Women in Energy Feature – Roscia Mariacristina, Associate Professor Phd presso Università degli Studi di Bergamo

Bio 

Roscia is a professor at the University of Bergamo Italy. Her doctoral thesis was on renewable sources in Africa and several of her papers (for example “Smart Resilient City and IoT Towards Sustainability of Africa”) are on the great possibilities of making African cities smart. She is also interested in being part of a scientific commission or other organization that promotes & assists sustainable development in Africa.

Personal Questions

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?

Electricity has always fascinated me, due to the incredible intelligence it has in itself, for example, it moves towards a circuit with less electrical resistance, which makes it intuitively understandable!

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

Since my studies, there have been very few women in this industry, as well as now, but perhaps we have set an example that there really are no obstacles in this area for us women and that female intuition is of great help in this area of research.

Industry Questions

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

The African market obviously has invaluable renewable sources and with the skills and level of knowledge achieved in this field, Africa could be made a self-sufficient nation and exporter of green energy, without compromising the unique African natural habitat in the world.

What recent successes give you hope for Africa’s energy industry?

The interest that women have placed in this sector is evidence of a cultural movement that can lead to the creation of sustainable smart cities in the African continent.

Women in Energy Feature – Melissa Du Toit, CEO & Founder of MELJIN Energy Consultants

Bio 

Mellisa du Toit is the driving force behind MELJIN BUSINESS & COMMERCIAL, a renowned company that has been making significant strides in the commercial property and energy sectors. Her unwavering dedication to environmental protection fuels her mission to reduce the carbon footprint of her clients by providing innovative renewable energy solutions. By collaborating with leading EPC solar providers, Mellisa delivers cutting-edge energy solutions tailored to meet her clients’ specific needs. This approach not only helps businesses reduce production costs but also enables them to achieve their long-desired sustainability goals.

With her extensive experience in managing renewable energy projects, Mellisa ensures a seamless and efficient tender process for her clients, setting her apart as a trustworthy and results-oriented leader. Moreover, she excels as a motivational mentor and strategic visionary, empowering teams through coaching and targeted training programs. As the founder of MELJIN Direct Motivation, she is committed to guiding individuals towards unlocking their full potential and finding purpose in their work lives.

In her role as CEO of MELJIN Energy, Mellisa has proven herself as a formidable force in managing commercial and industrial energy projects. Her consultative and customized approach fosters enduring client partnerships, earning her widespread admiration and respect within the industry.

Beyond her entrepreneurial prowess and expertise in the energy sector, Mellisa du Toit stands tall as a powerful role model for women, igniting their determination to challenge the status quo in traditionally male-dominated fields. Her groundbreaking achievements in the energy industry and unwavering dedication to sustainability have made her a beacon of inspiration for aspiring women professionals across the board.

Mellisa’s unwavering commitment to professionalism, integrity, and exceptional service is evident in the positive impact she continues to make in both the energy and commercial sectors. Her visionary efforts in striving for a more sustainable future are nothing short of remarkable.


Questions

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

The energy sector has historically been male-dominated, and there are several factors that have contributed to the underrepresentation of women in this industry:

Stereotypes and Social Norms: Traditional gender stereotypes and societal expectations have played a significant role in discouraging women from pursuing careers in fields that are perceived as more “technical” or “physical,” which includes many roles within the energy sector.

Lack of Role Models: The absence of visible female role models in leadership positions within the industry can make it more challenging for women to envision themselves in similar roles and progress in their careers.

Educational and Workplace Barriers: Women may face barriers in accessing education and training in fields related to energy. Additionally, workplaces may not always be conducive to the advancement of women, leading to a lack of representation in higher-level positions.

Unconscious Bias: Unconscious bias, both in hiring practices and workplace environments, can lead to discriminatory practices that hinder the career advancement of women.

Work-Life Balance: Some roles within the energy sector, particularly in certain sub-sectors like oil and gas, can involve demanding schedules and frequent travel, which may be perceived as challenging for maintaining work-life balance and dissuade some women from pursuing such careers.

Despite these challenges, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of diversity and inclusion in the energy sector and other industries. Many companies are actively working to improve gender diversity and representation within their organizations. Furthermore, women have been making significant strides in the energy sector, taking up roles in various areas like engineering, renewable energy, policy-making, and corporate leadership. As awareness increases and organizations continue to prioritize diversity and inclusion, it is hopeful that the representation of women in the energy sector will continue to increase over time.

What do you see as the role of women in ensuring energy security and resilience in the power sector?

Women play a crucial role in ensuring energy security and resilience in the power sector in various ways:

Leadership and Decision-Making: Women can contribute significantly to energy security and resilience by taking up leadership positions in the power sector. Their diverse perspectives and experiences can lead to better decision-making and more comprehensive strategies for addressing energy challenges.

