Wanted: Women with green minds who care and dare

Women’s participation accelerates environmental decision-making.

CEOs, entrepreneurs, engineers, managers, marketers… the world needs a strong network of women with green strategic minds. To achieve sustainable goals, the industrial sector needs to transform its energy supply, and it has been proven that women’s participation accelerates environmental decision-making.

The industrial sector needs more women with green skills and green minds, women who know that caring is a strength, not a weakness.

Caring means thinking strategically to plan for the future, to be aware of the needs around us, to consider how many resources we have and how we can manage them. Caring also means being creative, finding solutions and passionately pursuing the projects that we know will improve our lives.

Throughout human history, caring has been delegated to women as unpaid, unrecognized and undervalued work. It became an undesirable trait that defined the professional paths of women, usually in subordinate and service positions. But now the world needs leaders who care… and women care.

Green care, green decisions

“Caring” is beyond the discourse of women having it like a natural “gift”, but a set of skills that are useful for people when making decisions: Supervision, vigilance, to look after, concern and responsibility, management skills, judgment, and more.

All these interpersonal skills are absolutely necessary to create a whole network of empowered people who can drive the energy transition that society needs to tackle climate change and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We need more women to take these steps. It has already been proven that female leaders are more likely to support climate action and sustainability decisions.

Worldwide, the countries with a bigger share of women in their parliaments are more prone to ratify environmental treaties and adopt policies to address climate change. And we observe the same behavior in the private sector. According to a study by Bloomberg NEF and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, companies with a higher proportion of women on their boards are more likely to improve energy efficiency, reduce the environmental impact of their businesses and invest in renewable energy

Women play a key role as promoters of a sustainability approach in their workspaces. Women’s leadership is, usually, long-term orientated which helps taking decisions to tackle issues like waste of energy and promoting the shift to renewable energy, according to a study conducted by the University of Urbino, Italy.

Energy sufficiency and efficiency and the integration of renewable energy sources are three processes women can lead in the corporate world.

It takes guts to become truly sustainable

Perhaps female leadership would take the green revolution to a deeper level: into the engine room of the factory, the heart and guts of any business. Using renewable energy sources from the origin to make products with a low carbon footprint or to offer clean services should be relatable to their very nature. Conventionally, decision makers in the industry have not dared to move away from fossil fuels in various stages of production. Apparently, the traditional option is reliable, efficient and cheap enough.

However, climate change and the geopolitical crisis have proven the opposite. Moreover, the development of clean technologies is mature enough to compete with the highly polluting options. Maybe the renewable energy lobby is not as powerful and aggressive as the fossil fuel lobby, and leaders still lack confidence in moving away from gas, oil or coal. More than 70% of global final energy consumption in the industrial sector is for heat generation, and 95% of this is met by burning fossil fuels. We, like humanity, must care about of this data. What if women change that?

There is a wide range of solar heating technologies that complement and synergize with other renewable energy sources to become the dream team of clean heat for industrial users from almost all sectors: food and beverage, chemical, pharmaceutical, automotive, mining, etc. The options range from plastic absorbers or air heating collectors that reach the temperatures required for drying processes in the agro-industry, to high-efficiency flat plate solar thermal collectors combined with heat pumps that reliably supply up to 90 °C for various processes, to concentrating solar systems that deliver heat above 350°C.

German brewery with solar thermal collectors from AKOTEC on the facade. Picture from Enersolve.
German brewery with solar thermal collectors from AKOTEC on the facade. Picture from Enersolve.

 

The shift to the relatively unknown solar heat may seem scary and risky. But if it takes guts, female leaders who care may be the ones daring to change. Alexandra Sutu from Solar Heat Europe is one of the female leaders in the renewable energy sector pushing for a better policy landscape in the European Union. Katrin Sprenger is the CEO of AKOTEC, a leading solar thermal collector manufacturing from Germany. Marisol Oropeza is the founder of the Heat Changers, the founder of the Heat Changers, an international initiative raising awareness about the market readiness, reliability, and potential of solar heating technologies for residential, commercial and industrial users. Take 17 minutes to listen what they have to say about decarbonization with solar in Europe.

Are you one of the female leaders in the industrial sector daring to become a heat changer and use solar heat in your factory? Reach out and, together, we can figure out how to take your sustainability efforts to a deeper level. There are plenty of female and male experts in the solar energy industry who will be more than glad to connect with leaders on the demand side to design tailored-made solutions.

Growing a green web

Despite women are half of the population, worldwide, only one-third is part of the renewable energy workforce, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). According to IRENA, there are some reasons why this is the case: firstly, there are cultural and social barriers based on perceptions of gender roles that can put girls off STEM careers from a young age. Then, the lack of flexibility in the workplace can lead to women hitting the glass ceiling and finally, the lack of mentorships.

However, there is data which backs the necessity to bring more women into the world of decision making. To bring about the necessary changes in companies towards renewable energy, we need women with STEM skills, but also CEOs who are convinced of the benefits of these decisions, women marketers, women salespeople, women managers – they can all act as mentors and collectively contribute to a strengthened green network.

