Feature – Prof Roula Inglesi-Lotz, Professor at the Dept of Economics | University of Pretoria


Prof Roula Inglesi-Lotz is a Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Pretoria. She obtained her MCom in Economics (cum laude) and earned her doctorate in economics in 2011 from the same institution. Prof Inglesi-Lotz serves as the head of the Energy Economics Unit at the University of Pretoria and leads the university’s research team in the UNDP Just Energy Transition (JET) platform.

Her research revolves around energy and environmental issues, aiming to address challenges related to conventional energy consumption and generation methods. Prof. Inglesi-Lotz has an impressive publication record, with over 90 academic papers published in reputable international journals and contributions to books and academic and business reports.

Prof. Inglesi-Lotz holds editorial positions in respected international journals, including Energy Policy (JEPO), Energy Economics (ENECO), and Environmental Science and Pollution Research (ESPR). She actively participates in professional organizations, currently serving as the Vice President for Membership and Affiliate Relations of the International Association for Energy Economics. She was also a founding member and President of the South African Association for Energy Economics for four years.

In addition, Prof. Inglesi-Lotz is an alumnus of the South African Young Academy of Sciences (SAYAS) and the Global Young Academy (GYA). Her contributions include serving as a co-chair for SAYAS in 2019/20 and representing low- and middle-income countries as a co-chair for GYA in 2021/22.

Recognizing her accomplishments, Prof. Inglesi-Lotz received the Women in Science prize in the Social Sciences and Humanities categories from the South African Department of Science and Technology (DST) in 2017. She is also an NRF C1-rated scientist, effective from January 2023.

Prof. Roula Inglesi-Lotz’s expertise and dedication in the field of energy economics have made her a prominent academic and leader. Her research contributions and involvement in various organizations showcase her commitment to advancing knowledge and sustainable energy solutions.


How did you end up in the energy sector and what advice would you give to other women wanting to follow a similar career trajectory?

My journey into the energy field commenced with a focus on economics and academia. I became curious after the early power outages in the nation during my Master’s program in 2008. This sparked my interest in learning about the complexities of the energy sector’s problems and led me to learn more about the areas of energy pricing, its connections to the economy, the creation of policies, and environmental considerations.

I would advise prospective women seeking a similar career track to embrace the interdisciplinary character of the energy sector. By thoroughly examining energy’s various characteristics, we can provide essential insights to inform successful policy decisions, promote sustainable growth, and address significant energy-related concerns. Additionally, I urge educators to stress the value of energy literacy in economics courses.

In your opinion, why do you think the energy sector in its current state has less female representation and do you see it increasing?

Historical, sociological, and professional challenges can be attributed to the underrepresentation of women in the energy sector today. By limiting their participation and influence within the sector, this monodisciplinary perspective unintentionally helped to marginalise women. A requirement for admittance into the energy business is frequently high levels of education and experience, which may have been challenging for women to meet, given historical discrepancies in access to educational opportunities. Moreover, a sizable section of the female workforce may have unintentionally been excluded due to some physically demanding requirements related to unskilled occupations in the sector. Furthermore, this cycle has been exacerbated by the lack of obvious female role models.

Positive change is being sparked by famous female executives shattering stereotypes and promoting an egalitarian workplace atmosphere. This positive cycle is gradually eliminating gender disparities and advancing the industry toward a more diversified future, indicating hope for long-term advancement.

What message do you have for other women entering a male-dominated sector?

It is important to avoid becoming discouraged by underrepresentation. Instead, women should see this as a chance to refute and alter assumptions. Instead of following established conventions, the way forward is to embrace their true self and put their distinctive viewpoints on display. I urge them to be steadfast in sharing their opinions, ideas, and observations. Assist other women, creating a network of mentoring and support. By doing this, young women can increase their influence and amplify the voices and aspirations of those around them.

I want to encourage others to be brave, genuine and strive to be change agents. Advance knowing that by embracing their individuality and unique vision, they are entering a male-dominated industry and starting a transformative journey that will move the industry towards genuine equality, creativity, and greatness.

What opportunities do you see in Africa’s energy market?

The abundance of renewable energy resources, the opportunity for off-grid solutions to reach disadvantaged areas, and the ability to close energy access gaps to promote economic growth, healthcare, and education make Africa’s energy market a promising terrain for transformative changes. The region’s potential is further amplified by novel financing strategies, improvements in energy efficiency, and cross-border integration, while cutting-edge technologies like battery storage and natural gas development present opportunities to overcome current infrastructural constraints and improve sustainability.

Solar potential: Africa’s strategic location along the equator provides abundant solar resources, which are a foundation for developing renewable energy sources. This potential gives a special chance for local manufacturing and job growth in addition to energy generation alone. African nations can use their solar resources to create clean electricity and establish local solar manufacturing sectors, promoting economic growth and sustainability. This is possible as solar technology becomes more widely available and more affordable.

Hydropower potential and Hydrogen economy: The continent’s large river networks and water resources hold enormous hydropower potential. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and the Inga Dam Complex are two hydroelectric projects that could be strategically developed to power nearby communities and the developing hydrogen economy. Africa can position itself as a key player in the global shift toward sustainable hydrogen utilization by utilising excess hydropower to produce green hydrogen through electrolysis and providing a clean energy option for various sectors while leveraging its natural resource advantages.

What recent legal or regulatory changes do you think have the potential to make a positive impact on energy access in Africa?

The Renewable Energy Master Plans of Nigeria and South Africa are two examples of ambitious renewable energy objectives and regulations that pave the way for increased clean energy production and enhanced access to electricity. The Energy Act of 2019 in Kenya is a practical example of a practical action that goes along with these regulatory reforms. Initiatives to liberalise the energy sector also encourage private investment and foster healthy competition, as seen in Ethiopia and Uganda. The continent’s congruent international commitments demonstrated by its active involvement in the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement, represent a collective desire to advance fair access to energy and sustainable development in Africa.

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