Elbia Gannoum is the CEO of ABEEólica (The Brazilian Wind Energy Association). ABEEolica is an association whose main goal is to defend and develop wind energy as an important contribution to the energy sector in Brazil. Elbia holds a degree in Economics from the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina in Brazil before taking on the role of CEO. She is proud to be a part of an association that is helping to defend the planet. As the proud winner of the C3E initiative she is constantly fighting for and engaging in discussions involving gender equality in the energy sector.
From Professor to CEO: A Surprise Change
Studying for a degree in economics, Elbia thought that her career path was set. She pursued her masters and doctorate in economics convinced that she wanted to be a professor and researcher at the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina in Brazil. Life had a surprise in store for her.
As a part of her masters and PhD thesis, she completed research on the restructuring the Brazilian electric power industry. Being a new subject in the field of economics, it received widespread attention from the academic and executive world. In 2000, she decided to accept an opportunity at the ANEEL (National Electric Energy Agency) as an economist specializing in regulation and electricity markets. It was from this moment that Elbia was sure that she was on the right professional path.
Eight years ago, she decided to start the next chapter of her life by becoming ABEEólica´ s CEO.
Starting out with an installed capacity of 1GW, wind energy is now the second most used energy source in Brazil with an installed capacity of over 15GW. She insists that all the hard work she and the team at ABEEólica have put into the defense of wind energy was worth it. In her words, “I am very proud to defend a business that is so important for the future of the planet”.
Defending Wind Energy in Brazil: A Challenging yet Easy Task
At ABEEolica, Elbia’s main responsibility as CEO is to defend wind energy as a fundamental source for the expansion of the Brazilian electricity matrix. Brazil’s electricity matrix consists of energy sources(wind, hydro, natural gas, nuclear) that contribute to the production of electricity. Wind energy is not only renewable and protects the environment, but in Brazil the wind energy market is very competitive due to the excellent quality of Brazilian winds.
An association now for 15 years, the role of ABEEólica is crucial for the development and operations of the wind energy sector. With over 100 affiliates that include manufacturers, consultants and companies that operate wind farms, it has participated in all important discussions an regulations for the sector. Over the past nine years, Elbia has engaged in ongoing dialogue with governments to define everything from small technical issues to major policies that have been responsible for big advances in the industry.
Defending wind energy in Brazil is both an arduous and easy task. It is a paradox which Elbia has faced since she joined ABEEólica. It was an arduous task, especially in the beginning, because she had to work hard in Brazil to convince the government, businesses and society that this was a good option and was financially viable. At the same time, it was easy because Brazilians have seen the benefits of wind energy especially in resource-poor areas such as the Northeast, where nature has set the best winds.
Anyone who looks at Brazil's energy and electrical industry plan while analyzing the numbers, results and benefits, knows that wind energy is now an important option to expand and diversify the electricity matrix.
Brazil is blessed for its renewable and natural resources and Elbia is delighted to promote a sector that not only transforms wind into energy but acts to protect our natural resources. She emphasizes that we are taking part in world history as we are all being called to the responsibility of defending the planet. She is deeply proud of working in an industry that is contributing to the fight against global warming. It is also contributing a lot to bring development to areas in the northeast of Brazil that otherwise provide limited options for people to work. The social benefits of wind energy in Brazil are one of the strongest reasons why she defends this source.
Looking to the future, Elbia says that the most important challenge now is never losing sight that each one of us has a great responsibility to defend the planet. Even with the challenge of developing and defending the energy source to numerous government, civil society and institutions, she always remembers that the ultimate goal is to work to ensure that our children and grandchildren have a planet to live for.
She has no doubt that ABEEólica has been and continues to be indispensable for the growth of wind energy in Brazil.
C3E Woman of Distinction Award Winner – Prioritizing Gender Equality
C3E is the Clean Energy Education and Empowerment initiative created by the Clean Energy Ministerial, a global forum meant to promote a transition to clean energy. The C3E initiative was founded at the first CEM in 2010, and aims to diversify and close the gender gap in the clean energy industry.
Elbia is honoured to be the recipient of the C3E Woman of Distinction Award. She feels recognized as a professional in her field as well as a role model for the importance of women working in the energy sector.
In the wind energy industry, she is noticing a new generation of strong, determined and passionate women working in the field. They occupy a variety of roles including managers, directors, workers and advisors. The renewable energy sector stands out because it is a newer niche and prioritizes a future with more equality and respect for the planet. This change coincides with the feminist movement becoming more active, with women taking on the fight for a world of opportunity for both men and women.
At ABEEólica, Elbia and her team are always attending events where gender equality is being discussed. For the past two annual Brazil Wind Power events, there has been a public discussion on the importance of increasing women in the energy sector. She believes that this topic should be constantly discussed as there is still a long way to go.
Like Mother, Like Daughter
Elbia has come across many inspiring people and experiences that have taught her lessons she now incorporates in her daily life. Her personal motto is to always focus on the present and be prepared for the future.
Her greatest inspiration is her mother who taught her that dedication and hard work will produce great results. Raised in a town in Minas Gerais with four brothers and three sisters, her mother always encouraged gender equality as this would allow for an easier upbringing. As years go by, she realizes how alike she and her mother are not only in personalities but looks as well!
Devote oneself to always learn new things. Elbia encourages, “This may sound cliche, but the way is to study hard and have patience”. The understanding of material may not happen in a day or even a month. What matters is the application of these ideas and the results of the work being done.
The renewable energy sector welcomes those who are willing to understand the applications of climate challenges and new technology advances such as artificial intelligence. People need to effectively communicate with different disciplines while planning for the complexity of the industry in the future.