Variety of Opportunities for Next-Gen Energy Workforce Focus of Women in Power Luncheon

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By Jennifer Delony

About 50 people gathered on Dec. 5 at the Women in Power luncheon during POWER-GEN International in Las Vegas to hear the Woman of the Year and other finalists discuss their roles in affecting change in the energy industry, and the variety of opportunities in energy for the next generation of leaders.

Speaking during the luncheon, Ethiopia Electric Power CEO Azeb Asnake, winner of the 2017 Power Generation Woman of the Year award, acknowledged the significant energy demand that is growing in Ethiopia and the work her company is doing to meet it. As CEO, Azeb is in charge of construction and operation of Ethiopia Electric Power’s power plants and power distribution network.

She said that most of the company’s generation comes from hydroelectric power, but a recent drought demonstrated the need to diversify the energy supply. Asnake is leading the company in growing a fleet of generation, including wind and solar resources, that will provide 8,000 MW of new capacity for the country.

Reflecting on the rewards of their work during a panel discussion at the luncheon, Asnake, and Woman of the Year finalists Pamela Rauch, VP, External Affairs and Economic Development, Florida Power and Light; and Caroline Winn, Chief Operating Office, SDG&E, recognized the importance of workforce diversity and the value inherent in empowering and encouraging today’s younger generation.

Rauch said that there are many new opportunities in the energy industry for young workers — both men and women.

“There are jobs that didn’t exist five years ago, especially on the tech side,” she said.

Winn agreed, noting that SDG&E didn’t have meteorologists in the company 10 years ago, but now they have meteorologists performing critical work for the utility. She said, for example, they support fire science, which delivers significant value for a utility operating in a state with a high rate of wild fires.

Asnake emphasized the importance of education, not only in enabling her career, but in ensuring new members of the energy workforce have access to opportunities in a range of fields.

All three panelists highlighted the importance of communication in carrying out a mission and vision for their companies.

Winn said that, at SDG&E, the utility uses a multidimensional, disciplined approach to communicate mission and vision.

“We challenge people to ask what they’ve done to support the vision,” Winn said, adding that the company works to make the vision easy to understand so employees know how they can contribute to it.

Asnake said that managers must be “meticulous” when they communicate the ideas behind a company vision.

And Rauch added that “it starts with how you build and connect with your team,” noting that, at the end of the day, “it’s a long-term process to build trust” with employees.

They must “own the vision” as much as management, she said.

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