Vattenfall and Catalyse Change: Reflecting on Work Experience

Commercial Consultant for Vattenfall Heat UK, Sonya Bedford, works as a mentor at Catalyse Change, providing valuable insight of the sustainable energy sector, for young women aged 18-24. 

Vattenfall are proud to support Catalyse Change, a non-profit organisation, with an ambition to inspire and empower young women as sustainability leaders and changemakers, towards a greener society. After Sonya’s address at the Catalyse Change CIC summit 2023, two interns chose to complete work experience at Vattenfall Heat UK. Here is what they had to say about their experience.

What are the main highlights from your work experience at Vattenfall?

Working at Vattenfall for these past few weeks has been so insightful, I began this internship not knowing a lot about heat pumps and district networks. Throughout the project I worked on and speaking to different members of the Business Development, Engineering and Operations team I developed a real interest in this sector. I spoke to so many people who were genuinely invested in making a sustainable and practical difference which was so inspiring to me. The main thing that I will take away from this experience, that people do want to help make an impact on decarbonising systems in the UK and there is an exciting future ahead within this sector. - Izzy

My main highlight was being able to take all the conversations which we had with the Bristol team during the first week, and therefore our understanding of heat networks, out into the field. Richard Lee took us out on a walk around both the Redcliffe and Old Market networks in Bristol where we could see all of the energy centres, connections and where the pipes were running. This really put all our knowledge into perspective and made me understand the importance of heat network installation just by seeing the sheer amount of buildings which could be powered from one low-carbon source of energy. - Abigail

What are your biggest takeaways from being mentored by Sonya Bedford?

It was great working with Sonya, I have a huge appreciation and respect for her trust in allowing me to work on my chosen project and giving me the tools and contacts to do so confidently. Throughout the 3 weeks Sonya supported Abigail and I in absorbing as much information as possible within the time we were there with the freedom to ask as many questions as we could. - Izzy

During the internship Sonya gave us real freedom in where we took our projects and who we spoke to, making it clear that different perspectives were always valuable. This feeling that everyone's input is valuable has had a big impact on the way I will view projects in the future, not just asking experts on that certain project but others who may also have different perspectives. - Abigail

How has your experience at Vattenfall shaped your perspective of the sustainable energy sector?

It was exciting to see how I could apply my skills to the sustainable energy sector. I study international Business Management and so do not have an engineering background; it was great to see how I can still be involved and support within the sector through business development and client liaison. - Izzy

By meeting so many people with such varied careers in Vattenfall during this internship I have learnt that the sustainable energy sector can be a space for a non-engineer and that a science background is not necessary for a career in this sector. I have also been pleased to discover how real a transition to low carbon energy sources is. From an outsider's perspective it can seem as if government targets such as net-zero are somewhat for show and a long shot. It's amazing to see the work that goes on behind the scenes to reach these targets and understand how we can reach net zero. - Abigail

How has this experience empowered you in your own personal career goals?

Learning is so empowering within a job role, and from my experience here I was learning something new and interesting every day. From communicating with different teams within the Heat UK business to learning how the water source heat pumps work. This experience has made me realise that I want my own career path to be with a company that fosters an environment of development and learning so you can end up making the most comprehensible decisions possible based on your established knowledge. - Izzy

This experience has only furthered my certainty that I want to have a career in the sustainability field in the future and opened my eyes to many different careers within the field. Understanding that I can look at such a wide range of careers in the sector has been such a ‘lightbulb’ moment and led me to look further into careers I would not have considered before. - Abigail

What did you learn from our projects, and how did this knowledge and experience influence the proposal you presented to the rest of the team?

My project was set by the business development team to develop a network feasibility report for the Southmead and Horfield area, understanding how to calculate heat demands to identify district heating connections and to identify possible energy centre locations based on heat generating capacity. I felt more confident presenting to the rest of the team as I spoke to a broad range of people to develop my report. - Izzy

My project focused on climate modelling and how we can predict the impact on demand due to climate change. During this project I worked closely with the engineering team which at first, I found incredibly intimidating. Realising that I could call on them for help in completing it meant I gained the confidence to reach out to others in the company who may also have input on the subject. This made my project more holistic in its approach. - Abigail

How did this experience contribute towards the skills and confidence needed to become an effective ‘changemaker’?

This experience at Vattenfall helped develop my confidence, especially as a woman within this industry, having not come from an engineering background. There are so many teams and people who are willing to help explain how and why things work, I felt that gave me greater confidence and reassurance within my knowledge. This new knowledge and confidence will help me move forward into the final year of university and give me a drive to help do something impactful with my work, like the people I have met at Vattenfall. - Izzy

Completing these projects helped me to realise that any problem does not just have to be solved by experts. I had almost no understanding of climate projections or demand modelling before this internship, yet I concluded on future steps in demand modelling for Vattenfall. It has made me realise mine and others' ability to make real change! - Abigail


Catalyse Change work experience with Vattenfall Heat UK

Sonya Bedford:

What are your main highlights from coaching the ladies from catalyse change, within Vattenfall?

It was brilliant to have them in the office, from the questions and enquiries on the site visits which made me look at things in a completely different light to seeing the final presentations on their projects which were brilliant and made me realise how much there is still to learn about delivering a heat network!

What made you eager to become a mentor for Catalyse Change?

Vattenfall supported me in making this decision, as we wish to be there to encourage women from all backgrounds into sustainability careers. Vattenfall undertook the Catalyse change mentoring and work placements last year and I was pleased to carry on the work, particularly as catalyse change are based in Bristol and we want to support Bristol based organizations. When I started working in the sustainability industry as a lawyer, I was a lone female voice, but through programmes such as Catalyse Change we are seeing much more equality in the workplace, something which Vattenfall clearly supports. We have considerable social value goals and commitments in Bristol and this programme helps us to deliver on those.

What does it mean to you that the younger generation receive coaching and support towards achieving their goals and aspirations within the sustainability industry?

It means we have more people able to take forward careers in this sector, we can encourage more women to Vattenfall and to highlight the opportunities we have here, we are all learning from this programme, to have younger women in the office to teach helps us see things from a different perspective.

Vattenfall recognises the importance of providing opportunities to the younger generation. We are pleased to hear that Izzy and Abigail gained valuable experience and insight into the sustainable energy industry, whilst taking part in their work experience at Vattenfall. We hope that they continue to strive to become changemakers and wish them all the best in their future endeavors. Hopefully we can do it again next year. 

See also

Reflecting on diversity: a vision for an inclusive Energy sector

In conversation with Maria Yorica, visiting researcher at Imperial College London for Energy Futures Lab, Bindi Patel shares her journey and insights into the progress made towards inclusivi...

Read the full article

Alina Gheorghiu-Currie, appointed Director for London at Heat UK

Alina Gheorghiu-Currie, appointed Director for London at Heat UK.

Read the full article

“Heat network projects present lifelong career opportunities”, Paul Steen tells the Scotsman

Our Head of Business Development (North) has written an insightful article for The Scotsman, addressing the critical need to bridge the skills gap to achieve net zero in Scotland. 

Read the full article