WHERE ARE THE WOMEN IN RENEWABLE ENERGY?

ACT’s second large-scale wind auction and the release of a report outlining innovative benefit sharing mechanisms in the wind industry were a few of the exciting developments to come out of the summit. 

The summit oscillated between a collective sense of renewal following the resolution of the Renewable Energy Target (RET), and a recognition that the sector continues to face challenges – particularly on the back of the Abbott Government’s directive that the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) stop investing in large-scale solar and wind.

Occurring in a very different climate to a year ago, lively debates and discussions around wind, solar, storage and the grid as well as networking took place within the confines of Hilton Sydney.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) kickstarted the summit with a commitment to provide $80–$100 million to support approximately 200 MW in large-scale solar projects. 

Building on its highly successful first large-scale wind auction, ACT Environment Minister Simon Corbell announced that the state would run a second large-scale wind auction towards the end of this year. More details have been released; turn to page 9 to read more.

Further, a new Ernst and Young report – commissioned by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage – was launched at the summit, outlining new and innovative ways to share the benefits of wind farms more broadly among the community. Turn to page 72 to read our profile of NSW Renewable Energy Advocate Amy Kean, who discussed the report at the summit.

Acknowledging energy storage as a huge growth market, the Clean Energy Council dedicated its first standalone stream to the topic. Other streams featured detailed discussions on the grid, as well as new finance and business models for wind and solar.

At the summit’s Gala Dinner, the winners of the Clean Energy Council Industry Awards were announced. Windlab took out the Community Engagement Award for its community ownership program at the Coonooer Bridge Wind Farm in Victoria, while Carnegie Wave Energy won the Innovation Award for its CETO technology.

WHERE ARE THE WOMEN IN RENEWABLE ENERGY?

One of the most positive developments to come out of this year’s summit was the inaugural Women in Renewables lunch.

Of the 81 presenters throughout the two days of the summit, only seven were women – a startling eight per cent. Recognising that equitable gender representation is a problem, the CEC held the lunch on day two of the summit. Packed to the rafters with women and several men, the lunch was convivial and enlightening.

A panel shared their experiences and insights on gender issues in the sector. Panellists were:

  • Chloe Munro, Chair and Chief Executive of the Clean Energy Regulator (CER)
  • Meg McDonald, Chief Operating Officer at the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC)
  • Rachel Watson, General Manager of Pacific Hydro and CEC board member
  • Chris Judd, Chief Executive and Managing Director of Senvion

Alicia Webb, Senior Policy Advisor at the CEC, organised and chaired the session. Ms Webb said she was pleasantly surprised by how quickly the event booked out.

The level of enthusiasm in the room shows that our industry is ready to tackle the issue of gender diversity at every level of our respective businesses.

“The panel members had some fascinating insights to share, and I’m excited to work with the women of the renewables industry to develop more events and initiatives.”

Some of the key insights from the session were:

  • There needs to be an industry mentoring program for women
  • Visibility of women in the sector is key to improving equity
  • Terminology in workplace policies needs to be changed to remove stereotyping i.e. maternity leave
  • Networking, mentoring and sponsorship are essential
  • Women need to be trained to develop negotiation skills to address pay gap
  • Companies should invest in women’s technical, regulatory and commercial skills
  • Women should share their successes and challenges with other women
  • Quotas should be implemented on conference panels
  • Women should be profiled in industry publications and other media.

A working group will be established and will feature a few women from each capital city. Armed with clear strategies on how to achieve a much more balanced representation of women at all levels of the clean energy sector, the debut initiative has set the wheels in motion for change.

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