*As of August 1, Mariana Gerenova, Manager Performance & Asset Management for Eurasia, took over the position of Complex Manager for all AES production assets in Bulgaria – AES Galabovo TPP, Waste Disposal Facility and St. Nikola Wind Farm near Kavarna. In her first interview, she spoke about the responsibility of this post, her future goals and the future of the Maritza East complex.
Mrs. Gerenova, congratulations on your new post. With what attitude do you take it and what will be your goals as a Complex Manager for all production assets of AES in Bulgaria?
Thank you for the congratulations. It is a great honor for me to take over this post, but also a great responsibility. My career is deeply connected with AES Bulgaria, where I have spent half of my professional career. I was one of the first to join the AES Galabovo project in 2007 and I am proud that it continues to be the most modern coal-fired power plant in Southeast Europe. We maintain the highest production standards and provide energy solutions that meet not only the needs of today, but also of tomorrow.
As until now, I will continue to work for our power plant to remain one of the guarantors of Bulgaria’s energy security. At the same time, I will strive to meet the need for innovative energy solutions, as AES works globally to accelerate the future of energy.
I deeply believe in one of the core values that AES relies on, namely safety first. It is very important for us to ensure the safety of our employees and one of the many examples of this is the measures we have taken to protect the lives and health of our employees in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of course, the focus of my work will be to adhere to the highest standards and to maintain an inclusive work environment in which we all work together as a team. Last but not least, in coordination with the President of AES Bulgaria Olivier Market and the Managing Director Ivan Tzankov I will work for our company to be a constructive participant in finding solutions to the challenges that the energy sector of Bulgaria is facing as part of the European Union.
You said that your career is closely connected with AES Bulgaria, tell us more about your path in the company?
As already mentioned, I was one of the first to join the project for the construction of TPP AES Galabovo and over the years I went through different levels and positions in the company. In 2008, I headed the Material Handling Department. From February 2012 to January 2020, I was responsible for the Engineering Department, and since last year I have been entrusted with the managerial position of Manager Performance & Asset Management for Eurasia. Each of these positions has its own specifics that gave me the opportunity to develop professionally. In fact, I could say that in our company we have long applied the principle of ‘lifelong learning’, giving every employee the opportunity to develop their skills and abilities.
My path in this industry started at a very early age, when at the age of 18 I started working at TPP Maritza East 2, where in the course of 17 years I also went through various positions. My stay at Maritza 2 was interrupted while I was studying at the Technical University in Sofia. I graduated with a master’s degree in Thermal and Nuclear Power, and then I took additional qualifications at the Brandenburg University of Technology, the Korea Electric Power Corporation and the Korea International Cooperation Agency, and at the Darden School of Business, University of Virginia.
You are taking over at an important time for the entire coal industry in Europe, namely the transition to decarbonization. In your opinion, how should it be carried out in Bulgaria and what is the future of the Maritza East complex?
We, at AES Bulgaria, are aware of the importance of the transition to a green economy but we believe that the EU Green Deal must be implemented, taking into account the specifics of each individual member state. For Bulgaria, coal-fired energy is important, as the production of electricity from coal represents over 40% of the total energy mix. The Maritza East complex is important for several reasons – it guarantees the security of energy supply and has an essential role in ensuring the stability and energy independence of the country. It is also important because of the system services that guarantee the stability of the energy system and because it provides employment to tens of thousands of employees and their families. All this must be taken into account when talking about the transition to a low-carbon economy.
I would like to emphasize that AES is a company that strives to be a leader in providing innovative energy technologies. For example, it is a global leader in battery-powered energy storage. In this sense, we are happy that together with our colleagues from other companies in the Maritza East complex, we launched a project with the University of Mining and Geology, which aims to explore the geological possibilities in the Maritza East region for CO2 storage. Carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS) systems are a possible technological solution to make our energy sector greener.
Of course, there are discussions about the issue of switching coal-fired power plants to natural gas, but I think that further assessment is needed on how this transition will be made and whether it is worth it. Another option is to switch to hydrogen, but this is also an issue that will be discussed and evaluated in the future.
What message do you think is sent by the fact that a woman stands in such a high position in a company that is part of such a “male” industry?
We at AES are accelerating the future of energy, which is not only smarter and cleaner, but also more sustainable and inclusive. Creating an inclusive environment is extremely important to us as a company. We believe that the strength of an organization and its sustainability come through diversity, inclusion and belonging. In this sense, men and women in AES have equal chances for career growth. Our focus is on developing the full potential of each employee, so that through their personal and professional growth they can build a global career that will push the energy industry forward.