We caught up with Rumesh who has worked in the utilities sector for many years and recently transitioned to renewable energy
What is your ethnic, academic and professional background?
I am a British born Indian, with my parents coming over from India during the very late 60’s/early 70’s.
I graduated with a degree in Chemistry at Leeds University and have built on this with my Lean Six Sigma qualifications. I am a very highly experienced Operations Executive/Director, with an extensive portfolio of skills and attributes which are demonstrated through leading very large multifunctional teams of professionals to new levels of success, in a variety of highly competitive business functions and fast-paced environments. My professional work background is heavily immersed in the utilities sector.
Can you tell me about your career so far and what inspired the shift towards the energy and renewables sector?
Following my graduation, I was fortunate enough to join the chemical sector to utilise my degree to full effect. It was during my first employment that I was given the opportunity to be involved in the design, build and operation of a “first” chemical and biological treatment facility, allowing chemical waste to be treated to the highest regulatory standards before being discharged into the river. This was the catalyst that shaped my career, moving across two Water companies, Yorkshire Water and then Severn Trent Water to deliver huge environmental improvements, with renewable energy playing a significant part.
Utilising and harnessing waste from our homes and commercial businesses to produce green energy in the form of gas and electric through state of the art production facilities. My recent move to Lightsource BP moved my career into a new sector, 100% renewables driven through solar parks/farms, utilising the sun’s irradiance to produce green energy.
What does your role at BP involve and how are you working towards the net zero carbon target?
Lightsource and BP are a 50:50 joint venture, and my role sits in Lightsourebp (LSbp) which is one of the key pillars to help realise the huge ambition that BP has set, as part of its Net Zero strategy. The ambition is to be a very different kind of energy company by 2030, with a big scale up investment in low carbon and making headway on reducing emissions.
My role at LSbp is an O&M Director, where I am fully accountable to deliver the contractual and commercial outputs of solar farms across the UK landscape. As well as this, I’m establishing the benchmark of excellence across planning and scheduling work activities, Health and Safety, engineering and client relations, to then take onto the global scale.
What have been your biggest successes and learnings to date?
Several big successes have been both personally as well as ones I have delivered as part of my role in companies I have worked for. This includes delivering a huge reduction in environmental pollutants such as ammonia in rivers, to mothballing carbon polluting incineration processes and facilitating the introduction of combined heat and power plants (which harness the gas produced from waste domestic and commercial entities to produce renewable energy). This fundamentally changed the UK landscape over the last few decades and paved the way for green energy processes, on which further optimisation continues today.
Other successes are across the water sector delivering outstanding water quality improvements for the Ministry of Defence contract.
My biggest personal success was the recognition through the Severn Trent’s company awards across various categories, however, to win “Leader of the Year 2018” was a big highlight in my career. More recently the reach out from LSbp to move my career there has been the best move I have made, a truly ambitious “Green” company focused on delivering sustainable energy for future generations to thrive on.
Learning for me continues and always will, to date include but not limited to the following:
Not to accept the norm. Six Sigma has taught me a huge amount about continuous improvements, making small incremental changes on a regular basis and not accepting the base standard
Stopping the knee jerking to point data, use data in the right way to make fast paced data driven interventions
People by far are the backbone to any company, creating and having the right beliefs and values brings success. I am a firm believer in creating the right environment for others to succeed in.
Being South Asian, did you face any backlash from family, friends or society at large for choosing to take on a niche/unfamiliar job? Has it been challenging to switch?
I am very honoured to have such brilliant and supporting parents, family and friends that have always encouraged me to do what I feel right in terms of jobs I have taken on. The simple advice from my parents sits in my head today: “Study hard, work hard and you will see the fruits of your labour”. What I have achieved and the position I sit in today is simply down to that guidance.
At the same time when the opportunity has come along to broaden my knowledge in a different role or even a different industry, I have taken that leap of faith. I have learnt so much about transferable skills that one can take into so many sectors.
The environment around us globally has and continues to change significantly and the concept of “Net Zero”, or increased sustainability is no longer in the background, a distant dream or tucked away in a cupboard, so to have been a part of this over so many years and now living and breathing this in my day job is just awesome.
How have you actively changed your daily practice to be more sustainable?
