Women in Wind Study Tour 2019: Lessons Learned from Berlin and London

From 30 September to 4 October 2019, the Women in Wind Global Leadership Program embarked upon a European study tour in Berlin and London. Eight wind power professionals from seven countries – Brazil, Mexico, Kenya, South Africa, India, Thailand and Vietnam – gathered for a week-long series of meetings, conferences and interactions with government officials and senior business leaders.

The study tour marked a milestone of Women in Wind’s inaugural year, representing the first opportunity for participants to meet in person, with some braving travel times of up to 27 hours from their home countries. The tour aimed to impart insights from the world’s mature wind power markets and expose program participants to various aspects and perspectives of the energy transition.

Highlighting the nexus of gender and climate, the Women in Wind study tour also acted as an Action Partner for the UN Global Week to #Act4SDGs. Interactions with a range of stakeholders, from energy ministers to grassroots NGOs, demonstrated the importance of SDG commitment and action at all different strata of society.

Finally, to mark the occasion, we published an op-ed on why the energy transition must be gender-equitable on FORESIGHT Climate & Energy.



Monday: A gender perspective of the energy transition

The tour kicked off at Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the international development agency of Germany (gallery below). Participants met with Sandra Retzer, Director of the Development Policy Forum, Karin Franzen, Senior Adviser of Bilateral Energy Partnerships, Katarzyna Rezza Vega, Global Communication Expert of Bilateral Energy Partnerships, and other female members of staff. The group spoke about the urgency of decarbonizing the transport sector – the third-largest source of CO2 emissions worldwide – and how urbanization impacts health, living space, wellbeing and economy. The gender differentials of transport patterns were also highlighted, as women tend to have more stops between work and home and have different security and inclusivity requirements.

Next, the group proceeded to the GE Power Conversion facility in south Berlin, where they toured a manufacturing facility for wind and solar power converter units and learned about the engineering and logistics challenges of power conversion. The ratio of male to female workers at the facility highlighted the general global trend of a dearth of women in STEM jobs in the renewables sector – women hold an average of 28 per cent of these jobs, according to a landmark report by IRENA. The program is grateful to GE Renewable Energy, a Supporting Partner of Women in Wind, for arranging this visit.

The first day of the study tour ended with a visit to GenderCC, an NGO advocating for the role of women in climate action. Gotelind Alber, Treasurer and former Managing Director of Climate Alliance of European Cities, discussed the growing priority of mainstreaming gender in actions against climate change. She pointed out the gender difference in carbon footprints, as well as in patterns of adopting renewable energy due to perceived risks of various technologies.

Finally, the group gathered for a dinner with Global Wind Energy Council CEO Ben Backwell and Director of Market Intelligence Karin Ohlenforst. After a long day of traversing Berlin in the rain, a hot bowl of pho – ably ordered by our participant from Vietnam – was most welcome.

Interactions with the other participants made me realize that, irrespective of the geographical differences, we have similar struggles, small and big, in the workplace and in general society. We are all in this equality battle together and striving for a change at various levels.

Swarna Priya Natarajan, Participant, Women in Wind 2019

Tuesday: Ministerial Conference on System Integration of Renewables

The Women in Wind group was honoured to join the Global Ministerial Conference on System Integration of Renewables, jointly organized by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi). The conference placed wind power at the forefront of the energy transition, with IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol noting: “Wind and solar are critical elements of the world’s efforts to tackle climate change, reduce air pollution and provide energy access to all. Their declining costs are a huge opportunity. But power systems need to become more flexible and market designs must be adapted in order to avoid unintended impacts on electricity security.”

Various senior business leaders held bilateral and group discussions with the participants (below gallery) on the role of women and wind power in the energy transition.

The conference was the highlight of the tour. I learned the best practices regarding the integration of renewables from developed countries. The conference also introduced a number of technical solutions to enable system integration, as well as innovative policies and regulations to meet the joint targets of energy security and the development of renewable energy. Besides, meeting top women leaders at the conference made me more confident about myself and encouraged me to aim high to become a more successful woman in the energy industry.

Quynh Tran, Participant, Women in Wind 2019



Wednesday: Female leaders pushing the needle towards clean energy

After a quick transfer to London and introduction to the Tube – low-carbon transport was a requirement of the study tour – the Women in Wind met with the UK Government Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). In attendance at the woman-led meeting were: Joanna Whittington, Director General, Energy and Security; Julia Nolan, Head of Energy Diplomacy, International Energy Unit; Vicky Dawe, Deputy Director, Renewable Electricity Schemes; Siobhan Sherry, Head of Biomass Electricity and Co-Chair of BEIS Womens’ Network; and Rose Galloway Green, Senior Policy Advisor, Clean Electricity and Offshore Wind.

The group (below) discussed the UK’s Offshore Wind Sector Deal and its gender diversity commitments, as well as the “Equal by 30” campaign. One key question was how companies in the sector are being equipped to achieve ambitious gender diversity targets. The group also agreed on the critical need to collect comprehensive, disaggregated data on the BAME workforce in renewables.