The future will grow out of the green minds of women who really care.

Pass on the message to a woman who cares and is making a difference!

Written by Laura Yaniz Estrada, Communications Consultant.

Have a look at our content on social media networks and other digital platforms to learn more about solar heat:

World, to the energy problem… we already have the solution!

Mundo, ante el problema de energía…  ¡ya tenemos la solución!
Mundo, ante el problema de energía… ¡ya tenemos la solución!

World, to the energy problem... we already have the solution!

There are already solutions to unstable fuel prices and increasing greenhouse gas emissions. One of them concerns more than the 70% of the final use of energy in the industrial sector.

In 2022, industry, particularly in Europe and Asia, replaced the use of gas with coal – an archaic, highly polluting fuel harmful to human health – to meet its heat and power generation needs. This decision was primarily a response to the global energy crisis caused by the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Of course, this measure had consequences and led to a significant increase in emissions caused by burning coal, which mainly contributes to climate change and pollution.

(Coal mining in Germany) | Chris Münch on Unsplash

However, there is a small glimmer of hope: against all fears, the increase in emissions from coal combustion was lower than estimated. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), renewable energies played a major role in supplying the energy sources affected by the crisis and prevented the emission of up to 550 Mt of CO2 that year.

The sun: the answer for more than 70% of energy use

Source © Solar Payback

The IEA report highlights the contribution of wind power and solar photovoltaics in preventing emissions. These two renewable energy sources were mainly used to generate electricity. Imagine what the result would have been if more renewables had been used for 70% of final energy consumption: heat.

While 26% of global industrial energy use is for electricity, the remaining 74% is for processes that require a range of different degrees of heat. Currently, almost half of this demand is met by coal as the main fuel, a third by natural gas and 15% by oil, leaving less than a tenth for renewables.

Final energy consumption for heat in the industrial sector. Source © Solar Payback

The industrial sector is missing the opportunity to use energy sources that are on-site. We forget to look over our heads by continuing to rely on outdated energy that is dependent on fossil fuels, with a volatile market and highly polluting derivatives.

Today, technology and companies in the renewable energy sector have evolved to meet the needs of the industrial sector, which can have process requirements of over 400°C. This is the other side of solar energy: solar thermal energy.

Solar energy: differences in electricity and heat

Generally speaking, solar energy is clean, inexpensive and does not need to be transported, which reduces costs and risks in the supply chain. In particular, solar thermal energy is distinguished by its efficiency: It requires proportionally less space than photovoltaic systems because it is up to three times more efficient.

Pascual Polo, General Director of the Spanish Solar Thermal Industry Association (ASIT) and Heat Changer, explains in our podcast that 4 hectares are needed to generate 2 megawatts of electricity with photovoltaics, as they are able to harness 15-20% of the sun’s energy. By contrast, only one hectare is needed to generate the same 2 megawatts (thermal) with solar thermal collectors, as this other type of solar energy can utilize 70 to 80% of the sun’s radiation.

Solar thermal energy, also known as solar heat, fulfills exactly the same function as fossil fuels: to satisfy the heat generation demand. In other words, to heat water or other fluids and even to generate steam. There are already better, sustainable and efficient options for many industrial processes. Not using them is a cost factor for the economy.

The use of solutions such as solar thermal leads to an immediate improvement in financial planning, as it is not dependent on fluctuating fuel prices determined by geopolitical and financial market situations. It also reduces costs by reducing the carbon footprint of the process and products.

Thermal energy: investing in the future

So why have companies hesitated? Optimizing processes is an important step in the internal life of any company, but it is often only an economic one.

Daniel García, CEO of Módulo Solar, has identified some of the reasons why many industries avoid this decision. The first reason is fear and uncertainty about the guarantees in terms of savings and system lifetime. But also, the question of whether it is necessary to break with the paradigm in which their finances are managed, i.e. the fuel costs that are paid monthly. And a third problem: resistance to change and trying out new technologies.

The fact is that the use of renewable energy is not yet standard anywhere in the world. Until very recently, companies were used to not worrying about energy costs.

If the data proves the importance of switching energy supply sources for the most energy-intensive processes in industry, what will it take to turn words into action?

The savings guarantee already exists, and solar thermal companies are working to provide customers the certainty they need. Energy transition is a global step, and standards are different in every country.

The savings guarantee already exists, and solar thermal companies are working to provide customers the certainty they need. Energy transition is a global step, and standards are different in every country. Daniel Garcia points out that it is important be aware of the different incentives granted by countries. For example, the costs related to the acquisition of renewable energy technology can be fully tax deductible in some countries. Others may be financing incentives, tax incentives and other types of instruments that make the change even more beneficial. A change that benefits companies and the planet. Especially companies from the food and beverage sector are using solar heat to reduce the carbon footprint as we recently elaborate on our article “Clean manufacturing with solar heat”.

Author: Laura Yaniz Estrada, Communications Consultant

Have a look at our content on social networks and other digital platforms to learn more about solar heat.

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