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Earth Today | Allison Rangolan: A woman in energy

Published:Wednesday | April 25, 2018 | 12:00 AMPetre Williams-Raynor/ Contributing editor
Allison Rangolan (standing at left) with other members of the WIRE Network at the Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum, held last year in Miami.
Members of the WIRE Network enjoy some ice breakers before dinner on day one of the Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum, held last year in Miami.

IN THE age of climate change, and given her work with the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ, Allison Rangolan didn't think twice when the opportunity to join the Women in Renewable Energy (WIRE) Network arose last year.

"Renewable energy (RE) is an important complementary and/or alternative to traditional energy generation. As the impacts associated with climate change become more pronounced, the need to identify and implement ways to reduce, and, where possible, reverse these impacts becomes more evident, and RE is one such means," said the EFJ's chief technical director.

Renewable energy, including solar and wind energy, are seen as vital to realising a reduction in the global consumption of fossil fuels that drive the warming of the planet.

"RE has the potential to generate the energy we need to satisfy our energy demands in a more environmentally sus-tainable manner, while contributing to the economy by creating jobs and industry and in some cases enhancing efficiency. We have the opportunity to be a part of this transition and this is a significant opportunity," Rangolan said.


WIRE benefits bountiful


The WIRE Network is a professional network of over 400 women working in energy in islands, empowering and inspiring each other. It aims to provide leadership and skills development opportunities through a mentoring programme and an online network. In the mentoring programme, senior women in the energy sector from island nations guide rising women leaders.

"Ten upcoming leaders (mentees) are advised by 10 senior women (mentors/ambassadors) working in energy in islands. The network operates globally in terms of the both the nationalities of participants and geographic locations in which they work. The 2017-2018 cohort has representatives from Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, St Lucia, Turks and Caicos Islands, US Virgin Islands, Suriname, Colombia, Mauritius, Cape Verde, and Papua New Guinea. The women of WIRE also currently work (and have worked) in range of sectors holding various positions which underscores the diverse impact of, and cross-sectoral interactions with renewable energy (RE)," Rangolan explained.

She has said there is no question of the network's value.

"Renewable energy (RE) is becoming increasingly important and prevalent. It is important to equip women to play a more significant role in the sector. Mentorship of women is an excellent way to facilitate this. Each mentee is paired with a mentor/ambassador and each pair establishes SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) goals, and determines how best to achieve these. Each pair also decides how often and by what means they meet," she said.

After receiving formal mentorship, the original mentees transition to the ambassador role in their second year, mentoring the next cohort of mentees.

"This is essentially a built-in mechanism for mentees to 'pay it forward' and exercise the skills that they learned during their mentee year," Rangolan said.

Now close to a year in, she said the benefits have been many.

"Many programmes with an RE component and organisations with which EFJ works will benefit from the relationship with the WIRE Network as we will be able to facilitate greater engagement, mentorship and guidance related to RE," said Rangolan, who holds a bachelor's degree in zoology and a master's in coastal zone management and marine biology.

"A more in-depth understanding of the technical aspects of RE means that we will have a better understanding on some of the considerations to be taken into account when reviewing and/or monitoring projects and programmes, etc. We will be better equipped to ask relevant questions and provide guidance where necessary. We will also have a stronger network of RE partners," she said.


Network appeal


One of the more appealing aspects of her involvement with the network has been the chance to gain a better understanding of the technical side of RE.

"In the last few months, I have already gained a greater understanding of factors to be considered when determining the most appropriate renewable option(s), and will continue to explore what is required for the sustainability of each in terms of energy generation, distribution, transmission, storage, financing and operations. Honestly, the insight into the energy sector has been fascinating and my perspective has changed tremendously," she said.

"I have a greater appreciation for some of the things, like storage, which I simply took for granted. I would like to continue exploring options for sustainable application at the individual/community level (for example, micro grids) versus scalable commercial options with due consideration for the associated social and economic implications," Rangolan added.