We are delighted to present this Q&A session with Dr Venera N. Anderson, a leading global expert in sustainability and climate change. Following her tenure on Wall Street at Salomon Smith Barney, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and Credit Suisse, Dr. Anderson is now an independent global strategy advisor and published author on sustainability and climate issues. She creates and implements innovative solutions that address the world's most pressing problems, such as climate change, economic development, and humanitarian challenges. Dr Anderson primarily focuses on international projects in clean energy/tech sectors and proprietary analytical research.

Dr. Anderson is a member of the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council and an International Expert in "Women in Green Hydrogen." She is a co-author of the "Touching Hydrogen Future" book (2023, 2nd ed.), author of "The Fight Against Poverty in the BRICS Countries: Historical, Socio-Economic, and Political Aspects" (2020), and co-author of 5 books on poverty in transitional economies (2003-2020).

Dr Anderson is a LinkedIn's "Top Renewable Energy Voice," an illuminem’s #1 Energy (2023); #6 Hydrogen and #9 Energy Transition (2022) Most-Read Thought Leader of the Year; and Top 100 Global Female Sustainability Leader. She is a Rotary International's Paul Harris Fellow and a recipient of the USA President's Volunteer Service Award for outstanding dedication to the mission of the American Red Cross.

In this engaging Q&A, Dr Venera N. Anderson sheds light on critical topics, such as sustainability, energy, and climate change.

#CTS: What is your sustainability journey? What motivated you to pursue a career in sustainability and climate issues?

Dr Anderson: Many have heard Ralph Waldo Emerson's famous quote, “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”  Reflecting on my life now, it seems that my sustainability journey thus far has followed Emerson’s advice.  However, at the beginning of my career, this quote did not coincide with my then-life plans.

In college, I always had a clear and conventional vision of my future. Therefore, after graduation, I began my investment banking career on Wall Street at Salomon Smith Barney’s Financial Institutions Group, where I obtained transactional experience in various financial advisory assignments, such as mergers and acquisitions, fairness opinions, minority stake sales, and auction-rate preferred offerings. I also analyzed strategic issues for global asset managers and insurers.  Later, I coordinated and led global structured notes sales management, product, and process training for associates in 11 offices of Bank of America’s International Private Bank.  I also had a stint at Goldman Sachs’s Equity Capital Markets group, working closely with public and private companies, governments, and financial sponsors to originate, structure, and execute equity and equity-linked financings including IPOs, follow-on offerings, and convertible debt offerings.

However, during my time at Harvard Business School, I also got fascinated with global issues, such as poverty, climate change, and international relations.  So, besides, my MBA coursework, I also completed an independent research study on poverty in transitional economies and started a doctorate in economic theory at another university in Eurasia. Before graduation, I considered careers with the most global impact, feeling that the world was about to change. Based on my analysis and intuition, I was sure that financial and non-financial issues related to society and the environment would be crucial for the sustainability of businesses, economic/social systems, and the well-being of our planet.

This was 8 years before the UN adopted Sustainable Development Goals, and before sustainability emerged as a viable career choice. So, after graduation, to create a global impact, I continued with my doctorate program and returned to Wall Street joining Credit Suisse’s Global Power and Renewables Group, which at the time, was considered the best global investment banking group focused on renewable energy.

Eventually, I decided, like Emerson said “not to go where the path may lead.”  Instead, I chose to carve out my unique path in sustainability, as a career portfolio focused on developing and implementing solutions for global issues like climate change, economic development, and humanitarian challenges since I am most passionate about the following SDG goals: 1) #1 – No poverty, 2) #7- Affordable and clean energy, 3) #13 – Climate Action, and 4) #17 – Partnership for Goals. Therefore, I have carved out my path in sustainability, which is most aligned with my interests and values and beneficial for my clients. So, quoting legendary Diana Ross, “Every step of my journey has been necessary, and perfect, and complete.”

#CTS: Congratulations on being a co-author on the global book initiative “Touching Hydrogen Future,” which was published last summer!  Can you talk about your chapter and the book’s mission?

Dr Anderson: I am excited to be a part of such an inspiring global effort! The one of the main purposes of this book is to educate about opportunities and challenges for hydrogen and inspire the next generation, encouraging them to actively contribute to the development of hydrogen technology and its applications. “Touching Hydrogen Future” presents a series of short stories, which describe a hypothetical future, based on the present-day research, in countries where hydrogen is the norm. While the book caters to energy professionals and students with an interest in energy and sustainability, its freely accessible to readers from all backgrounds.

I am very grateful to the editorial team of Erik Rakhou and Rosa Puentes Fernández for offering me the opportunity to dream about the hydrogen future of Kazakhstan for the 2nd edition of the book! My short story “Kazakhstan – 2049; Hydrogen Silk Roads and Hubs” is based on the present-day research, some of it mine, and a childhood camel trekking memory in that country. This memory extends into the future caravan experience in Kazakhstan in September 2049.

I want to congratulate all the 38 authors from six continents who came together to share their visionary stories about a world transformed by hydrogen. As of today, the book’s global reach is as follows: ✦ 10,000+ copies (digital and hard-copy); ✦ Global reach > 130 countries. The hardcover/paperback book is featured on Amazon in 12 countries: USA, UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Canada, Australia, and Japan. The book can also be downloaded for free from EuropeanGasMarket.eu.  

