Leadership for the energy transition: exploring a modular programme to advance women’s involvement in the energy sector

Published by Lydia Hirst on May 14th 2022, 9:09am

Energy industry stalwart Lydia Hirst and HR expert Philippa Webster have developed a seven-part modular Pop-up Powerhour ™ programme to help advance women’s leadership skills in the energy sector.

Back in November 2021, Brooke Masters of the FT said that: “Lumbering oil companies have never seemed like ideal hotbeds of innovation”.

In order to balance growing energy demand with NetZero 2050 commitments, leaders in the sector are facing unparalleled strategic challenges.

Since then, we have seen the Russian attack on Ukraine and have seen geopolitical stresses and severe repercussions affecting the industry short, medium and long-term. Therefore, it is more important than ever to offer a programme that helps support leadership in the energy sector. Our modular leadership programme addresses the energy transition, including NetZero by 2050 and the future of fossil fuels and, importantly, the strategic challenges for leaders.

Leadership in the energy transition

The acronym VUCA - which stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity - has been applied to the huge challenges facing leaders navigating the unpredictability of future supply and demand for global energy. Even before the recent geopolitical turmoil, they were faced with the desire to comply with COP26 NetZero demands, whilst continuing to keep the lights on and the economies moving. The pressures are great and decision-making difficult.

In May 2021, the International Energy Agency [IEA] stated that “women in senior management roles at energy firms remains stubbornly low”, yet the research shows that having diverse teams improves decision-making and yields better outcomes.

In order to help address this, we have developed a seven-part modular Pop-up Powerhour ™ programme to help advance women’s leadership skills in the energy sector. This, offers leaders the opportunity to upskill in the use of strategy and strategic planning tools and techniques. We welcome both men and women on the programme, to encourage them to build diverse teams to address these complex questions and develop sustainable strategies to steer their organisations through turbulent times.

NetZero by 2050

At the end of COP26 [November 2021], there was a general view that some progress had been achieved in setting and agreeing NetZero targets. In spite of this, the IEA claimed that a significant mismatch exists between the pledges made by governments and the policies needed to back them up. Furthermore, almost half of all the new energy technologies needed to deliver NetZero by 2050 have not yet been commercialised.

To assist leaders in the public and private sectors with the challenges of delivering NetZero by 2050, the IEA published a roadmap for the global energy sector.

Energy intensity is defined as the amount of energy needed to generate a unit of GDP. At the time of writing, the IEA predicted an annual four per cent fall in energy intensity between 2020 and 2030 in spite of predictions of growing world population and corresponding growth in global GDP. Lower energy consumption would be achieved by a mix of electrification, greater efficiencies in energy and materials, behavioural changes to reduce energy demand and a reduction in use of traditional bioenergy, such as biomass for cooking in inefficient stoves. Beyond 2030 there will be a slow-down in the decline in energy intensity due to a reduction in efficiencies [which would largely have been delivered]. Ongoing electrification is anticipated, so overall a flattening in energy consumption is forecast. By 2050 energy demand is expected to end up at about 2010 levels, with anticipated greening of energy sources.

The future of fossil fuels

The chart also shows that the consumption of fossil fuels is forecast to reduce from around 80 per cent in 2019 to around 20 per cent of total global energy consumption by 2050, largely replaced by renewables and nuclear. According to the IEA, this will result in the energy sector ceasing emissions of CO2 by 2050. The use of fossil fuels will shift from burning fuels to:

- Use in chemicals feedstocks [although plastics recycling will increase from 15 per cent in 2020 to 55 per cent in 2050]

- The production of hydrogen with CCUS [Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage]; and to avoid stranded assets by maximising use of “young” coal and natural gas facilities, with CCUS

- Sectors where alternatives to fossil fuels are difficult to source such as in aviation

The strategic challenge for leaders

“Petroleum products are ubiquitous. They go into all aspects of our lives. We drive on tarmac, wear fleece sweaters and use computer screens and cell phones. You can’t just snap your fingers and take that away”, says Marcus Risanger, a 28-year-old petroleum engineer at Ridge, a well consultancy in Norway.

As a result of the sanctions imposed on Russia, due to recent events in Ukraine, leaders of oil and gas companies are now faced with “Managing in Extreme Uncertainty” in the short-term, overlaid on the challenges of transition to 2050. The McKinsey article with said title, specifies that the duration and magnitude of crises impact critically on levels of uncertainty facing managers, for instance a global, long-lasting event results in greater uncertainty than one affecting only a region or industry sector. Uncertainty demands that decision makers adopt new tools and approaches for strategising and steering organisations. There is a need to challenge senior management’s base assumptions, overcome biases, avoid analysis paralysis as well as recognising the human challenges of burn out and exhaustion.

A confluence of long-term challenges of meeting NetZero by 2050, delivering secure energy across the globe and managing the current crisis present great challenges to those driving and implementing strategies. In the energy sector, the differences between oil majors and national oil companies [NOCs] will be further exacerbated by the different stakeholder demands.

Pop-up Powerhours™ offer the opportunity for free and frank debate, which may not provide easy solutions but will help leaders to explore new methodologies in order to navigate in these troubled times. We particularly welcome women in middle and senior management positions, to further their development and encourage their voices to be heard.

For further information contact Lydia Hirst or Philippa Webster by email via lydia@lhconsulting.uk.com or philippa@interpersonnelonline.com.

Alternatively, Lydia Hirst can be reached by phone at +44 (0)7958445902 and Philippa Webster can be reached on +44 (0)7710990058.

Further information on this modular programme can also be found here.

Photo by Nuno Marques on Unsplash

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Authored By

Lydia Hirst
Director at LEH Consulting Ltd
May 14th 2022, 9:09am

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