Promoting Diversity and Inclusion: Women leaders can advocate for diversity and inclusion within the industry. A diverse workforce brings in a broader range of ideas, skills, and solutions, making the power sector more adaptable and resilient to changing circumstances.

Advancing Renewable Energy and Sustainability: Women have been instrumental in driving the adoption of renewable energy and promoting sustainable practices in the power sector. As champions of environmental causes, they can advocate for cleaner and more sustainable energy solutions, contributing to long-term energy security and reducing the sector’s environmental impact.

Innovation and Technology: Women in the power sector are driving innovation and technology advancements. They contribute to the development of smart grids, energy storage solutions, and other cutting-edge technologies that enhance energy security and grid resilience.

Community Engagement and Empowerment: Women often play a significant role in community engagement efforts related to energy projects. Their involvement helps ensure that the concerns and needs of local communities are taken into account, fostering better relationships and acceptance of energy infrastructure development.

Education and Skill Development: Women can contribute to energy security by actively participating in and promoting education and skill development programs related to energy. By encouraging more women to pursue STEM education and energy-related careers, they contribute to building a skilled workforce for the sector’s future challenges.

Energy Policy and Advocacy: Women can influence energy policies and regulations that impact energy security and resilience. They can advocate for policies that promote clean energy, grid modernization, and equitable access to energy resources.

Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation: Women have been at the forefront of climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts. As climate change poses risks to energy infrastructure and resources, their contributions in this area are essential for enhancing the sector’s resilience.

In summary, women have a multifaceted role in ensuring energy security and resilience in the power sector. Their contributions, in leadership, sustainability, innovation, community engagement, education, and policy advocacy, are vital for building a robust and sustainable energy future. Encouraging greater gender diversity and inclusion in the power sector will undoubtedly lead to more comprehensive and effective solutions for energy challenges.

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

Entering a male-dominated sector can be challenging, but it’s also an opportunity to make a significant impact and pave the way for others. Here are some messages of encouragement and advice:

  1. Believe in Yourself: You belong in this sector just as much as anyone else. Have confidence in your abilities, skills, and knowledge. Trust that you have what it takes to succeed and make a positive impact.
  2. Embrace Your Uniqueness: Your perspective and experiences as a woman can bring valuable insights and diversity to the table. Embrace your uniqueness and use it as a strength in your professional journey.
  3. Challenge Stereotypes: Don’t be afraid to challenge stereotypes and biases. Your success and accomplishments will help break down barriers and prove that gender should never be a limiting factor in any field.
  4. Seek Mentors and Allies: Find mentors and allies who support and advocate for you. They can provide guidance, advice, and help you navigate the challenges you may encounter.
  5. Support Other Women: Lift and support other women around you. Building a strong network of support can create a more inclusive and empowering environment for everyone.
  6. Be Resilient: There may be obstacles and setbacks along the way, but don’t let them deter you. Stay resilient and learn from each experience, using them to grow and become even stronger.
  7. Continuously Learn: Stay curious and committed to continuous learning. The more you know, the more confident you’ll feel in your abilities.
  8. Celebrate Your Achievements: Celebrate your achievements, no matter how big or small. Recognize your hard work and progress, and take pride in what you’ve accomplished.
  9. Advocate for Change: Use your voice to advocate for positive changes within the sector. Be a champion for diversity, inclusion, and equal opportunities.
  10. Lead by Example: As you progress in your career, remember that you are not only creating opportunities for yourself but also setting an example for future generations of women. Lead with integrity and inspire others to follow their dreams.
  11. Remember that you are not alone; there are many women who have succeeded in male-dominated sectors, and you can too. Stay true to yourself, be persistent, and use your skills and passion to make a difference. Your presence in the sector contributes to breaking down barriers and creating a more inclusive and equitable future for all.

Women in Energy Feature – Katherine Persson, Head of Group Company | SOLA Assets (Pty) Ltd at The SOLA Group

Bio 

Katherine is a renewable energy enthusiast with a remarkable track record of over 18 years of professional experience. Throughout her career, she has been at the forefront of creating and expanding renewable energy businesses and teams, predominantly in Southern and East Africa. Her expertise spans various crucial areas, including project development, project finance, project management, environmental management, stakeholder engagement, and asset management.

Graduating with degrees (BSc Hons and MSc) in 2003 and 2004, Katherine later complemented her specialist skills with valuable business acumen. In 2016, she graduated with distinction, earning an MBA from the prestigious University of Stellenbosch. This comprehensive knowledge has proven instrumental in her success as a leader in the renewable energy sector.

