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Interview by Ann Shikany

This interview of Dymphna van der Lans, C3E Ambassador and Senior Director for Public Policy Programs at the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), comes from Ann Shikany, a second year Master of Arts candidate at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), concentrating in Energy and International Economics. She previously worked at the U.S. Department of Energy in the Office of Policy and International Affairs. Keep in touch with Ann through Twitter at @C3E_EnergyWomen and @annshikany.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Dymphna van der Lans, C3E Ambassador and Senior Director for Public Policy Programs at the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF). If you’d like to know more about Dymphna’s background make sure to read her profile in the C3E Career Pathways document here. As a woman starting out in the clean energy field, I wanted to find out what motivates Dymphna and led her to such a successful career, and if she had any advice for how to prepare for the clean energy sector.


While there is no specific formula to follow, I admire Dymphna’s approach. She let her passion, curiosity, and natural strengths lead her to succeed. She told me she became intrigued by China as a young child when she realized there was a place so different from The Netherlands, the country where he grew up. She naturally excelled at math and economics, but found those academic concentrations on their own somewhat limiting. It was the opportunity to bring together her passions for China, economics, and environmental law, that drove her to complete a master’s program in Sinology, where only a few  of the original 90 students passed. Her academic work led to her first job with DSM, a Dutch petrochemical firm. Here her curiosity and drive allowed her to be involved  in engineering and petrochemical projects, which were new to her at the time. Each subsequent career move was accompanied by continued curiosity and a drive to learn something new.  


The project that is currently keeping her engaged is the Energy Transition Forum at GMF.  The forum started in 2012, and Dymphna has shepherded the overall process forward. The forum facilitates creative solutions to transition the energy sector with leaders across the industry. Through the forum Dymphna shapes dialogues around systems thinking and presses participants to come to the table with humility. These approaches create a better space for listening, which in turn allows for creative thinking. These non-scripted, and mostly off the record, dialogues then produce specific energy policy projects.


One area Dymphna highlighted as a high potential area for advancement is scaling up energy efficiency solutions for industrial sites. Opportunities to implement industrial efficiency exist around the world, and they could drastically reduce carbon emissions. However, two major obstacles stand in the way: a lack of finance mechanisms and the absence of creative, innovative business models. The optimal investors, for instance pension funds, require not only predictable  returns, but also large volumes of returns. Those high volumes are difficult to produce without a systems approach - perhaps industrial water management, or combined heat and power. It is not that these solutions are impossible, but the industry is lacking professionals with the background necessary to create and implement these innovative solutions.


Despite these and other hurdles facing the energy industry Dymphna sees a bright future for the sector. Specifically, I asked her about female role models and colleagues that had helped her in her career.  Instead of focusing on a past mentor, she was excited to speak about the up and coming women at GMF’s Energy & Policy program. She spoke of their dedication, integrity and ability to inspire. Specifically, she said that with their continued engagement in the field, the clean energy sector will be just fine.  




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