#CTS: You have recently created a new sustainability-related “nexus-integrated policies’ framework’ to improve Japan’s energy and environmental security, resilience, and reliability.  Can you talk about the main ideas of your framework, which, essentially, serves as an example for other countries facing similar sustainability-related challenges.

Dr Anderson: My research, as 5-part policy series, was published on illuminem late last year, under the title “Policies to Improve Energy and Environmental Security, Resilience, and Reliability: A Case Study on Japan.”  

Japan, as the world's third-largest economy faces multiple energy and environmental issues. For example, its energy security environment is vulnerable compared to the other Group of Seven (G7) countries. For example, in 2022, its primary energy self-sufficiency ratio accounted for 11% versus that of Canada (179%), the United States (106%), and United Kingdom (75%). Why? The scarcity of domestic fossil fuels underpins this low self-sufficiency ratio. For instance, in 2022, Japan, the fifth-largest global oil consumer, depended on imports for 97% of its primary energy supply, exposing itself to the high international fossil fuel prices' volatility amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Japan has many other energy resources but does not use them to their full potential (solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, and wave).

Second, Japanese energy resilience issues, exacerbated by natural disasters, exist due to the poorly interconnected split electricity system. Third, although the country had a relatively high level of energy reliability, its recent situation worsened due to typhoons and earthquake-caused long and large-scale power outages. The continued integration of variable renewable energy and future climate change might further affect Japanese energy reliability and resilience (IEA, 2021).

At the same time, Japan must also consider evolving environmental security, resilience, and reliability situations. Like the rest of the world, Japan grapples with the effects of global climate change, which continues to affect its food security, and the ecosystems’ resilience and reliability. Water security is also relevant since a quarter of the Japanese population will live in water-scarce areas between 2020 and 2030 (WDL, 2023). All the presented issues are crucial in the context of the current energy transition, which strives to achieve carbon neutrality amid the challenges, such as the need for energy security, macroeconomic impacts, the new North-South divide, and the global competition for critical minerals. The new North-South divide is defined by the preeminent energy expert Daniel Yergin as “a sharpening difference between developed [such as Japan] and developing countries on how the transition should proceed.”  

Despite the complexity of the task, I strongly believe that cross-sectoral policies might improve Japanese environmental and energy situations. Using the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) (Hoff, 2011) nexus framework (water, food, and energy security) also with my additional proposed sectoral actions for energy and environmental reliability and resilience, as well as for environmental security, I developed a concept of nexus-integrated policies for Japan. Since "water, food, and energy form a nexus at the heart of sustainable development", the nexus approach is paramount for nexus-integrated policies. These policies were built on the SEI's framework principles: 1) environment (investing in sustaining ecosystem services), 2) economy (creating more with less), and 3) society (acceleration of integration and better access of the poorest). The framework considers climate change, population growth, and urbanization as combined pressures on ecosystems and limited resources. Finance, innovation, and governance are also essential for the success of these nexus-integrated policies (Hoff, 2011).

My policies also propose additional policy recommendations, namely, 1) understanding that the most viable options to strengthen energy situation require longer timeframes and may not be same actions to solve environmental issues, 2) selecting cleaner energy options for the energy transition by assessing their lifecycle emissions and supply chains, 3) creating a true circular economy for solving environmental and energy challenges, and 4) guaranteeing the just and orderly energy transition, while accounting for different net externalities and tradeoffs. Of course, there are limitations of the nexus-integrated policies. First, these policies do not incorporate the political uncertainty connected to the policies' implementation. Second, some proposed actions can overlap and may not fit into the time categories entirely or uniquely. Regardless of the shortcomings, no studies in the public domain present nexus-integrated policies for Japan while considering various energy and environmental challenges.

In terms of further recommendations based on my framework, in February 2024, lluminem published my newest research paper “Begin at the Beginning: Nexus-Integrated Policies for Clean Hydrogen Production and Integration into High Priority Heavy Industry Sectors in Japan.” The analysis in this research study builds up on two qualitative concept to present a strategy for producing and integrating clean hydrogen in selected heavy industry application in Japan. First, my study uses Michael Liebreich’s model of the “Clean Hydrogen Ladder, 5th version) to identify the best uses for clean hydrogen deployment in the Japanese economy, which are “no real alternative cases (fertilizer, hydrocracking, hydrogenation, desulphurization) and “decent market share highly likely” cases, such as chemical feedstock and steel.

In my newest research, I also used my “nexus-integrated policies’ framework” to present an ambitious “Begin at the Beginning” clean hydrogen production and integration strategy for Japan, consisting of three phases, 1) short-term scale-up (until 2030), 2) mid-term steps (2030-2050) and long-term growth (beyond 2050).  If needed, similar framework can be applied to other countries facing various sustainability-related challenges, with the focus on energy and environmental situations.

These two aforementioned policy series (along with references) can be obtained at my personal illuminem Voice page at:https://illuminem.com/illuminemvoicesprofile/venera-n-anderson

#CTS: The London Climate Technology Show brings together lots of different people. In what ways do these events help experts connect and build partnerships for climate action?

Dr Anderson: The London Climate Technology Show provides a vital avenue for visionary minds to explore cutting-edge solutions in sectors such as Clean Energy, Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage, Food, Agriculture and Land Use, Built Environment, Corporate Sustainability, and Startup Acceleration. This event can help forge a path toward a sustainable planet, ignite and foster cross-sectoral discussions and collaborations, and contribute to the Climate Technology revolution!