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In conversation with the successful Chloe Munro Scholarship 2021 recipients, who will all be undertaking a leadership course delivered by Education Provider, Women & Leadership Australia.

Margarida P

Margarida Pimentel
Group Manager Victorian Connections
Australian Energy Market Operator

Tell us a bit about yourself personally and professionally

From the moment I was in high school I knew that I wanted to do something that would enhance the way we live today. The question was, what would that be? I loved everything – reading, writing, solving technical problems, contributing to solving social dilemmas, coordinating different activities to deliver a product, workshopping solutions and pathways with others, and creating something tangible from a mere idea.

Engineering – solving problems - gave me the opportunity to pursue a career that allowed me to do all these things, without necessarily having to choose between them. I loved it!

From the moment I started my career, I was smack bang in energy. The market had just begun to decentralise in Victoria, and I was able to be part of the initial setup of the National Energy Market. This gave me the opportunity to do just about anything I was interested in – SCADA systems, market modelling, generator connections, policy and market development, electricity and gas planning, and supply and demand forecasting.

The key thing I love is the continual opportunity for change and innovation. We need to read the signals, listen and adapt. Markets, services, customer frameworks, renewable energy and distributed energy – all these things matter. It gives us flexibility and space to develop new approaches, create industry processes to bring ideas together, and build teams that can take everyone’s ideas and make them tangible.

The other thing I love is the people – our sense of purpose, our desire to deliver value, and our common motivation to make a positive impact.

On a personal level, I love to create tangible products that are both functional and beautiful from raw products and ideas. Sewing is my favourite space. I also love to read and watch classic movies, with Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn being two of my true favourite actors. My husband and I are both in the energy industry, so we do a lot of constructive debating in our household. It keeps me grounded, to say the least!

What was your pathway into the renewable energy industry?

I started in renewable energy when I first led the generator connections space in NEMMCO (around 2005). Back then, it was a very small operation, with only about 50 projects across the NEM. The Federal Government had announced a renewable energy target, and everyone was excited about building wind farms. Although the reality was that we didn’t really have any idea about how to integrate them – lots of them were old DFIG type generators, not even inverter based. And then, we had an election, policies shifted and all the hype died down. This happened again about 5 years later, giving me the chance to facilitate connections from a network perspective.

During the stops and starts I had a chance to do some consulting at ACIL Allen and then focus in on and learn about distributed energy through work with AusNet Services, Mondo, AEMO and ARENA to develop Project Edge – a project focused on the integration and coordination of distributed energy. This allowed me to work much more closely with end use customers.

More recently, I’ve led the connection of projects to the Victorian transmission system. And looking ahead, I’m just about to start my journey in leading connections nationally to play my part in facilitating the largest transformation this industry has seen since the creation of the NEM.

What leadership impact do you hope to make with the scholarship?

I would like to embed collaborative approaches for bringing together different perspectives on challenging issues. Challenges can sometimes pit us against each other, but I want us to bring together all our industry expertise and experience to learn from our mistakes and constructively workshop solutions. This has worked for me in the past, and usually starts with acknowledging where we can do better even if this is uncomfortable.

The renewables space is full of these challenges, and if we want to deliver net zero emissions by 2050 or earlier, we need to get moving. As a start we have a whole variety of technical and commercial challenges, land use planning and community issues, infrastructure design considerations (managing cost vs security), and the strong need to build industry capability to deliver the growing number of projects in the NEM.

In a male-dominated industry, what advice or encouragement would you give women who want to work in the clean energy sector?

Always believe in your ability to make positive change happen. Being in the clean energy sector means that you will encounter problems that no-one has ever dealt with before, and that the industry is not always ready to deal with. See this as an opportunity to think without boundaries, and don’t be afraid to leverage the expertise of others to help you.

Have confidence in your ideas, no matter how whacky they might seem. Rather than doubting yourself, focus your energy on articulating your ideas in a practical, specific, outcome-focused way. Create an image for people of your end vision, and the practical pathway to get there.

Always work with others not against them – apart from being more productive it’s also a much more pleasant way to work.

Find a mix of male and female mentors who can support you in communicating your vision, and developing your career. They will each bring new insights from their own diverse experiences. Don’t be too proud to bring these together to help you develop your own style.

Why is it important to support female leaders in the clean energy industry and what improvements could be made to increase the number of women in renewables?

Clearly women can make a difference - we have had exceptional, motivational examples – we just need more of them. Chloe herself, Audrey Zibelman, Cath Tanna, Rachel Watson, Kerry Schott, Clare Savage, Anne Pearson and Anna Collyer.

Any industry will benefit from being able to leverage a diversity of leadership styles – male, female, practical, conceptual, straightforward, eccentric, people-focused, outcome focused, experienced, structured, fresh and free thinking.

Building a female leadership base in the energy industry makes us better placed to encourage and support women to have the confidence to be active, vocal shapers of the energy industry. It provides different role models, across men and women, and makes the idea of being a female leader in the industry more accessible.

Fostering collaboration across men and women gives us access to the full breadth of diversity of thinking, ideas and implementation styles.

In terms of improvements, I think it’s important for us to start early. Promoting the energy industry, and the breadth of roles you can play, at high schools to make the energy industry more front of mind for all young women thinking about how they want to make a difference. For those women entering the energy industry, focused training and mentoring to help them feel comfortable to speak up, shape ideas, and play an active part in what is still a male dominated industry. And making sure that women can access coverage of experience across technical, commercial and regulatory areas.

Further information

If you would like more information on our scholarship opportunities, please click here or email [email protected]

Scholarship Partners

This Scholarship is made possible by the generosity of our partners.

Website chloe munro partners