The participants at the conference Women of Serbia in Sustainable Energy – Leadership for the Energy Transition agreed that women leaders of the energy transition are the reality and not a myth. At the conference, organized by the WISE Serbia women’s network, the Female Leader in Sustainable Energy awards were handed out for the first time.
After Executive Vice President of CWP Europe Maja Turković and Cofounder of the Elektropionir energy cooperative Ana Džokić received the Female Leader in Sustainable Energy awards, two panel discussions were held about women as drivers of change in the energy transition and the example of such leadership.
In addition, results were presented of a survey on the Role of Women in the Household and Women in Business in Energy Transition – Initiatives Worth Supporting. It was conducted by the Center for the Promotion of Sustainable Development in partnership with Germany’s international cooperation agency GIZ. Women who participated in the survey see themselves as active participants in the energy transition but they also said both financial and institutional support are required and expected for their greater, more concrete and more sensible participation in the process.
Gender equality consultant and member of WISE Serbia Višnja Baćanović moderated both panels.
Sustainable development goals won’t be achieved without women
Gender equality is actually one of the key values of the German Development Cooperation, said Jelena Ivančević, Advisor at the Promotion of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency in Serbia project, conducted by GIZ.
In her words, meeting sustainable development goals will be impossible unless women participate, that is if conditions aren’t put in place for them to get involved in the process and achieve their full potential.
Everyone is equally exposed to climate change impact but not equally vulnerable
Sandra Lazić, who heads the climate change department in the Ministry of Environmental Protection, highlighted the current public debate on the Program of Adaptation to Climate Change with Action Plan, the first national strategic document of its kind.
In the process of assessing the climate change impact on the entire population and planning adaptation measures, separate calculations for men, women and children are included as well, she added.
“This is the first document in which the effect of the planned measures on different population groups was taken into account. Because although everyone is equally exposed to the consequences, not everyone is equally vulnerable,” she underscored.
Lukić: Our waste is not garbage that is supposed to be landfilled
The ministry is also working on setting up the conditions for decarbonization and the transition, so a series of strategic and legislative steps were made. They included the adoption of the Low Carbon Development Strategy of the Republic of Serbia for the period from 2023 to 2030 and the Law on Climate Change.
Dedicated environmental activist, researcher
Research Assistant Milica Lukić from the Faculty of Geography at the University of Belgrade is proof that women are indeed energy transition leaders. In addition to her academic career, she is well known as a dedicated activist fighting for a healthier environment. Her vigor is perhaps best shown by a viral Facebook post with a picture in which this great young woman and her colleague Kristina Cvejanov are sorting waste at a landfill. At the time, they were involved in a project for improving waste management in Serbia.
“Why the landfill, exactly? Because waste is an untapped resource in Serbia. The data on the amounts and types of waste are incomplete,” she stressed.
Milica and her colleagues in the project produced a morphological analysis with 44 categories of waste to discover what is suitable for recycling, composting and energy recovery. They took the example from Vienna, which has three facilities for energy recovery from waste, in her words.
“Our waste is not garbage that is supposed to be landfilled even though this is what happens in 90% of cases,” Milica said.
Women from energy poor households are in especially difficult position
Iva Đinđić Ćosić, the leading expert associate for contracts in state-owned transmission system operator Elektromreža Srbije (EMS) and member of the Board of Serbian Energy Law Association (UPES), is a new member of the WISE Serbia network.
It consists of 230 women who are professionally active in the fields of energy, climate action and environmental protection. Đinđić Ćosić stressed that the company has more female than male employees in its management, unlike the public coal and power producer Elektroprivreda Srbije (EPS) and gas transmission and storage operator Srbijagas.
Đinđić Ćosić: EMS has more female than male employees
“The analysis of WISE Serbia’s new survey on the role of women in the household and women in business, with regard to the energy transition, shows clearly that women are not in a favorable position. Women in energy poor households are in an especially difficult position. Laws are being improved, but the question is whether women are informed about the support they can receive,” Đinđić pointed out.
Citizens are uninformed about sources of financing at their disposal
Commenting on the research results, well-known banker and WISE Serbia member Svetlana Cerović, responsible for financing renewable energy projects at UniCredit Bank, noted that they show that one of the biggest challenges for a successful energy transition is the lack of information on energy efficiency as well as on renewable energy sources. On the other hand, she stressed, it is clear that people get the most information from the media, so it is necessary to use them to promote such topics.
“It is very important to inform citizens of these topics as it is clear that the level of awareness of their significance is low”, Cerović said and added that she sees it as the reason why the available sources of financing aren’t used enough.
“We could also use the WISE network to publish relevant information, in addition to the media, which we already mentioned, and social networks,” Cerović underscored.
Energy law expertise is obtained through work, cooperation with energy companies
Attorney at law Aleksandra Petrović from law firm Schoenherr Srbija – Moravčević Vojnović i Partneri in cooperation with Schoenher, participated at the panel that gathered businesswomen. The office was part of the consulting team for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development that advised the Ministry of Mining and Energy in drafting the amendments to the Law on the Use of Renewable Energy Sources and the preparation of the auctions that were recently held.
Petrović said that legal expertise is significant but that in energy law it is obtained through work and cooperation with investors, energy companies, through projects.
Law firm Schoenherr Srbija – Moravčević Vojnović i Partneri in cooperation with Schoenher advised the Ministry of Mining and Energy in the preparation of the auctions that were recently held
She noted that energy law is not among the subjects in the curriculum either in the undergraduate or specialist studies.
“That is why people must become more acquainted with energy law, which can be achieved if those who are active in the area talk about it, including at gatherings like this one. That’s exactly what I intend to do, both through the WISE network and Serbian Energy Law Association,” Petrović stressed.
Menprom is meeting 30% of its energy needs from renewable sources
The story of the energy transition of Menprom, a meat producer from Tuzla in Bosnia and Herzegovina, remains one of the most read articles on the Balkan Green Energy News website. The family firm succeeded in showing that a lot can be achieved with prudent management and an active approach to the possibilities for a business to align itself with the Green Agenda principles.
Menprom’s Deputy Chief Executive Officer Merima Dževdetbegović said the management wasn’t even aware how good their project was until they saw the response prompted by the article.
Greening the business, in her words, implied an energy audit, followed by an analysis of the possibilities to improve energy efficiency and then the construction of a solar power plant on the plant’s roofs and the installation of heat pumps. Menprom currently meets 30% of its energy needs from renewable sources.
Dževdetbegović: My ten-year-old daughter says she wants to leave Bosnia and Herzegovina because it is dirty
“The firm is in a part of the city with a lot of green space. When I look out the window, when I see these forests, I say to myself that it is up to us to preserve it. Conversely, my ten-year-old daughter says she wants to leave Bosnia and Herzegovina because it is dirty. These are some of the motives, beside savings, that are the drivers for us in family firms and us women,” Merima explained.
Bottom line is to give good example
Commenting how at the conferences that she attends, and where most participants are men, she is often asked what it’s like to be a woman in the energy business, Neda Lazendić, Country Manager at WV-International and a member of the WISE Serbia women’s network for five years now, said half-jokingly that she usually responds: “Not bad, thanks for asking.”
The bottom line is, in her view, to give a good example.
Lazendić: I am responsible for making an example that a woman can be a leader in the energy sector
“I understand that this is my responsibility toward the sector where I have been working for more than one decade now, but also toward younger women who are only starting their careers in this sector, or they are thinking about it, to make an example that a woman can be a leader in energy. It is important to feel good with your knowledge and experience. In addition to all that, it is very important to me to also be a good mom to my two sons as well as to balance my professional and personal life,” Lazendić said.