Tecnovisionarie 2023 International Award
“Energy and environment, excellence for women”
Recorded speech at awards ceremony 5 June 2023
Good evening, Ladies, and warm greetings from Brussels!
It is an honour to speak at your awards ceremony.
“It is the things supposed to be impossible that interest me. I like to do things they say cannot be done.”
This is what Hungarian inventor, Dr. Maria Telkes, said in 1942. She had dedicated her life to creating solar energy systems, and was indeed called the “Sun Queen” for her extraordinary work in the field.
Your celebration of women’s excellence in energy and environment takes place at a time, when we are all challenged to step outside our comfort zones – and do things many say cannot be done.
Last year Europe was hit by the deepest energy crisis in decades. Russia’s unjustified invasion of Ukraine brought war into our neighbourhood. Climate change has made severe droughts, forest fires and extremely hot temperatures the devastating new normal.
Italy’s Emilia Romagna was hit by catastrophic floods last month – another symptom of the effects of climate change.
The European Commission has been hard at work to address the above challenges.
Our RePowerEU plan was launched a year ago to respond to the energy crisis. Its main goals were to reduce our dependence on Russian gas, to diversify our supplies to reliable suppliers, and to speed up the deployment of renewables and energy efficiency.
One year after, I can proudly say that together we overachieved on all these objectives.
We did what many said cannot be done.
The EU reduced its gas demand by 18%. Our dependence on Russian gas decreased at faster pace than expected – EU imports of Russian gas were reduced by three quarters.
Europe stayed the course towards climate neutrality by 2050 while at the same time reducing its strategic energy dependence.
Importantly in the long term, the installed wind and solar capacity increased by 16% between 2021 and 2022, which saved large amounts of gas.
We now have political agreement on an ambitious target of 42.5% of the EU’s energy mix to come from renewable sources by 2030, with an aspiration to reach 45%.
All of the above is a result of joint efforts by EU institutions, governments and businesses.
Citizens played their part, too. Millions of Europeans adjusted their lifestyles last year, many installing solar panels, many decreasing their energy consumption.
The EU acted with unity and resolve, and proved the doubters wrong.
Every energy revolution has brought with it massive societal change. This is a chance to build something better, fairer and stronger.
Having a more inclusive industry, and society at whole, is something we can achieve with a shared and constant effort.
Sometimes seeing these efforts materialise admittedly takes time … a lot of time!
The energy sector remains notoriously male-dominated, although there are positive signals of increased numbers of women founders and inventors, especially in clean tech.
But as we are emerging from the acute energy crisis and look into the future with a longer-term perspective, it is important to keep in mind the main lesson learned from the RePowerEU successes: we will only achieve the impossible if we do it together.
Tonight is the celebration of your excellence and creativity in the world of energy and environment. Without the vision and determination of countless women scientists, inventors, founders, academics and creatives like yourselves, we would not be where we are today.
Looking into the future, the changes required in the energy sector will be tremendous, and your role in shaping that transition is crucial.
I would like to raise a virtual toast to all of you in Rome tonight and thank you for your tireless work for a cleaner, greener and more inclusive future.
Let’s strive for the impossible. Let’s do things they said cannot be done.