Katherine has enjoyed exposure to executive responsibilities in her corporate roles and has demonstrated her commitment to the industry by serving on the boards of the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) and the South African Renewable Energy Technology Centre (SARETEC). She is a qualified director under the Institute of Directors in South Africa (IoDSA), further underscoring her commitment to professional excellence and governance.

Currently, Katherine holds the position of Head of SOLA Assets Pty Ltd at SOLA Group. In her role, she leads SOLA’s Project Development and Project Finance teams, as well as overseeing the Asset Management division. SOLA Group is renowned as South Africa’s leading provider of Solar PV and Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) under Corporate Power Purchase Agreements (CPPAs), with a particular expertise in large wheeling transactions. Prior to her time at SOLA, Katherine spent a decade working for the international wind energy developer, Windlab.

Katherine actively champions diversity and inclusion in the energy sector. She is a mentor to women in the industry, and an advocate for increased representation of women in executive positions. Outside her busy professional life, Katherine finds joy as a mother of two and is a renowned endurance open water swimmer, demonstrating her determination and tenacity beyond the boardroom.

Personal Questions

In your position at SOLA Group, what are you doing to support the careers of other women in the municipality?

At SOLA Group, we embrace the imperative of enhancing women’s development and promoting diversity, especially in our senior leadership positions. Our commitment to this cause is exemplified by our tailored women in leadership development program, which provides comprehensive business coaching to our talented female team members. Through this initiative, women in our organization engage in direct conversations with our executive team, actively shaping the future of our business.

Aside from our internal activities we also promote female development and empowerment in our projects.  One example is that we are currently constructing two large solar PV plants where we have surpassed our own targets for the percentage of women in the workforce, with over 30% of the employees on site being female.  It’s great to visit our site and see young women in positions of responsibility, supervising teams and providing top quality professional services in the construction sector.

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

The energy sector, like many other industries, faces a gender representation imbalance, particularly at senior and executive levels. Overcoming centuries of entrenched institutional and societal systems that limited diversity is an ongoing challenge. However, the encouraging part is that times are changing rapidly.

South Africa’s green energy industry stands out as a beacon of progress, actively fostering more opportunities for women. This positive shift is evident in the increased representation of women in senior management and executive teams across public, private, and non-profit organizations. Seeing this transformation is really exciting!

As we move forward, my hope is that young women considering a career in the renewable energy sector recognize the expanding space for them to thrive and contribute significantly. Times are evolving, and the path is becoming ever more exciting and promising for women seeking fruitful and rewarding careers in this dynamic field.

Industry Question

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

In South Africa, recent regulatory changes (specifically the lifting of the licensing cap by the energy regulator) have paved the way for exciting projects that provide renewable energy to corporate buyers under private Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs).  The grid-connected renewable energy market was dominated by government-led procurement until late 2021, when SOLA Group entered into the first corporate PPA with wheeling, where SOLA sells renewable energy to Amazon and delivers this from a 10MW renewable energy plant in the Northern Cape, to Amazon’s facilities in Cape Town.

Since this breakthrough, SOLA’s success has soared, with the completion of financing and initiation of construction for two 100MW solar PV projects in late 2022, followed by another 100MW PV project in early 2023. Furthermore, 2023 also witnessed the conclusion of the first corporate PPA projects by IPPs involving wind energy.

These achievements signal the rapid opening up of the renewable energy market in South Africa and serve as a promising example for other African countries to follow suit. With the recent approval of the first license needed for the creation of a new National Transmission Operator by the energy regulator in South Africa, the stage is set for rapid market evolution. This creates diverse opportunities for both small and large businesses to play a vital role in resolving the South African energy crisis.

This ongoing transformation opens up numerous prospects for women-owned and women-led enterprises to participate in this crucial sector. Moreover, it presents young women with ample opportunities to enter and thrive in the renewable energy field, contributing to the development of a more sustainable energy future in the region.

Women in Energy Feature – Lilian Motongori Jamunga | Co-Founder Women in Energy Africa (Kenya)

| Co-Founder & Director of Strategy at Hayili Africa | Scholar/ Werkstudentin at Schneider Electric

Bio 

Lilian Motongori Jamunga is an energy expert and currently a Young Industry Leader scholar with Schneider Electric Europe operations while taking her Master’s in Energy Management at the Technical University of Berlin in Germany. She has a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical and production engineering. She has 6-year experience in the energy industry and is one of the Directors for Hayili Africa, an energy company that is offering energy solutions in Africa. Hayili Africa does research, energy management, project development, and technical advisory on energy projects among other energy solutions. She is also the current President of the Society of Women Engineers East Africa region and the co-founder of Women in Energy Africa, a platform for young women who offer innovative technological challenges for Energy in Africa.

