For this year’s International Women’s Day, we speak to the executive director of Union Power about letting your work speak for itself.
As the largest distributor of liquified petroleum gas in Singapore, and with its fingers in many other energy-related pies like diesel and natural gas, you’d think that Union Power is in a comfortable position – but the company isn’t resting on its laurels. With the liberalisation of Singapore’s electricity retail market, the company has ventured into the industry with Union Power, and is now setting to conquer the renewable energy sphere with Union Solar. Driving much of these developments is Ellen Teo, executive director of Union Power.
With 23 years behind her belt in the industry, Teo is witness to everything from changing consumer sentiment towards energy, to how the fairer sex is perceived in an overwhelmingly male-dominated (the IEA places women’s participation in the oil and gas sector at 22%) industry. The Peak speaks to Teo about her experiences.
The gender ratio for an industry like oil and gas is predominantly men, what were some of the challenges you’ve faced coming up in this world?
I don’t think that being a female in this male-dominant industry has disadvantaged me. On the contrary, industry veterans are more willing to share their experiences, and many of them offered guidance to me along the way. I suppose a fresh female face really does ignite some curiosity in others to engage you.
“Female executives” shouldn’t be differentiated from just “executives” – do you think this is the reality? Do you feel that you’re treated differently by people you’ve just met?
In reality, ‘female executives’ aren’t actually any different. Gender doesn’t really matter as today’s leaders require a diverse set of skills to power through. At the end of the day, it really just boils down to hard work, perseverance, and tenacity. People will not treat you differently as an executive based on your gender. What differentiates you from others is the amount of hard work you put in, and how you create a footprint for yourself. The determination and results you produce is what sets you apart from the rest.
You’ve been in the business for some time now – what are some of the biggest changes you’ve noticed in consumer behavior?
I see Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) awareness gaining traction in Singapore. ESG refers to the three central factors in measuring sustainability and societal impact of an investment in a company or business. Eventually, this would shape how businesses are conducted in Singapore. While commercial clients would be incentivised to adopt some of these practices, retail consumers would also likely begin making purchase decisions based on a company’s ESG practices.
For example, at the macro level, we see a collective effort towards achieving greater energy sustainability for Singapore. The Energy Market Authority (EMA) has set a new target of at least 2GWp of solar power capacity by 2030. This will increase solar energy penetration from the current 2 per cent to approximately 10 per cent.
How does that affect Union Power as an electricity retailer in this space? Given that we have identified this as early as 2017, we have obtained a good sense of the market demands. Setting up Union Solar is an extension of sustainability efforts, and our core belief of providing value to our customers.
Sustainability is one of the big focuses for Union right now – how is the company equipped to do this? What have you learnt from the LPG/CNG industry that can be applied to green energy/Union Power? What’s next for Union Power?
We are currently looking at sustainability as one of the key drivers for our next lap of growth. In this vein, we have set up Union Solar as a separate entity to support the ESG demands for our clients.
Ultimately, we see ourselves as a leading energy solutions provider that will continue to adapt to provide optimal value to our customers. With this in mind, Union Power has future plans for expansion into the green energy sector through Union Solar. We have the resources to implement green energy solutions for our clients.
Additionally, we find that it is also important to be aware and deploy Internet-of-Things readiness and viable energy storage solutions in our sustainability ecosystem to create meaningful applications in the way we see and use energy.
A version of this story first appeared in the March 2021 at The Peak.