Sarah Al-Harthey a Business Development Manager for Renewable Energy in a private sector company and holder of several positions including Climate Ambassador for the Global Youth Climate Network (GYCN) at the World Bank Group, member of the Arab Energy Club, member of the world shapers in the World Economic Forum (WEF), a member of the International Youth Climate Movement (YOUNGO) in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) .
Sarah chose to dedicate her professional life career to fighting climate change and exploring available solutions. Learn more about her experience in the below interview.
Q- As a Saudi Woman immersing herself in the renewable energy sector and climate action, when was the first time you heard about climate issues?
A – Climate issues were at the core of the designs and solutions we worked on and were interested in since our university days in the electrical engineering department. We focused on the environmental factors and sought ways to improve the existing systems in order to reduce waste. This was my starting point and how I linked it to my role as an engineer who should contribute towards finding solutions to one of the biggest problems facing humanity.
Q- What inspired you to act for this issue, what are the actions you specifically took?
A- Without a doubt, the energy sector surpasses other sectors in terms of producing the largest amounts of greenhouse gas emissions and adding to the severity of climate change. I believe any efforts towards solving climate change, start with a fundamental transformation in the existing energy systems worldwide. It all started during the time of my graduation in 2016 which coincided with the signing of the Paris Agreement (on climate change), a time where the attention of the world and the region, in particular, were shifted towards renewable energy. In light of the fact that there was a scarcity on the local level in both organizations and specialized individuals in renewable energy, I was motivated to pursue my higher education in energy engineering. I took a further step and enrolled in the Renewable Energy Program at the University of Tokyo in Japan. I also joined the climate and energy programs in both America and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES). During this time I also contributed to issuing two public policy papers and delivered several lectures, the latest was in the Conference of the Parties (COP25) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Madrid in 2019. Currently, I have been appointed as a Climate Ambassador for the World Bank’s Global Youth Climate Network (GYCN).
Q- What were the toughest challenges you encountered ?
Since the renewable energy sector is relatively new in the region and the systematic and political transformation takes time, the work and development opportunities were very limited. As a woman who chose to be involved in the renewable energy field, I encountered strong rejection from many different entities and the only opportunities available at the time were in the conventional energy field which was not aligned with my vision and main cause. I am currently working in one of the largest global companies in the private sector and my work is focused on creating partnerships with the public sector and funding infrastructure projects that include renewable energy and sustainable smart cities.
Q- Did anyone help you in your journey, or was a source of inspiration for you, what did your family and friends think?
A- I find myself very lucky to be surrounded by supportive women leaders who were and still are a source of inspiration and by all means my mom and my sister are top of this list.
Q- What are your future plans ?
A- I am currently focusing on developing a green hydrogen project in the region, basically it is a water-based fuel that is carbon-free and is produced using renewable energy. It is considered a revolution in the world of energy and can replace fossil fuels, protect the environment and fight climate change at the same time.