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FORCES OF NATURE: AboitizPower’s BABAEngineers champion PH RE push

AboitizPower women engineers from its wind, geothermal, and hydro projects. (L-R) ARI Wind Project Development Manager Sandra Banisa, APRI Project Control Supervisor Sheryl Villegas, and Hedcor Civil Support Engineer Cherry Ann Gutierrez all thrive in their respective roles within the complexly transitioning and male-dominated industry of power generation.

BABAEngineer Sandra Banisa has been with Aboitiz Renewables, Inc., an AboitizPower subsidiary, for nine years. She is currently fulfilling the critical role of a Wind Project Development Manager in a period when the company is adding wind power to its generation portfolio for the first time.

“I have been involved in hydro construction and wind power plant development in AboitizPower. This has allowed me to actively participate in reducing reliance on fossil fuels, mitigating environmental impact, and driving innovation in sustainable energy technologies,” she said. “Additionally, the opportunity to engage with local communities, promote environmental stewardship, and positively impact socioeconomic development further fulfills my role in the company.”

Sandra is among the empowered AboitizPower BABAEngineers — a portmanteau of the words “babae” or woman and “engineer” — who show how women can be accomplished in a male-dominated industry such as power generation, more so amidst a crucial point in which the country is transitioning to cleaner technologies.

“AboitizPower’s mission of providing reliable and sustainable energy to businesses and communities in the country aligns with my desire to create a better world for my children,” she added, while recounting her involvement in the business development of the upcoming 206-megawatt wind plant in San Isidro, Northern Samar, done in partnership with other energy companies.

The Makiling-Banahaw (Mak-Ban) Geothermal Power Plant of AP Renewables, Inc. is a 458-megawatt geothermal power station complex in Laguna and Batangas that delivers clean and renewable baseload power.

Aligned with the country’s ambition of having a 35% share of renewable energy (RE) in the power generation mix by 2030 and 50% by 2040, AboitizPower is adding 3,700 megawatts of new RE capacity en route to a balanced portfolio of 4,600 megawatts each between its thermal and renewable assets.

Currently, over 1,000 megawatts of disclosed energy projects — including solar, wind, geothermal, and battery energy storage systems — are in the pipeline.

To deliver these, AboitizPower and its BABAEngineers are hard at work.

This includes AP Renewables, Inc. Project Control Supervisor Sheryl Villegas, who oversees RE construction and engineering projects, ensuring that project plans and targets are met. This year, the company is looking to put online a 17-megawatt binary geothermal power plant in Tiwi, Albay.

Reminiscing on her experiences in the power sector, she tells fellow and aspiring BABAEngineers that she is “more than willing to share knowledge, offer unwavering support, and recognize even their small achievements to motivate and help them achieve significant progress over time.”

“I empower myself through continuous learning and development, exploring new directions and opportunities, instilling a positive outlook, and surrounding myself with networks of reassuring individuals. These, I think, are essential to anyone’s personal and professional growth,” she explained, outlining her last 14 years with AboitizPower.

Like Sheryl, BABAEngineer Cherry Ann Gutierrez also recognized the importance of a support system underpinned by a culture of inclusivity and meritocracy.

“I appreciate the support and encouragement from my colleagues, supervisors, managers up to top management. AboitizPower values diversity, ensuring that female engineers like me have equal opportunities for career growth,” she shared. “I’m treated equally and get recognized for my skills, regardless of my gender. It’s empowering to work in an environment that breaks gender stereotypes in engineering.”

Ampohaw Hydro in Sablan, Benguet is one of 22 run-of-river hydropower facilities by Hedcor. It is also the first automated plant, having undergone automation in 1997.

Cherry’s tenure with AboitizPower has lasted for more than 16 years and counting. Currently, she is Hedcor’s Civil Support Engineer in Mindanao. AboitizPower’s Hedcor has generated electricity from run-of-river hydropower systems for more than 45 years and recently added solar facilities in its roster of RE capacity.

“I get to stay updated on the latest industry trends, technologies, and regulations that relate to the power generation sector,” she said of her role. “We have been involved in new engineering software applications that extend our skills and enable new learning.”

As a mother to a growing boy, Cherry said that she is also satisfied with the work-life balance in AboitizPower, which enables her to find reward and enrichment in both her professional career and her personal life.

Extending her maternal trait of being protective and caring, she said: “I’m proud to actively contribute to implementing vital safety measures in power plants and construction sites, a responsibility I consistently uphold across all entrusted projects.”

AboitizPower’s BABAEngineers are Transforming Energy for a Better World one project at a time. They are thriving in a culture that values diversity, inclusion, personal merit, and skill; one where success is rewarded irrespective of one’s gender.

“I have remained focused on my goals and committed to proving my capabilities through hard work, professionalism, and dedication,” Sandra said. “I have persevered and demonstrated my worth through my performance and achievements.”

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