The 25 Under 40 Energy Women Rising Stars is a list celebrating the remarkable achievements of a select group of women across Africa’s energy sector, such as Rekik Bekele. With the objective of providing access to electricity to Ethiopia’s population, Bekele founded Green Scene Energy, and serves as a source of inspiration for many across the industry. Here is her story.
Please share a brief overview of your journey in the energy industry that led to your current role? What are some key achievements or milestones that you are particularly proud of?
With a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree in Electrical Engineering from Addis Ababa University, I have been actively engaged in the sector since 2010. My commitment to professional development and industry engagement is demonstrated by my role as a board member of the Ethiopian-Solar Energy Development Association and her participation as an Acumen East Africa fellow.
In 2016, I founded Green Scene Energy PLC, where I currently serve as the CEO and co-founder. The company has made remarkable achievements in expanding access to clean energy, creating job opportunities, and driving positive change within the industry. I take pride in providing solar home lighting solutions to over 9000 households, installing over 85 pumps, and implementing productive use solutions, thereby improving the lives of numerous individuals and communities.
My dedication to creating a sustainable energy future is further exemplified by my active participation as a keynote speaker in major off-grid energy events. Through these engagements, I share valuable insights and promote sustainable solutions, inspiring others and fostering dialogue within the renewable energy sector. I also take part in speaking engagements at universities and other events, where I aim to motivate and empower young women engineers.
The energy industry is known for its complexities. What were some significant challenges you faced along the way, and how did you navigate through them to achieve your goals?
In the renewable energy industry, I have indeed faced several significant challenges along the way. The complexities within the energy industry have required careful navigation and innovative strategies to overcome.
Limited Access to Funding: One of the major challenges has been the limited availability of funding and financial resources. Building and scaling renewable energy projects require significant investments, and securing adequate funding can be a daunting task. To overcome this challenge, I actively sought out partnerships with investors, financial institutions, and international organizations that share our vision of sustainable energy solutions.
Regulatory Environment: Policies and regulations in the energy industry sometimes do not adequately support the growth and development of renewable energy projects. This creates hurdles for implementation and slows down market growth. To address this challenge, we actively engage with government agencies, policymakers, and industry associations to advocate for favorable policies and regulations.
Availability of Foreign Currency: Another challenge we encountered was the availability of foreign currency. This affected the importation of necessary equipment, materials, and components required for renewable energy projects. To navigate through this challenge, we worked closely with financial institutions and partners to explore alternative financing options and strategies for sourcing essential resources locally. This helped us overcome the limitations posed by currency availability.
Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic: The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the renewable energy industry. It disrupted supply chains, leading to delays in project implementations and hindering access to necessary materials and resources. Additionally, the closure of construction sites and limitations on international travel also affected progress. To navigate through this challenge, we adapted our operations by implementing remote working arrangements, exploring local supply chains, and prioritizing the safety and well-being of our employees.
Internal Conflict: The internal unrest between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front further added to the challenges faced in the industry. This conflict disrupted operations, hindered project progress, and impacted stability in the region. To navigate through this challenge, we closely monitored developments and made necessary adjustments to ensure the safety of our staff and projects.
Despite these challenges, we remain committed to our goals of promoting sustainable energy solutions.
What advice would you give to young females aspiring to excel in the energy sector? Are there any specific strategies or mindsets that helped you overcome obstacles and reach your current position?
As a young female aspiring to excel in the energy sector, I would advise you to:
- Embrace Challenges: Be open to stepping out of your comfort zone and taking on challenging roles or projects. Sometimes, it’s in these unfamiliar territories that you discover your true passion and purpose.
- Seek Opportunities to Learn: Look for opportunities to gain knowledge and skills in the energy sector. Attend workshops, webinars, and conferences, and stay updated with the latest advancements in the industry. Continuous learning will help you stay ahead and excel in your field.
- Build a Strong Network: Connect with professionals in the energy sector, both male and female. Networking can provide you with mentorship, guidance, and valuable connections that can help you overcome obstacles and reach your goals.
- Be Resilient: Overcoming obstacles is a part of any career journey. Develop a mindset of resilience, tenacity, and determination. Learn from failures, adapt and keep moving forward towards your goals.
- Find Your Passion and Purpose: Identify what truly motivates and inspires you in the energy sector. Whether it’s finding solutions to community problems, like energy poverty, or innovating in the field of sustainable farming, align your work with your passion and become a driving force for positive change.
Remember, success is a journey, and perseverance, continuous learning, and passion will be your guiding lights along the way.
A career in energy can be demanding. Could you describe a typical day in your life?
A career in the energy sector is indeed demanding, and I can relate to the challenges you are facing. Here is a glimpse into a typical day in my life:
6:00 am: I start my day with exercise, either by going for a run or hitting the gym. Physical activity helps me stay energized and focused throughout the day.
8:00 am: I begin my workday by checking emails and reviewing my schedule for the day. This allows me to prioritize tasks and address any urgent matters.
9:00 am: I usually have meetings with my team to discuss ongoing projects, review progress, and address any challenges or opportunities. These discussions involve brainstorming solutions, making strategic decisions, and coordinating resources effectively.
11:00 am: I dedicate this time to collaborating with partners and stakeholders in the energy industry. This may include attending online conferences or meetings to explore potential collaborations, partnerships, or funding opportunities. Building strong relationships and networking are vital for success in this industry.
1:00 pm: I usually bring my lunch or breakfast to the office and have it around this time. Taking a break to nourish myself is important for maintaining focus and productivity.
6:00 pm: My work typically continues until this time, but it may sometimes extend to 8:00 pm or later, depending on the demands of the day. I prioritize completing pending tasks, following up on important matters, and preparing for the next day.
I understand the challenges of balancing work and family life. I am fortunate to have the support of my understanding and supportive family, especially my husband who is also my business partner. His sacrifice and dedication to our shared vision have been instrumental in establishing Green Scene Energy UK. While it can be demanding, I try to find a balance and make time for my family and personal interests like running and dancing.
Looking ahead, what changes or advancements do you hope to see in the energy sector, and how do you envision your role in shaping that future?
Looking ahead, I have several hopes for changes and advancements in the energy sector:
- Energy Access for All: I hope to see a significant shift to ensure universal access to clean and affordable energy. I hope to see advancements in technology and innovative business models that can bring energy access to underserved communities, both in rural and urban areas.
- Green Scene’s vision is to contribute to the national electrification plan. Manufacturing solar appliances for rural households and generating energy with Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) are promising approaches.
- Manufacturing Solar Appliances: By manufacturing solar appliances specifically designed for rural households, Green Scene can help bridge the electricity gap in Ethiopia. This initiative will provide access to clean and affordable energy for millions of households, improving their quality of life, and supporting socio-economic development.
- Generating Energy with PPAs: PPAs can play a crucial role in increasing renewable energy generation capacity. By partnering with private investors, government entities, or utilities, Green Scene can establish renewable energy power plants and sell the generated electricity through long-term agreements.