International Women’s Day provides an important moment to celebrate the fantastic women working in community energy.
Diversity within the sustainability industry has been described as “shocking”, with “jaw-dropping” levels of bias and racism. Specifically looking at gender, research by IRENA shows the renewable energy sector employs 32% women, faring slightly better than the energy sector as a whole, which employs only 22% women.
Attention needs to be placed on challenges that women face in the workforce, in particular with childcare. Government and industry both have a role to play in finding solutions.
For those in the sector already, networks such as Regen’s ReWiRE offer mentoring and support to develop women’s careers. Increasing the number of women in the boardroom is essential for providing positive role models for others, and helping to identify and remove the barriers for young female professionals. Not only that, companies with female leadership reportedly outperform those dominated by men.
With all that in mind, we cast a spotlight on 4 inspiring stories from women working in the community energy sector.
Kayla Ente MBE – CEO and founder of Brighton and Hove Energy Services Cooperative
From a very young age, Kayla had a deep connection with nature, and a desire to protect it. After working in several roles, she decided that supporting the renewables sector would allow her to make real change for the environment. Using her accountancy training and experience, she sought finance roles within green energy firms. But something wasn’t quite right for Kayla. The standard business model treats energy a commodity, with financial returns. Kayla felt that the model should consider all the customer’s needs and interactions with energy, from efficiency measures to community ownership. In 2012, she set up BHESCo, an innovative community energy cooperative that saves customers on their bills whilst reducing CO2 emissions. Read more about Kayla’s inspiring work here.
“What I love about community energy is that it provides an opportunity for people from different backgrounds to come together and create genuine positive change. By bringing along their unique passion and directing that towards decarbonising their communities, local residents can push forwards our transformation to clean, affordable energy – from the grassroots upwards.” – Kayla Ente MBE
Emily Braham – Head of Strategy and Operations at Energiesprong
The UK has notoriously leaky homes that are expensive to heat and wasteful of energy. Over the past 16 years Emily Braham has made it her career focus to tackle this. With extensive qualifications in retrofit, she has been involved in community projects to better insulate social housing and provide greener homes that reduce energy bills for residents. At Energiesprong UK, Emily is part of a team aiming to upgrade homes at scale in the UK, using an innovative model that is paid for by the energy and maintenance savings.
Hear more about Emily’s career path in this Q&A.
“We need to transform the retrofit industry so it’s no longer thought of as just a construction-based industry. The sector is crying out for some young, fresh thinking from a more diverse group of people with a wide range of skills. It’s had a bit of a branding issue, but it really is an industry with an exciting future where you can help save the planet and change people’s lives for the better.” – Emily Braham
Louise Daniels – Head of Communications & Marketing at Thrive Renewables
Louise has been involved in socially responsible business for over 10 years. In her career she has paired up her passion for renewable energy with her brilliant PR and Marketing skills, taking on communications roles in organisations such as Good Energy, Mongoose Energy and more recently at Thrive Renewables. In her current role, Louise is responsible for managing communication with all external stakeholders including shareholders, partners, the industry and local communities. Outside her day job, Louise sits on the board of Bath and West Community Energy, helping steer this brilliant community benefit society in the delivery of locally owned renewable energy.
“I would encourage women coming into the renewable energy sector to follow their heart and choose an organisation that truly reflects their personal values” – Louise Daniels
Afsheen Kabir Rashid MBE – CEO at Repowering London
Afsheen wears many hats, and all of them are green! She has over 10 years working in the community energy sector delivering brilliant initiatives to various London boroughs. She spearheaded Lambeth Council’s Community Energy Programme, and played a key role in setting up the Muslim Women’s Collective in Tower Hamlets, seeking to empower women to get involved in sustainability issues locally. Today she leads the Repowering team to develop renewable energy projects in London. She’s also chair of Community Energy England and a trustee on the board of Friends of the Earth.
Find out more about Afsheen and the Repowering London team here: https://www.repowering.org.uk/our-team/
Ongoing challenges with gender bias makes International Women’s Day as important as ever. At Bristol Energy Coop, we recognise the importance of representation on our board and in our team, and know that there is much more to be done.
If you’ve enjoyed hearing from the women in renewables, we highly recommend listening to the Regen ReWiRE podcast, Women Like Me .