Erika Salinas-Talavera: making industrial energy efficiency training accessible to more people in Mexico

After studying in Spain and receiving various  ISO 50001 energy management trainings and certifications, Erika Salinas-Talavera is determined to make it easier for fellow Mexicans to access internationally recognized industrial energy efficiency training.

Position and organization:Manager of Carbon Trust Mexico & member of the board of the Women’s Network in Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (REDMEERE by its acronym in Spanish)

Tell us about your career in energy efficiency. How long have you been working in the field?

I am an environmental engineer, born and raised in Mexico. From early on, my career aspiration has always been to improve people’s quality of life by tackling greenhouse gas emissions. So, I decided the best way to do that was by specialising in energy, which is the biggest contributor of greenhouse emissions worldwide.

In Spain, I completed my masters degree in Energy Efficiency and Industrial Ecology at the University of Zaragoza and that is when my career in energy efficiency started. I have over eight years of experience in energy efficiency and sustainability. During this time, I became certified in the ISO 50001 energy management system through TUV, an Austrian based testing, inspection and certification company. I am also qualified by the Mexican standard of labour competencies as an energy manager and have qualifications as a trainer.  

What do you like about your role?

In my current role, as the Manager for Carbon Trust Mexico, I am particularly passionate about improving access to energy efficiency knowledge, training and capacity building opportunities in Mexico. Like many of my colleagues in the energy efficiency field, I had to travel abroad to obtain the skills and knowhow required to implement and audit energy efficiency management practices in Mexico. I hope in the near future it will be easier for people like me, as well as industry stakeholders and policymakers, to access the appropriate training and certification right here in Mexico.

You mentioned you are on the board of the Women’s Network in Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, why is it important to consider the role of women in your field?

The energy sector in Mexico, as well as in other Latin American countries, is still highly masculinized. Networks like REDMEREE advocate for more women in the field and help to promote gender equality. REDMEREE’s main objective is to empower women to become agents of change in the energy sector. Each member makes an effort to promote gender equality in their own place of work. For me, this means using gender-inclusive language in our materials and promoting the participation of women in the training we deliver through the Industrial Energy Accelerator.

The Women in Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Network (REDMEREE) is the first Association of its kind in Mexico. 

Can industrial energy efficiency help to meet Mexico’s climate targets and to improve livelihoods?

Well in Mexico, the industrial sector contributes to 25 per cent of our GDP, and in terms of our emissions it contributes a total of 10-15 per cent. So if we establish energy management systems that help industrial companies save up to 20 per cent of energy this is a great first step which has the potential to change the discourse around energy efficiency in Mexico, and ultimately contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

What are the key barriers that limit industrial energy efficiency in Mexico?

Mexico has a sophisticated public policy and regulatory set up which is driving action on industrial energy efficiency. However, when it comes to the private sector, energy efficiency being implemented. One of the reasons for the sluggish private sector uptake of energy efficiency is insufficient tax incentives and a lack of technical knowledge and skills within the industrial sector. This situation is frustrating for the industrial sector. It can be difficult for them to adapt to new regulatory requirements and policies when they lack the technical capacity to implement and monitor energy savings.

The unique ecosystems and forests in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Accelerated uptake of industrial energy efficiency in major industrial countries like Mexico can greatly help to reduce emissions and mitigate climate change. Photo: Felix Nuñez

How is the Industrial Energy Accelerator helping to address this challenge of limited capacity and knowhow within the sector?

As part of the Accelerator’s support to Mexico, the Carbon Trust and UNIDO completed a high-level  assessment of industrial energy efficiency opportunities for Mexico. Based on our findings we decided to focus on improving capacity among auditors and energy managers to carry out industrial energy certification schemes across the country.

Although Mexico does have some specialized human resources in industrial energy efficiency, very few local consultants and energy managers have been exposed to the latest version of the internationally recognised ISO 50001 energy management system. Even fewer have the capacity to train other specialists. So, we have developed curriculum to introduce the updated ISO 500001 standard and are currently carrying out a training programme with more than 20 energy managers, consultants and public officials. Our ‘train the trainers’ approach will ideally help to accelerate a considerable scale up of industrial energy efficient management across Mexico.

We also hope that by bringing both public and private stakeholders together, through the training process, cross-sectoral coordination and collaboration will be improved thereby helping to address some of the barriers industry faces in complying with energy efficiency policy.

Beyond your ‘train the trainers’ approach, how else are you helping to rapidly scale up industrial energy efficiency in Mexico?

In parallel to the ISO 500001 training, we are also working with the government to develop a labour competencies standard for internal energy auditors. This initiative is for people within a company, who don’t necessarily have a college degree, but can prove that they have enough on the job experience to become an internal ISO 500001 energy management auditor. We want to make sure that small businesses can also access the knowhow and official qualifications required to promote energy efficiency, comply with regulation and compete with larger industrial players. 

Erika stands with participants from the Accelerator’s inaugural ISO50001 Mexico training workshop in October 2019. 

Views from the field.The Industrial Energy Accelerator works on the ground to rally government, business and finance around efficient solutions in some of the world’s most energy intensive nations. This month, the Accelerator interviewed our in-country experts about what we stand to gain from industrial energy efficiency, and what needs to be done to make this invisible climate solution a reality.