She is a Global Bioenergy Energy Award winner in 2021 for her innovation of a mechanically driven biodiesel reactor, a 40 under 40 Inspiring African Future Mechanical Engineers (IAFME) Award winning er 2020, A Nominee for the Founder of the year Under 30 (Kenya) 2020 awards, A Booking.com Technology Playmaker Awards, Champion for change category Finalist 2020 and the Women in Energy East Africa community, professional technical award winner 2019. She was a Techwomen emerging leader in 2019 and a Woman in Africa Power fellow in 2019. She has been involved in leadership, energy, and gender issues. She is passionate about Sustainable development, Energy, women’s empowerment, and leadership


Q&A

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?

I studied Mechanical and production engineering and during my fifth year, I was introduced to the topic of renewable energy. I found it interesting and started following content that related to Energy as well. Having a passion to see development in Africa, I understood how important energy is in accelerating the industrialization and development of my continent. However, with climate change, it is sustainable to use clean and renewable energy. I purposed to pursue a career within the energy sector and was intentional and lucky to connect with professionals in the space who gave me an opportunity to also develop and grow my career. would encourage any other woman willing to join the sector to stay updated on the global issues in the sector as well as connect and position yourself to bring value to whatever position you get into. It is also important that they network with other professionals and continue to develop their skills to gain more opportunities.

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

The energy space has less female representation because there were existing stereotypes and biases that made the industry to be male-dominated just like any other sectors that were male-dominated traditionally. This discouraged many women from joining because of a lack of role models and enough mentors. Coupled with other barriers like education, workplace discrimination, and certain perceptions of physical demands in the field, the number has been less. However, the narrative is changing with more women getting access to education and policies and programs that encourage diversity in the workplace which is a good thing.

If you could have tea with any public figure – dead or alive – who would it be and why?

Damilola Ogunbiyi the CEO of SE for All. Her professional career and impact in the energy sector have been impressive in championing sustainable and affordable energy for all especially Africa and she inspires me a lot.

What does being a woman in the energy sector mean to you?

It means a lot to participate in shaping the industry to attract more other women and bring a diversity of thoughts that also cater to women using energy globally.

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

Africa has a lot of opportunities to be a global leader for renewables in the whole world. We have a huge potential for solar and hydropower as well a lot of natural gas that can be used as we transition to clean energy. Our low carbon emissions also enable to trade well with other developed nations as we try to achieve the global climate goals. We also have the ability to leapfrog our energy infrastructure to more efficient technologies that are required in the clean energy transition.

Women in Energy Feature – Thabisile Ledwaba, Founder & Managing Director of Solar Stokvel

Bio 

Ms. Thabisile Ledwaba, a South African citizen born in Ga-Pila, Mokopane, Limpopo and a businesswoman who co-founded Ga-Pila Education Trust and has vast experience and interests in various sectors of the economy including circular economy, smart cities, green sanitation, energy, transport & logistics, consulting, mining, ICT, television production and skills development. She has vast experience in consulting in ICT projects in the regulatory, insurance, banking, financial, and public sectors.

She has self-published a self-help book titled “Procrastination” in 2015 which is published globally. Though her work at Ga-Pila Education Trust, she gets to mentor youth in their personal and academic development.

She founded Solar Stokvel trading as Etimbili Renewable Energy and Power in 2016, Ndala Energy and Liphezulu Energy in 2021, specializing in development, construction, operation, maintenance, commissioning, and financing of residential, commercial, industrial, and utility-scale renewable energy projects. She was appointed as Local Representative, equity partner and Executive by SEMCO International – a renewable energy company based in California US.


Questions

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?

I fell in love with energy after becoming a mentee of Dr Strive Masiyiwa who challenged us to take advantage of opportunities in green sanitation, energy, food security, telecommunications, fintech, etcetera and I challenged myself to study for renewable energy and sustainability studies at Stellenbosch University.

In your position at Solar Stokvel what are you doing to support the careers of other women in the municipality?

I am planning to establish an energy academy that will focus on bursaries, scholarships and imparting of skills to women by starting at grass roots levels.

How does your business actively encourage women empowerment and development?

I mostly prioritise working with women entrepreneurs in my projects before I consider men.

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

Gender mainstreaming is still an issue and gap as energy sector is still dominated by men and considered a male industry. More studies and research needs to be done to mainstream gender into the energy sector so that we see women taking lead across all the levels and decision-making of energy sector.

What are some of the major changes you’ve seen during your time in this industry?

Local companies can compete in utility-scale independent power producer programs by energy departments, municipalities, mining, corporate, and industrial.

