22 December 2020
Women in Wind 2020 Q&A: Pavina Adunratanasee
How did you first become interested in renewable energy and joining the clean energy transition?
I first became interested in renewable energy while interning at a development financing institution in Myanmar in 2013, where my research focused on assessing the power generation investment landscape. At the time, I found that multiple short-term gas-fired power rental solutions were being proposed to meet the power deficit in the country. Meanwhile, an interesting trend was developing where extremely competitive levelized tariffs were coming out of solar auctions and outcompeting coal-based generators in neighboring markets.
In essence, my thinking was: “Here is an economy that is on the cusp of rapid economic growth and is in dire need of increased access to energy”. Evidently, it was clear to me that renewable technologies were winning the cost battle and therein lay a tremendous opportunity for the market to edge out fossil fuels while integrating renewable technologies into the grid.
I became increasingly interested in contributing to the clean energy revolution. After completing my graduate studies in New York, I was committed to contributing to the energy transition in the Asia-Pacific markets and building on my transaction and commercial experience. I was fortunate to gain my first big break at Siemens Financial Services, where I was exposed to the early onset of onshore wind development in markets like Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
What is the next “space to watch” in renewable energy?
The advent of lithium-ion battery technology and the rapid decline in its technology costs can revolutionize the power industry by solving the intermittency challenge of renewable energy integration, while maintaining grid reliability. Beyond power system reliability, storage has a diverse set of applications including frequency regulation, resource adequacy, providing dispatchable power in congested points in the grid, all the way through to behind-the-meter applications. We are already seeing success stories come out of the US and Australia, where first-movers have made the project economics stack up and monetized arbitrage, while ancillary services have delivered incredible value for utilities.
The next frontier of energy storage will include a new asset class of technologies that are cost-competitive and provide longer durations of storagem with the ability to match energy supply with demand. We will see innovation across various hydrogen production technologies and flow batteries being brought to market. As global companies and federal governments commit to carbon neutrality by 2030 and beyond, the fundamental question of the coming decade will be about how fast we can achieve this target with wind, solar and energy storage.
What sort of challenges did you encounter in entering the sector?
In my own experience, recruitment channels in the industry can often be informal and final candidate selection can be biased towards industry veterans who have extensive experience with strong political capital. As a fresh postgraduate, I faced multiple challenges in trying to land my first big break and it took a lot of trial-and-error before I figured out where I would draw lines in the sand (what I was absolutely not willing to give up in my career vision).
If there is one piece of advice that I could give to anyone trying to break into this sector, it would be to use every “No” you encounter as an opportunity to recalibrate your approach until the feedback turns into a “Yes”, and to be fearless in grabbing the right opportunity. This is the philosophy I have applied in my own career. Having been fortunate enough to be mentored by renewables industry experts, I learned that in the long-term what really makes the cut is a sheer indomitable will to take risks, a passion and willingness to learn, and not being discouraged by setbacks that are inevitable.
If you had to pick one key issue facing women in the wind power sector, what would it be and why?
While progress has been made in gender-inclusive hiring practices in the industry, we are still nowhere near gender equity. This is highlighted in the under-representation of women in senior leadership positions across clean energy. As the investor base in the industry evolves to include mainstream institutions, my sense is that employers will be incentivized to move beyond gender diversity targets to introducing structural reforms to include women in key decision-making roles, introducing measures to support career development and employee retention, and practicing pay transparencies to promote pay parity within the sector. What this translates into is a more equal representation in the meeting room all the way to the boardroom.
To achieve climate neutrality in the coming decades, climate mitigation financing will be at the forefront of investments globally. We need a more equitable approach in determining how and where this capital gets deployed. Fundamentally, gender inclusion is just one aspect of a more equitable approach; racial equity is the other and I strongly believe that we need to work towards both objectives in tandem. Ultimately what we need is diversity in thought and leadership, and empowered leaders that value unique perspectives, can lead cross-cultural teams to achieve commercial targets and are relentless in their bid to address inequitable practices in the workplace.
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?
I am extremely honored to be a part of a cohort of inspiring women who are disrupting the renewable energy space globally and collaborating on this mission to improve gender inclusion in the industry. I have also been fortunate to have the support and guidance of my mentor and gain her insights in how to build a career vision in the long term, develop awareness of the blind spots in my career, and frame a winning ask at the negotiating table.
In paying it forward, I am committed to serve and support the next generation of aspiring women leaders in the renewable energy sector. Going forward, it is crucial for the younger generation that we transform the narrative. Instead of focusing on the lack of women in the industry, we have a responsibility to share success stories and the hard-earned wisdom of women who are thriving in this industry to set a precedent for the next generation of women leaders.
On the Blog
Yesterday, Women in Wind conducted its fifth and final Knowledge-Transfer Webinar of 2020. The webinar took a forward-looking approach by focusing on “New Market Opportunities in Wind Power,” with presentations on: digitalisation, green hydrogen and corporate procurement of wind and renewable energy.