Angela Schorah, DSO and Decarbonisation Engagement Manager at Electricity North West features in this month's blog looking at the role of women in the energy industry.
What’s your current role at Electricity North West and what does it involve?
My role focuses on increasing understanding, managing perceptions and influencing behaviour of customers and stakeholders around achieving Net Zero in the North West region.
This is a very broad task, so what’s really important is to for us to absolutely clear on what our role is as the region’s electricity distribution operator in terms of Net Zero, how this will impact on and benefit our customers. The challenges around Net Zero can feel huge and almost overwhelming, whether for a business, a domestic customer or a local authority. My role, along with colleagues, is to establish how we can best support, enable, advise and sometimes signpost to other partners to help those on a journey of carbon reduction. No one organisation has all the answers, but as the DNO, transitioning to a more proactive DSO role, there is no question that we are pivotal to many of the changes needed.
My role involves coordinating and participating in engagement events and activities; however, we also recognise the key role that good communication plays – what we are saying and how we say it to different audiences – and this is a big focus for us at the moment. Get this right and whatever engagement we are doing will be more effective.
What first interested you in working in the energy industry and how did you join?
I had been a communications and engagement contractor for the last ten years and had previously sent my CV in for a short-term contract elsewhere in the business. I was then approached about a different permanent role but was initially wary of the idea of committing myself after so much freedom, especially in an industry I knew very little about.
The more I thought about it however the more excited I became about the prospect. I am passionate about the environment, which stems back to a love of Geography and degree many years ago, and have been fully aware of the urgency of the climate crisis for many years. I have always enjoyed working in organisations experiencing large scale change and there can be few industries experiencing as great a change at the moment than electricity and the energy sector in general.
By the time I was offered the role I had become convinced this was probably as near as I was going to get to my perfect job and now, nine months in, I am even more sure of that.
What is the most interesting/rewarding part of your job?
The power sector is undergoing a global transformation, linked to climate change and Net Zero and we are right at the centre of this so it’s an exciting area to work. If decarbonisation is done well on a large scale, the effects will be momentous, so this is motivating in itself. But combine this with new technologies, new markets opening up (flexibility), continual innovation and the need to find creative solutions to engaging at scale, and that makes for a varied and stimulating work environment.
The businesses and stakeholders we are working with are motivated, engaged and interested – which makes the job feel very worthwhile and needed.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your job?
For me personally I’ve found it tough sometimes get to grips with the electricity industry and energy sector as I am completely new to it and have so much to learn. Inevitably there is a lot of jargon and ‘engineering speak’ that I don’t understand – and occasionally I get frustrated that I know so much less than others who have worked in the industry for years.
The upside to this is that I can bring fresh eyes and perspective to a given situation, and can be a good barometer of whether others will understand what we’re saying. ‘If I don’t get it then others are unlikely to’ tends to be how I approach everything. There are days though I admit when it feels like my brain is creaking under the strain of trying to piece everything together and make sense of it all.
The other big challenge of course is the urgency around this work. We need to achieve a great deal, at pace, over a long time period – and encourage and enable others to do the same. While we need to plan and implement thoroughly we need to also do it quickly which can sometimes be a difficult balance.
How do you bring your previous experience outside this sector to your role?
My background includes a FTSE 200 retailer, a manufacturer, health and social care, local authorities and transport – and so has been firmly split between industry and the public sector. I think this experience has armed me with a good understanding of the environment that many of our stakeholders are operating within and an understanding of their challenges.
I’ve worked on communicating large scale health transformation programmes at one end of the spectrum to developing a marketing strategy for an SME at the other, which I think has made me both agile and robust. I like to think I have a good balance between thinking commercially and wanting to get things done at pace, while being mindful of ‘is this in the wider public’s best interests and are we bringing everyone with us?’.
The one thing I couldn’t have been prepared for of course was COVID, especially spending so many months working from home. I’m now enjoying meeting many of the colleagues I’ve only seen on screen up until now – some of us are even going for a few drinks this week, exciting stuff!
Notes to editors
Previous energy networks profiles:
- Emily Jones, Communications Project Lead for Open Networks, Energy Networks Association
- Laura O’Donnell, Despatch First Line Manager, Wales & West Utilities
- Lynne McDonald, Smart Grids Engineer and Manager, UK Power Networks
- Myfina Goddard, Pipeline Apprentice, Wales & West Utilities
- Laura Dunn, Senior Delivery Engineer, SP Energy Networks
- Farina Farrier, Head of Open Networks at Energy Networks Association
- Katharine Clench, Regional Development Programme Strategy Manager, National Grid ESO
- Elena Theodorou, Data Lead, Energy Networks Association
About Energy Networks Association
Energy Networks Association (ENA) is the industry body representing the companies which operate the electricity wires, gas pipes and energy system in the UK and Ireland.
ENA helps its members meet the challenge of delivering electricity and gas to communities across the UK and Ireland safely, sustainably and reliably.
Its members include every major electricity and gas network operator in the UK and Ireland, independent operators, National Grid ESO which operates the electricity system in Great Britain and National Grid Gas which operates the gas system in Great Britain. Its affiliate membership also includes companies with an interest in energy, including Heathrow Airport and Network Rail.
What are energy network operators?
Energy network operators manage and maintain the wires, pipes and other infrastructure which delivers electricity and gas to your home, business and community. They are private companies which are regulated by Ofgem and employ around 45,000 people in the UK and Ireland. They are represented by their industry body, Energy Networks Association (that's us).
Energy supplier or network operator? Energy network operators are entirely separate to your energy supplier, which is the company that bills you for using electricity and gas. Energy suppliers and generators are represented by Energy UK.