What do you see as the role of women in ensuring energy security and resilience in the power sector?

Women are disproportionately impacted by energy security as they are primary caregivers and have to find creative ways to secure electricity in the midst of loadshedding. Therefore, are best placed to advise of the negative impact of energy insecurity and safer energy mix options to close the gap. With women forward we can have resilient energy policies.

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

The great place to start is to learn the industry by understanding energy policies, procurement frameworks, global trends, and development finance.

What unique opportunities do you see for women in your sector?

I see women dominating in the energy policy and financing landscape opportunities presented by just energy transition and climate action.

How do you hope to see women more included in the energy sector?

Energy studies should dominate the academic space so that it can be more visible to women without having to travel far to study.

How do you think men can support a more equal workplace as well as help accelerate women in their careers?

Men can support women by seeing them as their equal by having confidence in their ability and capability without seeing them as empowerment checklist.

What is the most important conversation we should be having in the sector?

Lack of access to inclusive financing for SMEs is an important conversation we should have because when you submit bid to build a power station you are required to have letter of intention to fund. A 100 MW solar project will cost around 1.5 billion rand minimum and access to land of 300 hectares is part of the submission requirement. So, without access of finance to fund the construction and land, women will be excluded from participating in just energy transition.

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

The lifting off licensing requirements for independent power producer projects of up to 100MW which department of energy and President Ramaphosa announced in August 2021 was a game changer as licensing authorisations take too long.

Women in Energy Feature – Mariam Diedericks, Director at Coalition Energy Projects

Bio 

Mariam Diedericks is a distinguished entrepreneur and esteemed figure within the flourishing Renewable Energy/Solar PV sector. Her professional journey commenced with a notable tenure of 14 years in the domains of Private and Retail Banking, followed by a decisive foray into the realm of entrepreneurship in 2003. Over the course of her illustrious career, she has initiated multiple enterprises, with particular pride vested in her family-owned establishment in the Electrical Contracting sphere, a venture that has progressively expanded its scope to encompass the Green Economy.

Educationally, Mariam Diedericks undertook her tertiary studies at the esteemed Damelin Institute, where she diligently pursued her academic aspirations. As a testament to her commitment to professional excellence, she has achieved certification as a proficient Project Manager, a distinction that underscores her competence in orchestrating complex undertakings. Demonstrating her dedication to fostering the growth of small enterprises, she successfully concluded a Post Graduate program in Small Business Consulting, concurrently pursuing further academic enrichment through her ongoing pursuit of an MBA (Masters in Business Administration), which she completed online.

Mariam Diedericks’ active involvement in the business community is notably marked by her tenure as Chairperson of the Athlone branch of the Cape Chamber of Commerce, a role in which she provided invaluable leadership and strategic guidance. Presently, she holds a prominent position on the board of the Western Cape Business Opportunities Forum (WECBOF), where her insightful contributions continue to shape regional business initiatives.

Beyond her entrepreneurial accomplishments, Mariam Diedericks holds the distinction of being a certified Business and Life Coach, channeling her expertise towards the advancement of women, family-owned enterprises, and the younger generation. As a visionary founder and esteemed director of a non-profit organization, her altruistic endeavors are centered on the empowerment of community-based NGO leadership, driven by a comprehensive approach encompassing education, training, and economic empowerment. Her multifaceted contributions underscore her status as an influential and compassionate leader dedicated to fostering lasting positive change within both the business and societal realms.


Questions

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?

I found my way into the energy sector through a strategic pivot driven by the necessity for innovation and diversification in our struggling Electrical Construction business. Recognizing the changing landscape of electricity within our country, I saw the potential in solar photovoltaics (PV) and seized the opportunity. The decision was rooted not only in economic considerations but also in my genuine excitement about the positive societal and environmental impacts that renewable energy could bring.

For women aspiring to embark on a similar career trajectory in the energy sector, I wholeheartedly encourage you to explore the boundless opportunities that await you. The time is ripe for women to make their mark, not only in the energy sector but also across the entire Green Economy.

What do you see as the role of women in ensuring energy security and resilience in the power sector?

Diverse Perspectives and Leadership: Women bring unique perspectives and insights to the table, which can lead to better decision-making and problem-solving. In a sector as complex as the power industry, having a diverse range of voices and ideas can result in more innovative and inclusive strategies for achieving energy security and resilience.

Skills and Expertise: Women have made significant strides in education and career advancement, acquiring skills and expertise across various disciplines. in areas such as engineering, technology, research, and policy can directly impact the energy sector’s resilience and efficiency.

