• Nóirín Byrne
  • 3 min read

To celebrate International Women’s Day this Sunday the 8th of March, for the next week we will be featuring women in the Irish energy sector who are contributing daily to Ireland’s clean energy transition.

Today we are featuring Marie Donnelly, Chair of Renewable Energy Ireland


Q1.Tell us about your current role and how it relates to the energy sector.

 Currently I am Chair of Renewable Energy Ireland. Renewable Energy Ireland was established in January 2019 as an open partnership of sustainable energy associations working collectively to support the energy transition in Ireland. Our shared vision is that by 2050 Ireland will be energy independent through using indigenous, clean, carbon-free renewable energy supported by, and supporting, communities across our country.

Q2. What inspired you to get into this area of work? 

Having spent 30 years in the European Commission in Brussels, I experienced first-hand the positive impact of cooperation. When governments, industry and people all pull together, even the most challenging target can be achieved. This applies in all sectors but is particularly important for the Energy transition.

Q3. What is your professional background? 

By training I am a Pharmacist, and added a Masters in Business Administration later on.

Q4. What was your first role? 

 My first role was in Quality Control – very relevant for all subsequent activities. Following that I spent some time in both Marketing and Sales. The on-going training particularly in sales was hugely influential and useful – especially as I was selling throughout my career (new ideas, alternative approaches, building alliances, etc. ).

Q5. What do you enjoy about your current role?

 It allows me to contribute to the very real challenges in Ireland today. Achieving the objectives of the Climate Action Plan will not be easy so it is essential that everybody contributes.

Q6. How does your role impact people/society? 

 For the better I hope. The energy transition, although difficult to achieve, will provide us with clean air (Ireland has the 4th highest prevalence of asthma worldwide with 1 in 8 of population affected); the possibility for everyone to participate in energy production, use, storage and sale; a significant reduction in the cost of imported energy and even the possibility of supporting other countries with energy from Ireland.   

Q7. What do you hope to achieve in the future? 

The objectives of the Climate Action Plan. But more importantly, the open participation of everybody in Ireland. Whether as an active operator, a smart consumer and/or a supporter of the necessary changes, success can only be achieved with full participation.

Q8. What advice would you offer women hoping to join this sector?

This is a very exciting time in Energy. The changes that are necessary go well beyond the technical aspects and require an understanding of society, and how people currently live and will live in the future. The technologies are mostly known but how to use the innovations remains a challenge.

Women have a real strength in understanding everyday lives, how to facilitate the use of new approaches, and perhaps most importantly, how to explain the changes to people in a language they can relate to.

Q9. What advice would you offer women in the early stages of their career in this sector?

  1. Do not hide your light under a bushel!
  2. At meetings, speak up. Also put yourself forward for conferences, events, etc.
  3. Believe in your ideas – they are as good (and probably better) than the next guy!
  4. Be confident – you can do the job so go for that promotion.
  5. Keep a balance in life, and enjoy yourself.

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