Closing out a busy mid-week day was an interaction (below) with Juliet Davenport, founder and Chief Executive of Good Energy. Juliet provided an overview of her journey in renewables, and imparted valuable insights on the challenges facing consumer uptake of renewable electricity in the UK.

Thursday: A daytrip to showcase offshore wind innovation

After an early start, a train ride and private ferry (which passed by an old oil-fired power station that has now been converted into a wind turbine blade-painting facility), the group found themselves at the Isle of Wight. They visited the MHI Vestas office and blade-manufacturing factory, guided by Mary Thorogood, Senior Specialist, Strategy, Business Development and Government Relations (below).

The group learned about the technological development of offshore wind turbines, and the process of sector development and project deployment in the UK through the Contracts for Difference mechanism. The discussion also touched on the pricing pressures on the wind sector, and the anticipation of the market’s movement to private procurement and corporate PPAs. The visit ended with an exclusive tour of the factory floor, showcasing the facility’s incredible achievements in engineering and local job creation.

The program is grateful to MHI Vestas, a Leading Partner of Women in Wind, for arranging this visit.

The tour gave me a deeper appreciation for the impact of wind energy: the positive impact that wind energy has on the use of natural resources and the reduction of our carbon footprint, as well as the impacts on communities. It also highlighted that there is still an immense amount of work to do to progress a just energy transition.

Mercia Grimbeek, Participant, Women in Wind 2019

Friday: A whirlwind conclusion

The busiest day yet (gallery below), Friday began with a POWERful Women Networking Breakfast organized by the Energy Institute and hosted at the offices of Eversheds Sutherland. Presenting at the meeting was Renewable Energy Association CEO Nina Skorupska, who gave an impactful talk on personal branding and the practicalities of network-building and achieving career goals. The group agreed that the most powerful networks were those built on shared values and a common purpose.

The group then walked to the nearby Glennmont Partners, where they were received by Scott Lawrence, founding Partner, Natalie Granger, Executive Assistant, Isabel Rodriguez, Director of Structured Finance, Sara Sancho, Asset Engineer, and Lina Geciauskaite, Manager. The team reviewed the firm’s clean investment strategy, its portfolio of wind power assets across Europe and its outlook for returns on offshore wind power in the years ahead.

Next, the Women in Wind convened at Bloomberg HQ with Amy Grace, Head of Cleantech Research, BloombergNEF and Imogen Brown, Wind Energy Analyst, BloombergNEF. After a tour of the truly astounding headquarters – described as one of the most sustainable office buildings in the world – the group sat down to discuss the forecast for wind power growth worldwide and the roadblocks in each participant’s home market.

Lunch was spent with RenewableUK, where the Women in Wind enjoyed a series of presentations from Alicia Green, Policy Analyst and Switch Project Coordinator, and Marina Valls, Chief Economist. They were also delighted to be joined by Sophie Banham, Leading Business Developer at Equinor, who discussed the prospects for floating wind and joint wind/hydrogen projects.

Finally, the group met with the leaders of the Energy Futures Lab at Imperial College London, including: Professor Anna Korre, Co-Director; Professor Lidija Zdravkovic, Offshore Renewable Energy Initiative; Dr Catrin Mair Davies, Offshore Renewable Energy Initiative; Professor Rafael Palacios, Offshore Renewable Energy Initiative; Professor Mike Graham, Aerodynamics; and Dr Nicholas Hylton, Research Strategy Manager. After a series of quickfire presentations on the university’s cutting-edge research, the group ventured down to the on-campus 10×5 Wind Tunnel facility, where turbine prototypes are tested for aerodynamic solutions.

The tour showed me how important wind power has become in the energy matrix and in the transition to renewable energy. Governments and companies are seeing wind and solar as more important than gas, coal and nuclear for the future and some are even planning for a 100 per cent renewables system.

Luiza Termignoni, Participant, Women in Wind 2019

There were big and small insights which emerged over the course of the week. Participants gained a stronger understanding on how renewable energy policy is designed, enacted and monitored, as well as varying lessons on upscaling wind power in their home countries.

One common theme was that gender differentials are everywhere in the energy space. There are deviations in how men and women produce, access and consume energy, from what we eat to how we move around to what we do for work. This in turn has implications for our respective carbon footprints, transport needs and earnings and investment patterns.

All too often, engineering principles and policy design do not account for these variations. The results range from the relatively benign – temperatures for working office environments which might be a touch too cold for women – to the damaging – lack of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) or even restrooms on a project site.

There are still more questions to be resolved, particularly on improving the feedback loops and communication gaps between minister level, public agencies, corporates and NGOs/grassroots organizations. Given the breadth of female leaders met over the course of the week, participants came away with inspiration, strong role models and practical tools to apply to these challenges. We hope that their actions hereon will contribute to the campaign for greater diversity in energy.

Catch a social media recap of our study tour here on Twitter and here on Instagram!

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