Community Engagement and Education: Women often play a central role in communities, and their involvement can be instrumental in educating and raising awareness about energy conservation, renewable energy, and sustainable practices.

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

Your presence and contributions are invaluable and have the power to create positive change not only for yourself but for future generations of women as well.

Believe in Yourself: Remember that you are just as capable, talented, and deserving as anyone else in your chosen field. Your gender does not define your abilities. Embrace your strengths and believe in your potential.

Stay Resilient: Challenges and obstacles may come your way, but don’t let them deter you. Your determination and resilience will play a crucial role in your success. Use setbacks as opportunities for growth and learning.

Seek Mentorship: Find mentors, both men and women, who can guide you and provide valuable insights based on their experiences. They can offer advice, share their own struggles, and help you navigate the unique dynamics of your sector.

Build a Support Network: Surround yourself with a supportive community of like-minded individuals. Connect with other women in your field and share your experiences, successes, and challenges. Building a network can provide you with encouragement and a sense of belonging.

Continuous Learning: Stay curious and committed to learning and self-improvement. Industries are constantly evolving, and staying up-to-date with the latest developments will enhance your competitiveness and confidence.

What unique opportunities do you see for women in your sector?

STEM Education and Careers: The energy sector heavily relies on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Initiatives have been launched to encourage women to pursue STEM education and careers in fields like renewable energy, clean technology, data analytics, and engineering.

Renewable Energy: The transition to renewable energy sources presents significant opportunities for women. As the renewable energy sector grows, there is a chance to establish a more balanced and diverse workforce from the outset, unlike some traditional energy industries that have been established for decades.

Energy Access and Poverty Alleviation: In many developing countries, women are disproportionately affected by energy poverty. Initiatives are addressing this issue by empowering women through training programs for clean energy technologies and involving them in projects that aim to provide energy access to underserved communities.

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

Renewable Energy Incentives and Support: Many African countries have started implementing policies and regulations to encourage the growth of renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric power. These incentives may include feed-in tariffs, tax breaks, or subsidies to attract investment in clean energy projects and make them more economically viable.

Off-Grid Solutions: Governments and international organizations have been supporting off-grid energy solutions, such as mini-grids and standalone solar systems. Policies that facilitate the deployment of these technologies can help reach remote and rural areas that are often overlooked by centralized grid expansion.

Support for Local Entrepreneurs: Governments and organizations are recognizing the potential of local entrepreneurs in driving energy access solutions. By providing financial and regulatory support to these entrepreneurs, the development of innovative energy technologies and business models can be accelerated.

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

Addressing Energy Poverty: More than half of the population in Africa lacks access to reliable electricity, leading to widespread energy poverty. solar home systems and mini-grids, present an opportunity to bring electricity to remote and underserved regions, thereby improving the lives of millions of people.

Rising Demand: As economies grow and populations increase, the demand for energy also rises. Off-grid solutions can play a crucial role in meeting this demand, especially in areas where extending the traditional grid might be financially or logistically challenging.

Renewable Energy Potential: Africa has abundant renewable energy resources, including ample sunlight in many regions. Solar energy, in particular, can be harnessed effectively, making it an attractive option for decentralized energy solutions.

Women in Energy Feature – Naniki Nzuza, Senior Grid Manager at Mulilo Renewable Project Developments

Bio 

Ms Naniki Nzuza is an accomplished professional engineer and a subject matter expect in the energy industry with over 18 years of experience in power system planning & operations. She holds an Electrical Engineering degree and a post graduate Project Management diploma from the University of Cape Town.

Currently, Naniki is a Senior Grid Manager with Mulilo Renewable Project Developments providing technical leadership & oversight on grid integration for a portfolio of projects. Prior to this she led the Network Operations department at Eskom Distribution in the Western Cape where she was instrumental for grid integration of renewable projects in the Western and Northern Cape grid.

Naniki is passionate about paving the way for the next generation of leaders. she is involved in a number of mentorship programmes for young girls to encourage them into the STEM career stream.


Questions

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?

I had a passion for Mathematics and Biology (now Life Sciences) in High School, while researching careers in grade 11 I happened upon a career that would merge these two which was Biomedical Engineering. At that time only UCT and Stellenbosch offered this however at postgraduate level so I had to embark on a undergraduate degree first in either Electrical, Mechanical and to some extent Chemical Engineering. The lesser evil of these was Electrical Engineering and that was how I got wooed into this industry and never left. Primarily because I believe in seeing tangible effects of my day to day job to the larger community and what better way than seeing communities with lights on!

My advise to other women would be to not doubt your brilliance and continue working on your craft. The adjustment from high school to university was my first biggest challenge and I almost gave up in first year but I persevered so I would say push through the pain points and you will succeed. To be momentarily comfortable with being uncomfortable, resilience has been my anchor through uncertain periods in my career journey.

