Bronwyn Sutton, a member of Women in Renewables in Scotland, is concerned about the relatively low number of women in energy in general, and renewables in particular. Here she explains how she became involved in renewables.
See also: Not enough POWERful women in Scottish energy http://goo.gl/yagkV5
Tell us about your role.
I am a consultant at Sgurr Energy, a Glasgow based consultancy focused entirely on renewables. For over a decade I have worked in UK infrastructure, with the last six years spent in on- and offshore wind. In this time I have acted in a due diligence capacity for institutional and private investors on a variety of major infrastructure projects, including seven offshore wind projects during development and construction phases. I am a member of WiRES and Women on Boards.
My role is in due diligence; coordinating teams to identify technical risks to wind projects on behalf of potential lenders and investors. We then work with the developer and investor to mitigate each risk so that the project can be financed or acquired, as the case may be.
What is the most exciting part of your job?
I get a kick out of site visits, particularly during construction. Seeing successful projects emerge from a stack of contracts and heavy kit in action is a real highlight.
Due to the number of projects at SgurrEnergy, from all regions, technologies and phases, we also get a great view across the industry which is one of the things that attracted me to the company in the first place. We work with a large number of developers and lenders which gives unique insight into different approaches and solutions to the technical challenges faced by the wind industry.
Looking back, I’m particularly proud of supporting Masdar’s investment in London Array, which closed in 2013 following a complex due diligence process running in parallel with construction.
How did you come to be in the job you are currently in?
On arrival in the UK in 2004 I worked in infrastructure due diligence before moving into a commercial manager role with a wind developer. After several years I actively targeted SgurrEnergy because of the breadth of projects and the opportunity to be involved during development, construction and operation. In terms of training, I studied Industrial Design, which is not an obvious route into renewables but the technical grounding and applied problem solving aspects have proven useful.
What attracted you to work in the renewable energy sector?
I grew up off-grid in Australia and have been interested in renewable energy ever since my dad designed and built the solar system that powered my childhood home. I know first-hand that a family can live comfortably on power from the sun and I love working in career that helps make renewable energy at scale a reality.
What challenges have you encountered?
Initially I didn’t pursue a career in the renewables industry, partly because there wasn’t one in Australia at the time. Things have changed there a little but it doesn’t compare with the support, investment and pace of renewables here in Europe. Navigating the corporate world was not instinctive but I’ve had some good advice (and hard lessons) along the way.
What could increase the representation of women in the renewable energy sector?
My concern is not so much the representation of women in the sector but the distribution of women up the ladder. Recent surveys indicate women make up just under 30% of the industry; however the proportion of women in senior positions is considerably lower. Women are entering renewables but aren’t staying on or moving up, so I would put the focus on what is preventing women from getting into senior positions. WiRES and Women on Boards are both excellent initiatives to help build momentum in this way.
What advice would you give to other women in renewables?
Renewables is a vibrant industry with a lot of passionate people who enjoy their jobs. As a relatively young industry, there are still opportunities to use transferrable skills from other sectors and succeed in the sector. My advice is to put yourself out there and apply for the roles; you almost certainly have more to offer than you give yourself credit for.