Amanda Niklaus - HD

Women in Wind Q&A 2020: Amanda Niklaus

The Women in Wind Global Leadership Program sat down with Amanda Niklaus, one of this year’s Mentors, to chat about her pathway to renewable energy and issues facing women in the wind sector. 

Amanda is a PPA Transaction Manager at Pexapark. She has six years of experience as an energy consultant, energy analyst and economist with expertise in power markets and trading strategies for new energy types in Australia. Amanda provided power market and energy risk management training to over 800 energy stakeholders throughout Europe, Australia and Asia.

Since joining Pexapark in January 2019, Amanda has developed the research product line at Pexapark and led a variety of PPA negotiations across Europe. Prior to joining Pexapark, Amanda worked for the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) in its operational team providing advice across a range of power market issues to both public and private stakeholders.

 

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

I was doing research focused on oil and gas during my studies and already then wanted to move away from fossil fuels to investigate renewable energy. But at that time, believe it or not, it was difficult to convince my professors to focus on renewable energy.

A few years later, I joined the energy market operator in Australia and looked at how we could enable batteries to connect to the grid and trade on the market. There was so much to learn and improve, and I found an interest in working with investors to find ways to make it ‘investor-friendly’. I really enjoyed trying to bridge the gap between utilizing the current market structure and providing an environment that enabled investment in renewable energy. I also had the opportunity to work with individuals from different backgrounds, which was extremely beneficial and interesting. I also like the fact that the energy industry is kind of a ‘small industry’ — after a while, everyone knows everyone!

One thing that I have found helpful is to create allies within my organization, and try to speak about the issue to bring awareness. It has been helpful to have someone in your corner, someone who checks on you and helps you bring awareness around the importance of diversity.

Tell us about your expertise and passion in the sector. How has this business area changed over the course of your career so far? For you, what is the next “space to watch” in renewable energy?

The market is very dynamic, and has changed and evolved quite drastically since I started working in this field. This is something I love about the renewable energy sector: You are never done learning and adapting.

At Pexapark, my role is to provide support for investors to secure revenues while minimizing risks involved in investing in renewable energy. In this space, the next thing to watch would be how to transform organizations to manage this inherent risk that comes with renewable energy and how to optimally manage asset risks and revenues.

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

I think the renewable energy sector is quite obviously still a male-dominated industry. I can speak in particular for the investment side in renewable energy. The challenge is that it is never easy to be constantly in imbalance. When you stand out — if you are one of a few women — I am under the impression that everything you do is under scrutiny, and every achievement and every mistake is amplified in a way. It adds a lot of unnecessary pressure.

I am still learning on how to best navigate this male-dominated environment to thrive. One thing that I have found helpful is to create allies within my organisation, and try to speak about the issue to bring awareness. It has been helpful to have someone in your corner, someone who checks on you and helps you bring awareness around the importance of diversity. 

I try to be the mentor I would want for myself. I truly believe in sharing experiences, hardships and wins, and celebrating each other's accomplishments.

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

I would say the lack of awareness of unconscious bias when it comes to hiring new talent. There should be more done on educating the management to ensure diversity is sought after at all levels and understanding why it is important. The lack of diversity is a missed opportunity and a business issue. 

Gender awareness and targeted interventions should be set as objectives for organizations in a similar way as environmental targets are set; this should be based on data-driven guidelines. The renewables industry should be at the forefront of reducing the gender gap, as much as it is seeking more sustainable energy.   

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

I hope to provide support to women that are struggling to navigate this male-dominated world by sharing experiences and tactics that have worked. It is amazing to be able to share our experience and hear from others. Even if it is just to hear the other out, I see a lot of value in this mentoring program. 

I have grown to know and appreciate my mentee and have also learned from her experience. I try to be the mentor I would want for myself. I truly believe in sharing experiences, hardships and wins, and celebrating each other’s accomplishments.  

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