How do you think men can support a more equal workplace as well as help accelerate women in their careers

Men can be allies to female colleagues in workplaces in more ways than one. We shouldn’t see each other as competition or one being better than the other. Both parties can offer something to the table in their respective and unique ways – We should complement and not compete! I have been fortunate through the early years of my career to have mentorship from both males and females. Support in the simplest ways such as ensuring ‘a seat’ for the female protégé or colleague in rooms can go a long way (Exposure can be the catalyst for growth). Men can be allies by advocating for women when they are in the room or not.

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

I believe the genesis for it is from STEM subject throughput from high school. Organisations that foster and provide tutoring for student in the STEMS subject are to be lauded. That will provide the requisite pool of talent into the energy sector – not just engineering, but financial and other disciplines. I do believe the picture has changed somewhat be it not significantly.  And there is definitely much room for increasing the representation of women in the sector.

This is still a very male-dominated sector which can at times portray male-favouring workplace culture in some cases where it can be expected for females to be domineering, competitive and risk-takers. Women can still be their authentic selves while delivering on the job mandate or they can choose without the pressure of ‘putting on the pants’. And be allowed to ‘wear the pants’ if they choose to without being labelled otherwise.

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

You have to be comfortable to face seasons of discomfort of going into the unknown. By this I mean donning hard hats and boots and working sometimes exposed to harsh environmental elements (Northern Cape Sun or in the Wild Wild West of Laingsburg:-). You have to find your voice and use it not only for yourself but to inspire others to find theirs. Be your sisters keeper – we have to rally around each other as women in the industry, because her win is my win too.

What recent successes give you hope for Africa’s energy industry?

The new national transmission company that recently attained a NERSA license. I believe there’s positives to this even as we have seen great strides to decarbonise our generation pool, it will allow transparency for market reform for platforms such as Energy trading as well as competitive generation dispatch. It will unlock Distribution system operations with their own ‘market operators’ and interfaces to IPPs within municipal grids as well as well integrated demand response platforms. I do agree this market has to be done responsibly and in a pace that does no harm to the good that has been established over the years.

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

As the Chinese saying goes: “In every crisis lies the seed of opportunity”. I do believe the current energy crisis in South Africa has unlocked a host of opportunities from the boom of solar rooftop businesses to the realisation of upskilling of upcoming technicians for these PV panel installations. On the larger grid tied projects we have seen the halting of gigawatts worth of projects at quiet advanced project development stages and how this has highlighted the need to focus on transmission and distribution project development in the same vein as has been on renewable generation project development. There’s also the greater strengthening of the Southern Power Africa Pool to harness grid stability and greater renewable generation integration.

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

Bio 

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.


Questions

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.

Women in Energy Feature – Safiya Aliyu, General Manager at SOSAI Renewable Energies Company

Bio 

Safiya Aliyu joined the Renewable Energy industry in 2007. She has a Master’s in Business Administration. Before her graduation from the university, she volunteered with the Developmental Association for Renewable Energies (DARE) supporting the Solar Cooker Deployment project and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) Project on improved cook stove. Upon graduation from the university, she joined Sosai Renewable Energies Company as a Project Officer, she later rose through the ranks to become a Project Manager in which position she managed the Arthur Guinness Fund/ Relief International Water Filter Project.In 2018, she successfully became a Techwomen fellow after 6 weeks training with her team winning a seed loan for their community impact project; MAAMI Nigeria. She also gave the winning pitch of Solar for healthcare in 2022 at the Nigerian Power Sector Program supported by Power Africa. She is the incumbent Treasurer of the Renewable Energy Association of Nigeria.

She has been with Sosai since its inception and is presently the General Manager at the core of Sosai’s transformation journey with a lot of dedication and hard work. Safiya has equipped herself in the field of Renewable Energy with several trainings and is now handling the Sosai’s Matan Arewa Project where women are encouraged and trained to become entrepreneurs in the Renewable Energy Sector. She is an expert in the deployment and management of projects on improved cookstoves, solar systems and community development. She has worked with Sosai team to operationalize 5 offgrid solar minigrids, distributed over 150,000 units of improved cookstoves and 20,000 units of solar lighting solutions. Sosai is estimated to have positively impacted 1,000,000 lives through its solutions and will be doing more as the business grows.


Questions

How does your business actively encourage women’s empowerment and development?

