Women in Energy: In conversation with Dr. Valentina Dedi on the challenges of energy transition

28 Mar 2024
Women in Energy: In conversation with Dr. Valentina Dedi on the challenges of energy transition

While urgent and imperative, transitioning to cleaner energy sources comes with big hurdles. A leading economist with an extensive background in energy sector consulting, Dr. Valentina Dedi knows how crucial it is to drive strategic decisions among entities striving to uphold their climate commitments.

Apart from being the Lead Economic Advisor at Consulting International, KBR, she is the Vice President at Access for Women in Energy, highlighting her dedication to championing a shift toward a sustainable and inclusive future.

 

In this interview, Dr. Dedi comments on the current state of the energy market and the obstacles traditional energy companies face as they embrace a greener tomorrow. She also discusses the importance of gender inclusion within the industry.

With your extensive background as an economist specializing in oil and gas, how do you view the current state of the global energy market? 

Over the past few years, governments around the world have made historic commitments to tackle climate change and deliver net-zero emissions by mid-century. There is increasing pressure to move away from today’s state of energy supply, which relies on fossil fuels for more than 80%, to a new state of energy provision driven by greener sources. Several technologies have attracted excitement and could drive the energy transformation in the years ahead, including solar, wind, sustainable fuels, hydrogen/ammonia, and carbon capture and storage (CCS). Although today’s energy transition is driven by a change in preferences rather than economics, there seems to be a strong appetite among investors and companies to gain a competitive advantage by funding clean energy projects.

Looking ahead, how do you envision the landscape of global energy markets evolving, particularly with the increasing emphasis on decarbonization and energy efficiency?

 

All these shifts in policies, preferences, and technological developments are expected to lead to a different, more diversified, and sustainable energy system over the next two to three decades, with the next decade being crucial in setting the pace for this transformation. However, we should expect policy complexities and geopolitical and market uncertainties to remain challenges, affecting the feasibility of some energy transition projects and their timelines. Energy security and affordability will also play their role, as energy will continue to drive global economic prosperity and help populations, especially in emerging and developing countries, increase their living standards.

You’ve been part of several energy transition projects. What challenges do traditional energy companies face during this transition? How can businesses overcome such hurdles?

Traditional energy companies seem to be in a conflict between maintaining current profitability and ensuring future sustainability by becoming more involved in energy transition initiatives. Accessing capital for investments in traditional oil and gas projects has become increasingly challenging as banks and asset managers shift away from financing fossil fuels. This requires businesses to incorporate Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors, including cleaner energy goals, into their strategies.

 

The increased attention on ESG from shareholders has added significant pressure to oil and gas companies whose business models heavily rely on access to capital. Simultaneously, shareholders are unlikely to accept a drop in share value due to the energy transition. Of course, the degree of challenge in securing the required capital varies depending on regional differences in policies and regulations. For example, European investors are generally stricter than their North American counterparts.

 

Energy transition projects also tend to require traditional energy companies to pivot and change their strategy with respect to operations and logistics.

 

Energy transition, though, does not only imply a shift toward cleaner energy sources, but it is also about decarbonizing existing assets and sectors. Energy security and affordability will have to be balanced along with sustainability commitments. As such, the oil and gas industry will still hold a significant share of the energy supply mix, helping drive global economic growth, and especially the economic prosperity of the developing and emerging part of the world.

To this extent, traditional companies can play a significant role when it comes to the decarbonization of the oil & gas and power industry, to name a few. However, decarbonization efforts come at a significant cost to the developer/operator, which may render them uncompetitive on a global scale. This is especially so in regions where policies, regulations, and/or financial incentives are not in place to deter high-carbon producers of fuel or power.

What initiatives have you found most effective in promoting gender inclusion within the traditionally male-dominated energy sector?

The energy industry is faced with an unprecedented scale of changes caused by ambitious climate commitments as the sector advances its transition to a low-carbon economy. These require a drastic response from corporations to thrive in today’s fast-changing world, including their ability to navigate an increasingly competitive employment market and engage the right talent. With respect to the latter, creating an equitable environment for women and fostering gender parity in leadership positions will be key not only from a business perspective but also from a national point of view, as governments aim to deliver a just energy transition that will be sustainable and inclusive.

 

While achieving greater gender balance becomes imperative in today’s global energy transformation, unfortunately, this cannot be achieved overnight due to the great imbalance existing today. Fortunately, though, there is an ever-increasing number of strategies and initiatives that corporations and governments can start working on and implementing to promote a future of work for women.

 

To name a few, these can include creating and adopting transparent policies that ensure gender diversity, guarantee equal pay for equal work, and provide equal opportunities for promotion. Through mentoring programs and leadership training and coaching, gender diversity should also be encouraged on a leadership level, too. Facilitating work attachment and reintegration is also key. Governments, for example, could sponsor return-to-work or career training programs that address motherhood or career break penalties and strengthen women's attachment to the labor market.

 

Personally, I have found that awareness-raising campaigns that challenge or erode traditional stereotypes of the energy sector can be very impactful, promoting women's access to the industry, which has a reputation for being a world for men.

 

At Access for Women in Energy, one of the oldest groups established, we aim to raise awareness and promote the development of women in the energy industry globally. To do so, we embark on several initiatives, including providing career talks and advice, training support, and conference support by helping leading conference organizers increase the participation of women at their events by tapping into our extensive network of female energy experts. However, we always engage men in the conversation, as we truly believe they should be involved in the process of promoting gender equality.

 

Dr. Valentina Dedi, among other esteemed industry figures, will be speaking at Middle East Energy. The region’s most anticipated energy event is all set to be back with its 49th edition, running from the 16th to the 18th of April 2024 at Dubai World Trade Centre.

 

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