15.12.2020 | Axpo France: continuous growth and clear focus on PPAs
Joanna Juszczak, Managing Director Axpo France, is one of the few women to be found holding a senior management position in the international energy industry. Here she tells us what needs to be done to attract more women to the origination business – and what her plans are for the future development of Axpo’s subsidiary in the French market. Focusing on renewable energies, Axpo France is definitely well positioned for further growth.
Joanna, the energy industry is still dominated by men. How does a woman in a leadership position feel in this type of environment?
(laughs) I'm doing fine, thanks! But joking aside: It’s true, especially when I immersed myself in the energy world after my studies, there were hardly any women at all.
Women are still in a minority, though.
Yes, of course, that’s true in general. But if you look at Axpo France, for instance, meanwhile we have a female contingent of 40% in my team.
So, there is no disadvantage or obstacle for the professional development of women anymore?
Personally, I have never seen any obstacles in my career at Axpo. In my professional development over the last ten years, it has made absolutely no difference what gender I am. Performance is all that matters.
What needs to change to attract even more women to the energy industry?
Overall I would say women tend to choose fields of study other than technical degrees. At least in the past this was the case. That might have led to the situation that historically there were less women in energy compared to other industries. But things have changed massively and we now see many more women in energy than some years ago.
What do you think could be the reason for this development?
If you look at the origination business, for instance, you will see that it’s much less technical than one might think at first glance. It’s a fascinating mix of energy trading, entrepreneurship and customer relations, and we need a lot of people with diverse skills in this area. That’s why I can only recommend to my female comrades to join the origination business.
Two years ago, you decided to leave Paris: Axpo France moved to Lyon to further advance its origination business. What was the reason behind that?
Paris is great in many ways, but Lyon offers Axpo some significant advantages: It’s the epicenter of the French energy industry. First of all, Lyon has always been home to many energy-intensive companies from the chemical industry. And secondly, it has become the French capital of renewable energies in recent years because it is ideally located halfway between Paris and Marseille.
Why is this geographical situation that important?
Lyon is the gateway to southern France, where a particularly large number of renewable energy projects are being implemented around the corner, so to speak. This makes it very easy for us to get in touch. In addition, in Lyon we have great opportunities to look out for new employees and to push ahead with the expansion of the team.
How many employees are currently working with Axpo France?
Ever since we moved from Paris to Lyon two years ago, we have doubled our headcount from 5 to 10 employees. We want to continue growing and Lyon is the ideal location for this.
What is the focus of your business activities today and what will it look like in the future?
In the field of origination, we are strongly active in the energy balancing and long term sales business. One of our customers is the local distribution network of Grenoble, and the one of Ambérieux, both based close to Lyon. The state-owned railway company SNCF or the pharmaceutical giant Sanofi-Aventis are also part of our portfolio. Besides that, we aim at further expanding our activities in the marketing of renewable energies. There is quite a big potential for us in this segment as the wind power and solar energy sector have grown steadily in France in recent years.
That sounds as if you would like to focus on PPAs in the future.
Yes, absolutely. We want to take advantage of the opportunities arising, for example, from the increasing reduction in subsidies for renewable energies: Many producers have to look more and more for customers and we can offer them attractive Power Purchasing Agreements. Energy-intensive industrials, in the other side, are increasingly looking for electricity from renewable energies. Axpo has a comprehensive PPA know-how in many countries and we can benefit from this situation in the French market as well.
Joanna Juszczak is 38 years old and has been working in the energy sector for 17 years. After studying mathematics and international business in Marseille, a native of Poland, who moved to France with her parents when she was a teenager, Joanna first started her career working in Lyon and Brussels. Joanna has been with Axpo since 2010. She was initially responsible for Axpo's activities in Belgium and the Netherlands before setting up Axpo France. A mother of two children (8 and 5 years old) Joanna loves her job and shares house and family duties with her husband, who works as a Director Civil Works.
Axpo France is pushing ahead with Axpo's origination activities in the electricity and gas business in France. The French subsidiary in Lyon offers local, regional and national clients various services in the areas of portfolio management, structured products, emission certificates and renewable energy. At the same time, Axpo France maintains partnerships with other energy traders, producers and resellers in the wholesale market. The ten-member team is led by Joanna Juszczak.