GWNET brings you the 5th instalment of the “Meet the Women in the Energy Transition” series which celebrates the work and achievements of the women who are part of GWNET’s 2/2019 Mentoring Programme. This mentoring programme contains 22 mentee-mentor tandems, with mentees from over 15 countries. Meet GWNET mentee, Ana Lucía Alfaro. Ana is a chemical engineer from the University of Costa Rica and holds an MBA from INCAE. She has a diploma in energy policy from Germany and a postgraduate degree in Sustainable Development from INCAE. She has worked as an environmental and energy consultant for companies and as a coordinator for a United Nations project on rural electrification with renewable sources in Costa Rica.
1) Tell us a little about yourself. What do you love most about what you do?
I am the Coordinator for Costa Rica and Panama on two programmes for the German International Cooperation (GIZ), mainly the 4E programme and the programme for the promotion of geothermal energy in Central America. As part of this work, I am in charge of the development of pilot projects for geothermal energy and the digitalisation process of the electricity sector in Central America.
What I love most about what I do is the knowledge that with my work I am helping institutions and governments in Central America improve their conditions and capacities, in order to achieve cleaner energy matrices and energy efficiency. I enjoy the challenge of contributing to the renewable energy sector in Central America, which is growing and becoming more accessible while still trying to achieve competitive pricing. It is gratifying to see the work that I do result in policies or regulation that allows the end-user to develop an agricultural activity using clean energy in a profitable way, thus improving their quality of life.
2) What were your goals when you started working in sustainable energy? Have these evolved?
I began working in sustainable energy as a researcher and since then I have fallen in love with renewable energy and realised that I want to develop my career in this area. I am always looking at how I can make big and positive impacts on society. Of course, giving the best of myself to my studies, networking and learning opportunities has provided me with the opportunity to be part of the Energy Ministry of Costa Rica, and I know I am having a broader impact working at GIZ for two Central American Programmes. You need to be careful about what you think and desire with your heart (which I describe as passion) because it usually manifests in reality. I’m excited about what I am doing and what will come next!
3) What are the opportunities for sustainable energy growth in your country?
I live in a country were sustainable energy as part of the electricity matrix is very clean – our policies have been oriented towards renewables for a long time, but having competitive prices is always a debate. In terms of energy, we still have a long way to go in terms of the transportation sector. We are highly dependent on fossil fuels but are making huge efforts to have a more efficient mobility system including using electricity as fuel. Costa Rica has defined a very ambitious goal of becoming a decarbonised economy which becomes a country commitment. With regards to the other Central American countries, there are definitely growth opportunities in sustainable energy. The region needs more renewable energy projects but also a more dynamic regional electricity market and for this, a few points should be taken into account; infrastructure and technology investment, regulatory aspects, and the political will of the countries, among others.
4) What challenges have you faced in the sector? Can you tell us how you overcame (or are overcoming) these challenges?
With regards to challenges with my career, I can say that at the beginning the challenge had to do with my own mental barrier, for example, worry that I did not necessarily have all the requirements or experience to assume big projects. I was my first enemy, and in that sense, I need to be grateful to the bosses I had who encouraged me to overcome these challenges – their trust in me and my desire for growth were bigger than my fear. Nowadays, I sometimes feel anxious, but my confidence in myself is bigger than my fears – opportunities come once in a lifetime and we need to embrace and be thankful for them. I will also say that as a woman of faith, I believe that God gives us abilities which are gifts that we should use in whatever our area of action is; if I am in the energy sector then I must give it my best.
5) Why did you join the GWNET Mentorship Programme? What do you hope to achieve?
I joined the GWNET Mentorship Programme because I found it to be an outstanding opportunity to meet exemplary women from around the world who are working in the energy sector, with whom I can learn from for my professional career growth and share experiences that allow us to advance past the challenges in the energy sector considering a gender perspective. I am already achieving part of my goals by getting to know my mentor! I also aim to clearly define how I can promote the energy transition including the gender perspective as well as how I can analyse my career growth.
6) What advice would you give to women hoping to join the sustainable energy sector?
If you are a woman that finds sustainable energy interesting, we need you with us! Getting deep into it will become a passion. We need more and more committed women in the sector to support the transition to sustainable energy around the world. There are a lot of opportunities awaiting and challenges to be undertaken. It might not be easy, but it will be worth it. Don’t think twice!
If you are interested in knowing more about GWNET’s mentoring programmes, this comprehensive article outlines our work in this area.