GWNET brings you the 7th 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, Merce Labordena. Merce is an energy professional leading projects to advance the energy transition. She believes that the energy transition and the digital transition must go hand in hand – and that policy-makers must think smart to avoid falling behind on innovation in digital technologies and services.
1) Tell us a little about yourself. What do you love most about what you do?
I am a Senior Policy Advisor for Solar Digitalisation, Finance, and Corporate Sourcing of Renewable Energy at SolarPower Europe, a Brussels-based association with 200+ members representing the solar PV sector. Before joining SolarPower Europe, I led projects at the Climate Policy Group at ETH Zurich on strategies to increase the rate of investment into solar power. In addition to holding a PhD from ETH Zurich, I hold a Double Degree MSc in Renewable Energy, with a specialisation in Energy Innovation and Energy Engineering. At SolarPower Europe I derive strategic and actionable insights for companies to build digitalisation into their business model design, and support members to advance sourcing of renewable electricity. This combination of policy, advocacy and public affairs and the knowledge of renewable energy technologies in a continuously evolving market is, for me, the perfect combination for a long-term career to advance the transition to a more sustainable future.
2) What were your goals when you started working in sustainable energy? Have these evolved?
The reason behind me devoting my career to sustainable energy was the potential to address climate change and related environmental problems and be involved in a rapidly evolving market with a large global potential. My professional journey started about 8 years ago and my professional goals, naturally, have evolved and are being fuelled by personal and professional advice; and as a result, they provide me with a sense of direction and a clearer professional objective.
3) What are the opportunities for sustainable energy growth in your country?
The opportunities for sustainable energy growth in every single country in the world are vast. The increasingly widespread adoption of renewable energy technologies creates a significant positive impact on the economy, leading to the creation of employment opportunities along the supply chain. Particularly, the solar PV sector contributes the most to creating new jobs, more than other renewable energy technologies. Many governments have prioritized renewable energy development, among them is the government of Spain, with various degrees of success and associated policy support. The future will be even brighter: Spain may see an increase of 140 per cent in additional jobs in the solar industry in the following six years, according to the Spanish Photovoltaic Union (UNEF).
4) What challenges have you faced in the sector? Can you tell us how you overcame (or are overcoming) these challenges?
During my professional career or education period, I have not faced any challenges associated with the sustainable energy sector, none that I wouldn’t face working in any other sector. One thing is missing though, and that is the presence of female role models in high-level positions. The statistical office of the European Union (Eurostat) shows that in the EU, less than one-fifth of senior executives are women; about the same percentage seen in Spain. Programmes designed with the specific purpose to support and guide women along their professional career, being in sustainable energy or somewhere else, are of primary importance to level up those spine-chilling statistics, and that is one of the reasons why I joined GWNET Mentorship Programme.
5) Why did you join the GWNET Mentorship Programme? What do you hope to achieve?
“If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, you don’t ask what seat. You just get on.” Well, as data shows, the likelihood of being offered or even getting a seat on a rocket ship is much lower if you are a woman. The GWNET Mentorship Programme provides access to informed advice from women in leadership positions and, most importantly, women that are enjoying the ride.
6) What advice would you give to women hoping to join the sustainable energy sector?
A large number of professionals are increasingly attracted to the clean energy sector and soon will outpace those in the conventional energy field. This trend will consistently continue, but the speed of change is uncertain. Women hoping to join the sustainable energy sector may face obstacles along the way, from lack of equal access to education, training, mentoring, professional networks and finance, to the glass-ceiling in companies or organisations. My advice for them is to believe in themselves and to surround themselves with people who sincerely believe in their drive towards a more democratised and sustainable energy future.
If you are interested in knowing more about GWNET’s mentoring programmes, this comprehensive article outlines our work in this area.