Global president, International Geothermal Association
- Bachelor of Science (Technology)
From Tauhara College to “president of the world”
Andrea ‘Andy’ Blair (BSc, 1999), University of Waikato forestry graduate, is the global president of the International Geothermal Association (IGA) headquartered in Bonn, Germany. Not bad for a girl who grew up in Taupō, loved science and was intent on becoming a forester.
She achieved that early aim but has since worked all over the world in the geothermal energy sector, an expert in bringing together science, business and community for successful geothermal projects.
She liaises with aid agencies and funders, governments and commercial developers. And she’s back living in Taupō with her own research and consultancy business called Upflow.
Andy says the Bachelor of Science (Technology) that Waikato offered was broad, not just focused on science, but included papers in marketing, economics, computer science and materials technology – just what she needed.
After graduating, Andy worked as a forester for five years before her position was made redundant. “I walked into the tearoom after being told and said I’d apply for any job that looked interesting.
There were two. One with super yachts and the other job ad was for an operations manager at tourism company Kiwi Experience, and despite not having any relevant experience, “a forestry chick from randomsville”, she got the job. She ended up general manager of the company.
Andy’s big break came when, after taking a year off full-time work to train for the Coast to Coast, she joined GNS Science as a business development manager with responsibility for geothermal and hydrogeology (ground water), and the job took her to places interesting and often remote; countries in Central and South America, the Caribbean, Japan and Iceland, to name a few.
“I’d visit between 10 and 12 countries a year, speaking at events and supporting geothermal energy projects.”
Ten years after joining GNS, Andy decided it was time to go out on her own and she formed Upflow with business partner Dr Paul Siratovich. “I could see there was a real gap in the commercial science space. Geothermal projects are technically complex, and commercial groups need scientific solutions. I’m like the translator, pulling science into business,” she says.
Part of the reason she’s embraced and immersed herself in geothermal technology is that people working in the sector want to do good in the world.
“Geothermal has the power to lift people out of poverty, it can transform communities. It can provide access to water, offer food security through creating artificial growing environments, provide economic development and employment opportunities, often for indigenous peoples and those in rural areas.”
Andy’s been “president of the world”, the IGA, for nearly two years and a director for more than four years. The association has more than 5200 members in more than 65 countries. It’s a non-political, non-profit, non-governmental organisation whose main objective is to encourage research, the development and utilisation of geothermal resources worldwide.
She’ll be representing the IGA in Glasgow in November this year, “keeping geothermal on the radar” at COP26, the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference.
Over the years Andy’s made it her mission to get more women into the geothermal sector, and to that end she co-founded WING (Women in Geothermal) which now has more than 2300 members worldwide. A key target for WING is 50% male membership.
“Energy is typically a male dominated sector, and we need men to help pull us across the void. The WING philosophy is that the push for equality is everyone’s job; men didn’t’ ‘do this to us’, all of society has contributed to the situation we find ourselves in, and it’s going to take all of society to make it right.” Andy says.
“We set up the WINGman Special Taskforce, a series of workshops that give men tools and insights to help support and empower their female colleagues. We convinced the World Bank to fund global deployment of the programme and now we can see real cultural change starting to happen in our global industry. We can’t change the whole world, but we can change our world.”
Andy says she always knew she wanted to be pushed and challenged, wanted to do big things. Her Waikato degree provided the basis for her do that. “I became ambitious and bold. I get to make decisions and create solutions that have a real positive impact on the environment and communities. I work with super smart passionate people from all around the world and I’m doing what I love.
“I wake up every day and hope it’s a workday.”