Now Reading
Forging a Sustainable Future: Education, Inclusion, and Empowerment in the Power Systems Industry

Forging a Sustainable Future: Education, Inclusion, and Empowerment in the Power Systems Industry

Expert opinion by Liz Palmera-Nunez, Professional Electrical Engineer

Liz Palmera-Nunez is a trailblazing engineer who has defied odds as an immigrant, person of color, and female in a traditionally male-dominated field. With a firm belief in equal opportunities, she has diligently worked her way to success. Currently the Manager of Asset Management at Newfoundland Power, Liz boasts over a decade of experience in the electric utility sector. Her leadership has driven multi-million-dollar projects and operational enhancements across transmission and distribution systems. An active member of professional organizations, she has championed diversity and inclusion while serving on boards and sharing her
journey as a mentor. Liz’s story exemplifies the value of diversity and underscores the critical need for representation in shaping industries.

Empowering Women and Minorities in the Power Industry

Empowering and including women and minorities in the power system industry offers a number of benefits for the industry as a whole which go beyond just diversity and representation. It encourages innovation, enhances problem-solving capabilities and creates a more inclusive and equitable work environment.

Embracing diversity in this industry brings together individuals with unique perspectives and experiences. Women and minorities often approach challenges differently, leading to a broader range of ideas and innovative solutions. Inclusive teams can analyze problems from various angles which encourages creativity and sparks improvements in technology and operations. Collaborating with people from various backgrounds encourages critical thinking and results in better decision-making.

Creating an inclusive work environment in the power systems industry also helps retain talented professionals and attract new talent. When women and minorities feel valued and respected, they are more likely to remain committed to their careers in the field and with their employers.

As a female minority electric utility engineer, I have encountered a number of challenges and breakthroughs in my life and my career journey. My determination to succeed in the power systems industry and break down barriers inspired me to become a role model and mentor to other women in this industry. Having to navigate through the underrepresentation of women in engineering, I understand the importance of empowerment and support. Through mentorship, I aim to provide guidance to female engineers to grow in this industry as well as encourage aspiring female engineers to pursue this industry. I advocate for more women to join this industry by emphasizing the value of diverse perspectives and the positive impact of gender balance in driving innovation and sustainability. As a result of my efforts, I have been given opportunities to share my story through different mediums to encourage, attract, and retain additional women and minorities to further diversify and strengthen the power systems industry as a whole.

Embracing diversity and inclusion is not only the right thing to do but also a strategic advantage that drives progress in the industry and benefits the world as a whole.

Education, Inclusion, and Sustainability in the Power System Industry

Education on inclusion and climate change plays an important role in shaping the future of the power system industry and the world. The complexity of climate change demands comprehensive and innovative solutions; therefore, education is critical in driving progress. As energy is part of almost every aspect of our lives from cooking to transportation and beyond; it becomes evident that electrifying the economy and decarbonizing the grid are essential steps in addressing climate change and achieving sustainability.

Climate change presents multifaceted challenges with no simple or one-size-fits-all solution. Education equips individuals with the knowledge and skills to understand the complexities of climate change, the impact of human activities on the environment and the urgency to take action. Inclusion in education ensures that diverse perspectives contribute to addressing these global challenges effectively.

The transition to a more sustainable power system industry involves electrifying the economy and decarbonizing the grid. Adopting renewable energy sources, improving energy efficiency, and integrating smart technologies are important steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and minimize environmental impacts.

Collaborative efforts from governments, businesses, communities, and individuals are necessary for meaningful change. Bottom-up approaches empower citizens to take action, implementing sustainable practices in their daily lives and influencing local policies

Liz Palmera-Nunez

The approach to achieving sustainability can be both bottom-up and top-down, with no absolute right or wrong way. Collaborative efforts from governments, businesses, communities, and individuals are necessary for meaningful change. Bottom-up approaches empower citizens to take action, implementing sustainable practices in their daily lives and influencing local policies. At the same, top-down approaches, driven by government regulations and international agreements provide a framework for large-scale systemic changes. Education helps bridge these approaches, creating synergies and enhancing their combined impact.

Vision for a Better Future and Citizen’s Role

Climate change is a global problem that affects us all but it is important to note that its consequences are not evenly distributed. Developing countries and marginalized communities often bear the most severe effects despite contributing the least to the problem. They also have minimal avenues to voice their perspective.

Addressing these inequities in decision-making is important to achieving climate justice. It requires recognizing the historical and systemic factors that contribute to such disparities, and actively working towards more inclusive and fair approaches to climate policy.

Supporting affected countries through financial assistance and technology transfer to adopt sustainable practices, like green energy, is a step in the right direction. To really tackle this complex problem, we need cooperation, empathy and collaboration among nations to find comprehensive solutions that consider the needs and vulnerabilities of all communities.

Education and awareness play an important role as well. By acknowledging climate change as a pressing issue and understanding its uneven impacts, citizens can collectively work towards more effective and inclusive climate action. Together, we can strive for a more equitable and sustainable future for all.

The power systems industry is at a crucial point in its evolution. My vision for a better future of this industry is a future where individual global citizens become the heart of the energy transition. Inclusivity, education, and sustainability will serve as the guiding principles that will drive this vision forward.

In order to achieve this, it is important for the grid to shift from a linear and central grid, characterized by the unidirectional flow of energy from source to load, to a decentralized and bidirectional grid. This interconnected grid envisions each individual as an active participant, contributing to energy generation, management and conservation. For example, through installing solar PVs, fuel switching for heating/transportation, implementing smart connected devices, and managing energy usage, everyone can play a fundamental role in driving mass adoption. This vision will need a transformational change in user behavior; therefore, education becomes the critical first step towards achieving this transformation.

  • Inclusive Energy Transition

Every citizen is empowered to participate actively in the energy transition. Energy accessibility is a basic human right and inclusivity ensures that disadvantaged communities are not left behind as they pursuit their sustainable future. Governments, utilities, and stakeholders will have to collaborate to design policies and programs that make renewable energy technologies, such as solar PVs, accessible and affordable to all socioeconomic backgrounds. Incentives, subsidies and initiatives can help foster a sense of ownership and responsibility among citizens.

  • Education – Empowering Citizens for Change

Every citizen is empowered, through education, to embrace sustainable practices and take ownership of their energy consumption. A comprehensive educational approach involves not only formal learning in schools but also public awareness campaigns, workshops, and community engagement programs. Citizens must be informed about the benefits of renewable energy, the potential of decentralized power systems, and the positive impact of individual actions on the environment. Educational institutions can integrate renewable energy concepts into their curriculums in order to inspire the next generation to become advocates of sustainability. Also, technological literacy plays an important role in the adoption of smart connected devices which will enable citizens to optimize their energy usage effectively. By fostering a culture of continuous learning, citizens can make informed decisions that contribute to a greener and more sustainable future.

  • Sustainability at the Core

A sustainable power systems industry not only addresses environmental concerns but also ensures long-term energy reliability and affordability. Decentralization and bidirectional grids promote energy resilience and reduces our dependence on fossil fuels; therefore, mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and combating climate change. By transitioning towards renewable energy sources such as solar PVs, citizens become active participants in reducing their carbon footprint, driving the industry towards a cleaner and greener path.

Together, we can build a future where citizens lead the way towards a cleaner and brighter energy landscape for generations to come.

Find more inspirational interviews and articles in our September 2023 issue of Women in Power Systems.