My roles have allowed me in some cases to naturally come around to the idea that I/we need to become more sustainable to protect the earth for future generations. A lot more talking of these interventions has allowed simple concepts to be taken on board and to incorporate these into my /families daily life. From recycling at home, water conservation, deploying energy saving tips, going paperless, donating unused items and so on. Some of these have been far easier to adopt and bring into one’s lifestyle whilst others have been a personal and conscious decision, something you have to have the belief in, in terms of the “so what” for it to actually happen.
Do you feel there is a stigma or lack of understanding of the climate crisis among South Asian communities? What do you believe the blockers to be and how would you go about solving the issues?
My personal belief is somewhat two-fold. On one hand I believe it’s the environment in which we live in on a daily basis, not having the understanding of any/limited climate crisis (that is someone else’s problem to sort) and the other hand, have many communities in the South Asian culture truly paved their career paths to want to go make a difference on supporting/creating a greener world? In all honesty with discussions at a UK and global level on climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, electric cars etc, there is a lot out there for us to take notice of.
However this could be seen as eutopia so let’s bring it home to reality – yes there is an element of lack of understanding, is there a widespread understanding of what carbon actually is and what this means to the human race? What about the rush to get to zero carbon? How is this possible? What is my role in society? Lots of questions I would be asking to get underneath the stark fact that amongst our society this is not a burning topic, not one that excites all.
So how do we go change or even try to scratch the surface on something so topical yet so crucial on a global front. It must start with “me”, having the interest and the urge to go seek “what is all this about?” My career paths have educated me on such issues and I have been part of some of the solutions which I have spoken to family and friends about, so they understand, and it goes on from there.
Now I have to turn the lens to the government, authorities and governing bodies in terms of how much are they or have they truly shouted about such issues, back into all communities, bringing to life what it actually means in terms of the carbon footprint and my role to reduce this, there is a lot to do here. There are huge networks, communication channels where we can establish this as the forefront of all conversations – making it real for people to see how these correlates in their daily lives.
Being carbon conscious in a practical day-to-day sense can be quite costly – how can people easily and cost effectively make a difference? Do you think being sustainable is accessible to everyone?
My pure existence as a human being gives an output of carbon, whether this relates to eating, drinking, what means of transport I use, what waste is produced, how this is segregated for recycling, the list can go on. Government backed initiatives have been the catalyst for short term sign ups such as solar, home insulation etc. Water companies have pushed to get water conversation gizmos sent out to households free. However, the big producers of carbon require some big changes and to that, costly changes.
My thinking is simply small steps to create a belief and culture that yes, I can and will make the difference. If the global population followed just the basics of reducing carbon, we could strive towards our goal. This alone will not be enough, in fact far from it, the sheer magnitude of the footprint we see today will take big bold moves, new energy solutions- wind, solar, hydrogen, changes to the way we live and so on.
Most importantly it must be accessible to us all in a simple usable way. Look at smart metering, controlling your entire home’s heating, lighting, turning on the coffee machine… all remotely via wonderful apps. Technology has transformed our lives, why can’t carbon reduction initiatives be the same?
What advice would you give to younger generations in relation to sustainability and the environment?
We take the world for granted and there may be an ill perception that global problems don’t impact me directly, so what. My view is about creating the environment around you and I today, for future generations to want to live in. The actions of us today will be the landscape of the younger generations to live in tomorrow. It’s all about a lasting legacy. This cannot be hidden or excused from anyone, younger people must bring this to the forefront of their education, embark on those careers that will be fundamental in making wholesale changes driven by long term plans, such as the Government’s 10 point plan. Don’t hold this within, talk about it, do something about it amongst your family, friends and communities.
How do you feel about the UK government’s TCFD, 10 point climate change plan?
Exciting times and a big commitment, I suppose better late than never. We have seen several of the oil giants making huge commitments, Shell and of course BP, which will pave the way for lots of other industries to step up and be heard on their plans.
There will still be a huge amount of uncertainly on the government plans, it’s about having the confidence in the UK government to go deliver this with support from us all. Not just the financial investment required but the timescale to deliver wholesale landscape changes and the way you and I live a daily life will change. I am very encouraged and fully supportive of such a bold move, is it too late? Who knows, but the words from the PM defining this as a Green Industrial Revolution has to be the start of something special.
Can you share one life story which has deeply impacted you?
I step back to those times in my life when my grandparents were alive. We all have a truly special bond and connection with our grandparents. For me it’s those seeds they planted in me at those times of challenge and uncertainty that today are the foundation and strong roots of who I am. The legacy continues with my parents providing that nourishment on a day to day basis.
Connect with Rumesh on LinkedIn