women in Wind Global Leadership Program sat down with Maria Concepcion Simundac Delos Santos, one of this year’s Participants, to chat about her pathway to renewable energy and issues facing women in the wind sector. 
 
Maria is a lawyer specializing in Corporate/Mergers & Acquisitions, Power & Energy, Construction & Real Estate Transactions and Infrastructure. She is a Partner of Villaraza & Angangco, a full-service law firm based in Manila, Philippines. She advises on development, foreign investments, transaction structuring, regulatory compliance, financing and EPC of renewable energy projects in the Philippines.
 
Maria is a Board Trustee, Corporate Secretary and Legal Counsel of Philippine Energy Efficiency Alliance, a non-profit civil society organization promoting advocacy, programs, policy directions, financing strategies and best ethical practices in energy efficiency, energy conservation and renewable energy in the Philippines. She is based in Taguig City, the Philippines.
 
 

How did you first become interested in renewable energy and joining the clean energy transition?

The Philippines Renewable Energy Act was passed in 2008. Two years later, I worked on my first renewable energy project. At that time, the law was still in infancy stage and I was able to grow my practice in renewable energy law alongside it. 

The Philippines has abundant renewable energy resources such as solar, wind, biomass, ocean, hydro, and geothermal energy, most of which are still untapped. As a developing country, it is important to work towards greater energy security, sustainability and fighting climate change. I am glad that as a lawyer, my work contributes to do the development of renewable and clean energy in the country.

Tell us about your expertise and passion in the sector.

I am an advocate of energy efficiency and conservation, and I am active in a non-governmental organization in the Philippines that supports this goal. An effective energy efficiency and conservation program will support the decarbonization of the Philippines economy, help slow the rise in energy prices, generate energy end-user savings which can flow back into the economy and reduce the country’s reliance on imported energy. 

In my view, combining the development of renewable energy with promotion of energy efficiency and conservation will allow communities to move faster to accelerate the energy transition and achieve energy security. In the case of the Philippines, these strategies must be responsive to local needs and address pressing issues such as energy security and the threat posed by climate change.

I want to be in the position where I have the knowledge and visibility to inspire more women to participate meaningfully in the wind sector. Having women hold key positions in major wind projects will encourage other women, especially those at a young age, to pursue a career in wind energy industry.

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What sort of challenges did you encounter in entering the sector? 

During the early years of my career, I struggled with managing my duties at home and at work. Starting out as a young lawyer and taking care of small kids can be very overwhelming. As a female working in a highly competitive environment, there is a pressure to stand out. At the same time, society also has certain gender-based expectations when it comes to caring for the family. Instead of stressing out by trying to achieve 50/50 work-life balance, I learned how to prioritize and to work more efficiently.

If you had to pick one key issue facing women in the wind power sector, what would it be and why?

In general, it seems that there is still a persistent notion that the Philippines energy sector is more suited for males. There is gender bias against women because they are perceived to have weaker physical strength and to be more sensitive to strenuous environments. Persistent gender stereotyping, which starts from education and training, eventually restricts women’s access to opportunities in the energy sector.

Finally, what do you hope to achieve as a participant of Women in Wind Global Leadership Program? How will you contribute to the next generation of female leaders in the sector?

While I have advised clients on the legal and regulatory aspect of wind project development in the Philippines, I feel that my knowledge is still limited to a certain aspect of the wind sector. I hope that through the Women in Wind Global Leadership Program,  I will be able to learn more about the technical and business sides of the wind energy industry and understand the process of developing a wind projects from conception to operation. If I am equipped with more knowledge, I can better advise my clients (especially foreign investors coming into the Philippines) about the business and practical sides of projects.

I also want to be in the position where I have the knowledge and visibility to inspire more women to participate meaningfully in the wind sector. Having women hold key positions in major wind projects will encourage other women, especially those at a young age, to pursue a career in wind energy industry.

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