Q&A: Ghada Rahal, Senior Engineer – Sustainability, Enova by Veolia
Published 19th April 2022
By Kamogelo Motse, Research Associate, Climate Council
Earlier this month, the Climate Council's Kamogelo Motse sat down with Ghada Rahal, Senior Engineer – Sustainability at Enova by Veolia. Ghada took the time to speak with Kamo about her work in the clean energy sector, the importance of highlighting women in the sector and how important women are to advancing the energy transition. We ended off the Q&A with Ghada giving advice to young women who would want to pursue a career in sustainable energy. Enjoy the interview!
What does your role entail?
I am a Senior Engineer – Sustainability. Currently, I work in the fields of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainability. This includes mainly the management of solar projects and energy performance contracts.
When getting your mechanical engineering degree, did you always want to pave your career into energy and specifically green energy?
No, I did not have awareness of renewable energy technologies when I was studying at university. I studied classic mechanical engineering; I fell into the renewable energy space by pure coincidence.
After university I got hired as an energy engineer in a small energy company in Lebanon, this company was one of the first that brought solar energy projects to Lebanon. I entered the company with zero clue about photovoltaics or solar and I got training on solar energy and therefore started working on the implementation of mainly residential solar projects. Here I started in this field and found my passion for green energy.
What made you want to get your masters in energy studies and how has that helped your career now?
After having gained work experience, and fully driven to work in the energy sector, I decided to join the master’s program of Energy Studies at the American University of Beirut. I wanted to grow my knowledge and dig deeper into the energy sector from different angles of technical studies, economic and financial aspects, and most important policies.
I wanted to learn more about how countries were developing policies and how the government was implementing regulations. Choosing this program provided a holistic approach to the energy sector.
You are a mentee at Regen’s Women in Renewable Energy (ReWiRE) Mentoring Programme, can you tell us more about the network and how it has helped you as a woman with a passion in clean energy?
ReWiRE is an amazing network. I was so lucky to be part of it over the past year. My mentor is extraordinary, Mr. Randolph Brazier. My mentorship helped me a lot; Randolph pushed me to get out of my comfort zone, to step ahead in my career choices. We worked mainly on my leadership skills and how to be a leader, not a woman leader, but how to be a leader in the energy field. It has helped a lot to have someone who knows the field very well to give their insights.
Why do you think it is important to highlight women in energy?
Sadly, the energy sector remains one of the least gender-diverse sectors. In the past decade, the energy sector attracted more women but still not enough. However, most of the roles women occupy in the energy field are administrative, and very few are technical positions. We know that the lack of diversity, in general, is because fewer women choose to enroll in STEM and engineering studies, which are the main professions needed in this sector.
Energy transition must not only accelerate the rise of clean energy technology but the participation of women in this sector also. Therefore, we need more initiatives that push women to lead and support the energy transition journey.
Companies must commit to a more active search for women talents through partnerships with more organizations and universities. If we want a rapid and fair transition, the inclusion of women is a must.
Governments’ policies play a big role in filling the gender gap in the energy sector by encouraging young women to study in STEM and especially engineering programs at an early age.
What do you think about the clean energy space in the Middle East, is there a lot of innovation coming from there?
The MENA region is known to be a keystone in the energy transition because the region will be heavily affected by climate change. Governments are trying to have initiatives in their national programs to foster energy projects, support the private sector and have investments in energy projects whether it’s wind, solar, or hydrogen.
What do you think is the biggest challenge in the industry currently?
Challenges are more pressing now in the energy sector because the process of transformation and clean energy transition will require innovative solutions in business models that ensure greater participation of women and develop policy recommendations that narrow the present gender gap. Without that, the energy transition will be slow.
Are there any clean energy technologies that you have your eye on?
Green hydrogen is what I have an eye on. It is very new in the MENA region and we are reading a lot of articles and seeing governments implementing green hydrogen strategies in their international plans.
What is the best advice you can give to young women aspiring to move into a career in sustainable energy?
We need more women to get on board, get out of their comfort zone and take the extra step. Governments have started having policies and recommendations that ensure women participation in energy programs. Companies in the private sector are having inclusive recruitment processes and are headhunting women. Private companies are creating quotas for women to ensure that women are in leadership positions in their companies and not just administrative positions. The future is healthier, brighter and more sustainable in a balanced diversified world.
To read more about Enova by Veolia, click here.
Ghada's background, in her own words:
First and foremost, I am an Energy Warrior. With a growing passion for green energy, I have paved a devoted career roadway towards a greener sustainable future.
With my Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Lebanese University – Faculty of Engineering and Master’s Degree in Energy Studies from the American University of Beirut (AUB), and throughout my extended work experience as a Senior Engineer managing several projects in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainability with a focus on solar and energy performance contracts in the MENA region, I bring the analytical skills along with the technical and quantitative skill set crucial to the development of both private and public projects and programs in the energy sector. In addition, I am a Certified Energy Manager (CEM®) by the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) and LEED® Green Associate by USGBC.
On another note, I am a hardcore Chelsea fan and currently, I am one of the admins of the Chelsea Football Fan Club in Lebanon. For me, football is more than just a game!
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