At Sosai Renewable Energies Company, we understand that women are backward when it comes to economic growth, this is because they face significant challenges in accessing technology and infrastructure, which limits their earning opportunities and financial inclusion. We encourage women’s empowerment and development by increasing their access to renewable energy technologies that they can resell or use as a piece of business equipment to earn income. We have established solar drying hubs in rural communities where women groups are the custodians of the hub, running the business to dry farm produce for the farmers in and out of their communities. Through this activity, they are promoting food security and also earning income for themselves.

We also support women with startup stock of solar lanterns, solar home systems, and improved cookstoves that they resell to promote the adoption of clean energy, and earn income for themselves. We train these women groups on the right kind of skills needed to grow their business and ensure it is sustainable. Our work with the women groups has increased their socio-economic status.

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

My message to women entering a male-dominated sector like the energy sector is to be confident, know your worth, and keep increasing your knowledge in the field you have chosen. It is important to believe in yourself and your abilities. Advocate for yourself and other women in the sector. It’s also important to seek out mentors and role models who can help you navigate the challenges of working in the sector because there will definitely be tough times that will even make you doubt yourself but with the support from role models and mentors, one will get the energy to be persistent.

Feature – Refilwe Mokgosi, Chief Area Engineer Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality

Bio 

My name is Refilwe Mokgosi, I am an electrical engineer registered as professional technologist. Employed as Chief Area Engineer responsible for Springs and Nigel Energy Department at Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality. Previously appointed as Executive Director: Public Works in Emfuleni Local Municipality. I am responsible for Electricity Department, Roads AND Stormwater Department and Environmental Management and Planning Department.

I have been in the engineering industry for 21 years. I have been in held several positions with the electricity and energy industry in different municipalities (City of Tshwane, City Power, City of Ekurhuleni) and Eskom (Generation and Distribution).

I hold several qualifications, some being, B-Tech in Electrical Engineering Heavy Current, Government Certificate of Competency (GCC), Masters in Business Leadership (MBL) and Executive Development Management Program

I am ambitious, fearless, self-driven and I multi-tasking. I am immediate past President of Association of Municipal Electricity Utility (AMEU) President and Women in Electricity former Chairperson and Sponsor. I serve at the GCC commission of examiners at the Department of Labour, in several committees including ECSA IDoEW.

Socially I am wife and mother of two boys passionate about sports. I am Runner, Cyclist and aspiring swimmer. Completed 10 comrades’ marathons and 9 Two Oceans. Participated in several cycling events such as 94.7, Cape Argus, one day 3 stage Jock classic, Maluti Double 90, Double Century race and I’m recently aspired triathlon.


Questions

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

“The engineering profession and Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) registration database still reflects a higher number of male engineering practitioners compared to the female counterparts. While strides are being made to bridge the gap and ensure transformation of the profession, it is acknowledged that more still needs to be done.” The sector still has a significant imbalance between male and female employees. The sector largely been male-oriented in previous years which a concerted efforts to encourage more females to join different roles and we have seen greater improvement though there is still much to be done to level the playing field. If you compare 10 years ago to date, there is significant improving. This will not be an overnight change, but it will take few more years to have balanced sector.

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

My message to women entering this sector or planning to enter the industry is don’t allow any of your colleagues makes you feel you don’t belong here, do you best to master space. Like any other person when you are joining any company spent a lot of time learning the business, knowledge is important, do the tidy work “site visiting, ask as many questions as you could to understand your roles in the business, go extra mile for your sake. Networking is very important there are so much pool of experienced women you can tap into their knowledge. Look for them and make it your priority number one to engage and learn from them. We have groups such as AMEU “women in electricity” etc. they can join to acquire more skill and knowledge.

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?

Two of my brothers are in similar engineering sector one in mining and the other in telecommuting. They both inspired me so much growing up and all I knew that time was I want to be an engineer. Hence my choice of subject at high school level. A good mentorship is needed to assist in building a good care foundation.

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

I still say when women participate fully in an economy, they form resilient businesses and enable achievement of economic and development goals. The benefits of investing in women expand beyond their immediate families, to their communities and countries, too. Stand your grounds in what you believe and go out there and shine, I believe in you and all you need to do is to believe in yourself.

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

The sector is expanding and it’s for us to crab the opportunity to play more in the renewable energy or alternative energy space. There are so many programmes that are available and waiting for us to participate. Read a lot especial the engineering magazines and newsletters. Join webinars and conference to expand your knowledge and grab opportunities.

What role do women play in the decision-making authorities regulating energy transition issues in your organisation?

Mostly women play a leadership role and provide direction. It is natural for women to produce solutions in a complex environment. Be part of committees that deals with industry policies, volunteer your time, and forget about the rest, and all will fall into places. As women you need to be self-driven and if you don’t have that character, you better build it because no one is going to come push you, you must push yourself to the limits.