These women are spearheading the shift to green energy

From Thailand to Ghana, women around the world are carving out a niche for themselves in the field of sustainable energy.

Globally, 1 in 3 businesses are owned by women. Sustainable energy, which is climbing rapidly to the top of government agendas, is a sector where female entrepreneurs have created a niche for themselves. Though they remain underrepresented, renewable energy employs 32% women – compared to 22% in the overall energy sector. 

SPCG was founded in Thailand by Wandee Kunchornyakong. Beginning an entrepreneurial journey post-retirement, Kunchornyakong obtained 60% of the funds she needed from a local bank, and mortgaged her house for the remaining amount. Under her lead, SPCG has become one of the country’s leading energy utilities. 

In Ghana, Salma Okonkwo founded Blue Power Energy. It is now the country’s largest solar farm, and provides employment to hundreds of women. Building on rich experience in and knowledge of the energy sector, Okonkwo launched Blue Power Energy in part to provide a route out of poverty. 

Forbes 30 under 30 entrepreneur Eden Full Goh launched SanSaluter, which has now positively impacted the lives of 17,000 people across 18 different countries. She invented a rotator-enabled solar panel, which increases the efficiency of electricity generation by 30 percent and helps in effectively purifying and providing clean water for the rural poor.

Katherine Lucey, an investment banker, collaborated with Neha Misra, an energy economist, and launched Solar Sister that engages local women to distribute solar energy. Their organisation provided access to clean energy to more than 1.8 million people in African countries and kickstarted over 5,000 clean energy entrepreneurs.

As part of our study into female entrepreneurship and sustainable development, we analysed a wider group of women – looking into the unique challenges they face, and how they deal with them. Most were first-generation entrepreneurs, who encountered issues including: constraints in access to conventional sources of finance; institutional voids; discrimination from investors; and an inadequate focus of policy support towards women-led ventures.

All of them have a sound business model that is not only scalable and profitable but also highly impactful. This is coupled with access to innovative non-conventional financing mechanisms; perseverance and support from the personal circle and a strong desire to make an impact.

These are stories of exceptional achievements in terms of breaking conventional barriers and gender bias that is deeply embedded in every layer of the social fabric worldwide. With a clear focus, these ventures provide ample testimony to the potential for women-led enterprises in the sustainable energy sector - enterprises that are not only highly profitable and scalable but are equally inclusive, impactful and socially responsible.

Dr Ritika Mahajan is an Assistant Professor at Malaviya National Institute of Technology Jaipur, India. Dr Kaushik Ranjan Bandyopadhyay is an Associate Professor at the Indian Institute of Management Lucknow in India.