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Achieving excellence: Discipline and commitment

Making waves in renewable energy

Written by Editor

February 20, 2024

Making waves in renewable energy 

By Raine St.Claire

In a recent interview, Katherine Persson, Head of SOLA Assets in South Africa, offers a glimpse into her extraordinary journey as a leader in renewable energy and open water swimming. She discusses the principles of discipline, hard work, and unwavering commitment that have moulded her diverse career, reflecting on her path to top-tier success.

For Katherine, the journey to being a top achiever is not something that happened magically. It required tenacious discipline and hard work. “You have to be willing to sacrifice and experience discomfort, and have a self-driven commitment to always being surrounded by greatness.”

Professional success and personal triumphs

Katherine considers herself fortunate to contribute not only as one of the prominent female leaders in South Africa’s thriving renewable energy industry but also to establish herself as a top open water endurance swimmer. 

“With my hand on my heart, I can confidently say that I have put in the effort over many years, and that these efforts have paid off.”

Leading by example

Rising to the executive level of one of Africa’s leading Independent Power Producers (IPPs) of Solar PV and Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) under Corporate Power Purchase Agreements (CPPAs), Katherine leads with expertise in large wheeling transactions. Providing clean solar-powered electrons into the grid, she explains, “We are working on big, exciting, and often challenging solar energy projects (one example here) that are changing the energy landscape and rural communities for the better.” 

The company is also driving the women and leadership agenda with a tailor-made women in leadership development programme. “My hope is that my achievements in swimming, and the example that I set as a working mom of two, inspire others to pursue their own personal brand of excellence in life”

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Challenges and triumphs

The journey has not been easy. “In my 20-year career in renewable energy, I have reported almost exclusively to corporate boards composed of white, male directors. Often, I felt like an intruder, with only a handful of women business leaders to observe and learn from. I have juggled work, family, and other personal objectives to the brink of exhaustion.”

Katherine’s hard work and tenacity have not gone without reward. She has experienced exposure to executive responsibilities in her corporate roles and showcased her commitment to the industry by serving on the boards of the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) and the South African Renewable Energy Technology Centre (SARETEC). Additionally, she holds a qualified director status under the Institute of Directors in South Africa (IoDSA), further underscoring her commitment to professional excellence and governance.

Motivated by her dedication to uphold a personal ethos of determination and hard work, she has achieved demanding endurance swims, including traversing the English Channel, setting a record-breaking time in False Bay, and circumnavigating Manhattan Island in New York.

Collecting treasures in life

Katherine sees her walk through life like a magpie collecting treasures. “Not shiny tokens; my treasures are the exceptional people around me that inspire, support, and encourage me to achieve my own exceptional things.”

 

Excitement for the future

As a proactive advocate for diversity and inclusion in the energy sector, Katherine acts as a mentor to women in the industry, passionately supporting the push for greater representation of women in executive roles. Beyond her professional life, Katherine takes joy in being a mother of two and has gained recognition as an esteemed endurance open water swimmer, showcasing her determination and tenacity beyond the confines of the boardroom.

Looking at the future of renewable energy and women leaders in South Africa, this remarkable woman is excited about the opportunities ahead. “We have an open door to changing this country for the better, and I am certain that we will witness a generation of diverse leaders take up the charge.”

Words of encouragement

Katherine’s advice to the change-makers, system-shakers, and record-breakers out there is to keep going. 

“Stay focused and dedicated to a life and the goals that inspire you, and make the world a better place. There is so much that we can do and achieve together!”

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