My role is to help multinational companies set renewable energy strategies and assist them in buying renewable energy in the most cost-effective and sustainable way. Companies are increasingly looking to set goals to use 100% renewable energy by a certain date. Usually, it’s part of a company’s wider corporate sustainability strategy. For example, we might work with a company to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 but it all really depends on their priorities.
This is my second role in the energy sector. I started my career in PR and Marketing and have spent a lot of my time creating PR strategies and helping companies measure their reputation in the press and social media. However, I moved to Swansea and this made me examine my career options. I realised I could use my transferable skills in different sectors. The combination of my experience with corporate social responsibility and strategy development meant that I was aware of the environmental and sustainability agenda. South Wales has a strong energy industry which includes wind and solar technology, LNG via Milford Haven (the UK’s largest energy port) and even tidal innovation here in Swansea.
My first role in sustainable energy was working with smaller companies to procure business electricity and gas contracts. I had jumped from one sector to another but I was focussed on strategy and development. At first, I knew nothing about renewable energy but it’s something that I’m now fascinated by. Larger companies are under pressure to be more resourceful in their energy consumption and to respond to customer demand for sustainability. I worked in that role for 5 years and then moved to Schneider in 2017.
It’s been all about the hands-on experience for me - my last qualification was a degree in English Literature at Swansea University 20 years ago. I’ve been lucky to work with, and learn from, many knowledgeable market experts in the last few years. Renewable energy is a complex and highly technical subject and, ultimately, it’s a complicated subject for the company as well. They really need consultants to help them simplify the topic, understand what would work best for them in terms of their options (e.g. price or additionality), and basically plot a route through this complicated space. Companies often have good intentions but loads of other priorities and they don’t necessarily have the resources or the expertise to do it themselves. Although I’m not traditionally a STEM type, the skills that I picked up in PR and communications have been invaluable. It’s just a different subject.
The positive news is that there are a lot of ways to get into energy consultancy and there are currently over 1000 energy consultancies in the UK in various sizes. These companies are looking for people who are customer-led, keen to help with solutions development and have an interest in sustainability. Recently there’s been a focus on increasing diversity within sustainability.
That said, there are various areas that require formal qualifications, many of my colleagues have degrees in disciplines like Environmental Science, Geology and Electrical Engineering. There’s no one set route to get into this area but it’s getting more competitive and I feel that the expectation will be for more formal qualifications in the future. Institutions are now offering Masters degrees in sustainability, for example, or postgraduate courses. Universities now offer short courses or MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) in these areas so it’s easy to learn cheaply and to see if you like the subject. I’m currently signing up to do a Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Business to formalise my learning of climate strategy and decarbonisation.