Welcome to our interview series where we speak with purpose-driven and sustainability-focused professionals from around the globe. Every few weeks, we’ll dive into their journeys, learn about their wins and challenges, and the resources they couldn’t do without.
Prepare to be inspired and learn something new!
Today’s guest is Muhammet ER, renewable energy, biomass, circular economy, and energy efficiency specialist from Turkey.
Please tell us a little bit about who you are, your background, and your current job. What inspired you to start a career in sustainability and what was your journey to where you are now?
I am Muhammet from Istanbul, Türkiye (Turkey). I am a professional with ten years of experience in the energy sector, mainly focusing on renewable energy, circular economy, climate change, decarbonization, sustainable waste management, ESG, carbon farming, and energy efficiency topics.
My educational background is in mechanical engineering and I completed a multidisciplinary M.Sc. degree in Energy Science and Technology, acquired at the Istanbul Technical University (ITU). Currently, I am a Ph.D. candidate in Energy Institute – ITU, I am writing my thesis about biogas purification, producing renewable natural gas, and hydrogen production for Turkey as parallel as the 2053 net-zero target. Also, I have been in an exchange studies program at TU Wien and CTU in Prague to improve my international network as well as understand the climate change issue and new environmental technologies. Last, I attended the winter school at the University of Texas, Arlington with a topic on ‘Sustainability and Landfill Management.
I have 10 years of experience in the energy sector both academic and hands-on experience. I worked for national and international companies in Türkiye. I managed more than 50 projects in the renewable energy and energy efficiency field. Since 2018, I have been working as a freelance consultant in my expertise areas.
What’s your day-to-day like?
Starting the day early is essential for me. When the season is summer I go swimming around 30 mins before breakfast. I can’t start working without having Turkish Tea. I work with different time zones all around the world, I need to be flexible for meetings according to the partners who I am in collaboration with. I check my emails, manage the tasks and plan the deliverables. I run every other day after work.
What do you like the most about the work you do?
I enjoy thinking, designing and dreaming about how effective the project would be. What benefits and advantages to society and people would come up. Planning, organizing, and managing such a valuable business to the environment and humanity is totally satisfying.
How does your work address societal and/or environmental issues?
The projects I am involved in are not such development projects. I work directly in the field. After implementation and commissioning, I can observe how the circular economy is applied and operated in real life. For example, when designing a biogas power plant, you recover organic waste to energy. By obtaining biogas, you can generate electricity and heat. Also, it is possible to recover fertilizer. You can reduce your carbon footprint and bring waste to useful outcomes.
In your experience, what are the main challenges of working with mission-driven and sustainability-focused businesses?
In the green energy sector, one of the hardest challenges is costs. Unfortunately, installation costs are high. O&M is another important parameter for the high costs. It is not easy to design, build and operate a renewable energy power plant without any incentives and guarantees from governments. Businesses that are not economically sustainable are doomed to close.
Is there anything that you do outside of your work that is driven by similar (sustainability) objectives?
My wife and I live in Büyükada (Princes’ Island) Istanbul where carbon emissions are so low since motorized vehicles are forbidden. For transportation, we cycle on the island and we grow plants by recovering our kitchen waste.
In your opinion, what are the top skills necessary to be successful at a “green job”?
Care, devotion, passion and curiosity.
If you care about solving problems for the environment, if you feel devotion to nature, if you are a passionate and curious person then you would be successful.
What green careers/sectors do you see growing the fastest right now and/or will become mainstream within the next 10 years?
The main challenge is in the renewable energy field. Renewable sources differ in the location and features of the region. It should be considered under the conditions where you implement your project. But basically, renewable energy is the mainstream.
Energy efficiency, Some countries, and industries are energy-intensive sectors. R&D in the energy efficiency area is fastly growing.
Making a difference in decarbonization is also another important trend for the next 10 years.
Carbon neutralization is one of the most important sectors in the following years. For carbon neutralization, carbon compensation is the following challenge to combat climate change.
I believe the plastics credit sector would be a new trend in the following years.
What are the most common mistakes or misperceptions you have seen when it comes to green careers?
Not having enough awareness of the environment.
People don’t have the same sensitivity to the environment as green career people do. Unfortunately, this comes from the first education. People who don’t have this awareness, are not part of the solution.
You have a diverse background and experience in energy management. Could you highlight some of the key differences and potential green career paths within industries/sectors you’ve worked with?
Every industry has its special dynamics. As Peter Drucker said, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. There are plenty of potentials in energy management but the important thing is knowing what to manage, and what to make a difference on. Since industry 4.0 is still enlarging, smart energy management is a crucial career pathway. If you measure all the necessary inputs and outputs you can make a real impact on the efficiency side such as electricity, gas, heat, steam, water, humidity, etc.
On the other hand, considering sustainable development, It is very important to reduce carbon footprint and water footprint. Efficiently reducing energy consumption would be such an amazing career path within every energy-intensive industry.
Any “lessons learned” or advice you can share with others looking to succeed in their purpose-driven career?
In my experience, keeping learning as much as possible is my main goal. Everyone can learn from anyone on any topic. I am 36 years old and I am still learning.
What inspires you every day to wake up and keep going?
Prophet Muhammad SAW said, “Even if the Resurrection were established upon one of you while he has in his hand a sapling, let him plant it.”
To be a part of the green future warrior. Feeling and knowing the fact to combat climate change and adapting actions even in the work and the life makes me keep going.
One of my long-term goals is to establish my own sustainable engineering consulting firm that handles all or at least most of the elements of a sustainable project. As a consulting firm we will advise on and be responsible for the technical, financial, environmental, social, cultural and regulatory assessment of the project. We will be the ones who weave the project’s web in a way that optimally aligns all of its different elements, to improve and achieve sustainability. That goal, and the fact that I actually and effectively contribute to large international projects, the environment and lives of others, inspires me to wake up every day and keep going.
Muhammet is a Ph.D. candidate, he holds a M.Sc. degree in Energy Science and Technology and a BSc degree in mechanical engineering. He works as a freelance consultant in energy and environment. He serves all around the world in solid waste management, renewable energy, energy efficiency, carbon farming and ESG topics. EBTS Energy Founder.