Anne Haase was told she had a good engineering brain at school, but wasn’t allowed to study it at Scottish higher level.

“The principal said he wouldn’t put on the engineering course just for two girls who wanted to do it. I took a different path and could have potentially ended up in the place I am but by another route.”

Instead, she dreamed of becoming a writer, finding a job as a local newspaper trainee reporter, before enrolling at university to help her progress to the national press.

During her degree, she discovered an aptitude for economics, leading to an MA in financial economics and a job on Barclays’ graduate scheme – but not before six months living and working in the Vietnamese rainforest.

“I am an activist and conservationist, and always have been,” she said. “I was working on a biodiversity project to stop the flooding and damming of a valley for hydropower. I was counting bats and doing bug surveys to prove it was an area of biodiversity gold, so it wouldn’t be allowed to be dammed.”

The campaign failed – the area was turned into a tourist attraction – and Anne returned from Vietnam bearing 23 ulcers and an intestinal diseases from dirty water, which meant she had to go straight into isolation when her plane landed in the UK.

But it was all part of the experience. “You have got to have fun in life and push the boundaries,” said Anne.

In her early banking days, a year in Barclays’ Environmental Risk Management Unit exposed her to the financing of the types of projects she had opposed.

Eastern Daily Press: Anne enjoys mentoring colleagues and helping them overcome barriers to progressionAnne enjoys mentoring colleagues and helping them overcome barriers to progression (Image: Aquaterra Energy)

Anne realised the power of “being an enlightened person in a corporate role rather than fighting on the ground”.

“I could have more impact and power in doing the right thing,” she said. “I could make a bigger difference and have the opportunities to make the difference.

“There has been a synchronicity in the opportunities that have presented themselves in the last 10 years and I have made the most of them.”

It was this passion that pulled her into the energy sector after 11 years with Barclays, where she had progressed to oil and gas director for a portfolio of clients.

Her clients invited her to take her key transferrable skills into the sector in 2007. She understood commercially that “everything has to be bankable”, was adept at identifying risks and marketplaces, and had a long-term vision.

“I started working in energy transition for Bilfinger, looking at its offshore wind capability from an operations and maintenance perspective for five or six years, working across the European business.”

She visited Norwich and loved it, convincing Bilfinger to create a role for her in the southern sector at its Great Yarmouth office.

After a spell with Petrofac playing a part in setting up its new energy services, she joined Aquaterra Energy to lead its new renewable and energy transition division.

“I went from a massive international organisation to a pared down international operation where I had far more scope. It felt like the next stage in my career to build something that will really make a difference.”

Anne is not a five- or 10-year plan type of person. “I never had any direction other than forward,” she said. “I always want to be pushing on. It is better to regret something that you have done than something you haven’t done.

“My father was my biggest cheerleader. He would tell me ‘Think big and then think bigger’. He absolutely believed I had the capability and capacity to do anything and pushed me hard.”

Born into a mining family in Kirkcaldy, Anne grew up on a council estate. “My parents left school at 15/16 and went into manual jobs and didn’t understand how to guide a future path.”

If her principal had allowed her to study engineering at a higher level at school, she believes an engineering degree would have been her path.

Eastern Daily Press: Speaking to an audience used to fill Anne with dread, but it’s now a big part of her roleSpeaking to an audience used to fill Anne with dread, but it’s now a big part of her role (Image: Aquaterra Energy)
Today, engineering is a key part of her work. “I would never be able to do calculations in the way engineers do now, but I can understand concepts and constraints and the client drivers, and I can maintain a strategic focus.”

Five years ago, a life-or-death health issue made Anne re-evaluate life.

“If I hadn’t had an operation then, I would have been dead now,” she explained.

“It has been the biggest opportunity and told me that you have only a short time left on this earth, so you have to have as much fun as you can. I made the biggest change in my outlook and attitude – I have to live life.”

Before her operation, speaking to an audience filled Anne with dread. “Now it’s mostly what I do. Something flipped after my operation.”

That self-doubt and the “I’m not good enough” feeling behind her, Anne mentors younger colleagues, including an intern with huge potential and the same fears.

Anne finds excitement in “work, new ideas and dogs.” Aquaterra’s dog Fridays give her particular joy.

“As you get older you start to feel those elements of joy and see joy. I am a bit of a Pollyanna seeing good in everything.

“The energy industry is such an exciting place to be. You have got really interesting work and if you are a natural problem solver, it is absolutely great.

“Energy is a problem that needs to be solved and people can play to their strengths.”

If Anne had a magic wand to solve energy’s ultimate problem, what would she do?

“I am a realist as well as an optimist. I would create a hydrogen transmission system to provide the foundation of a hydrogen system and electrification system.”

Anne’s recent election as the first chair of the Hydrogen East Cluster in November may well help her achieve this. The cluster was launched in May 2023 to drive the delivery of hydrogen projects in the East of England.

Outside work, Anne enjoys travel and cooking – her signature dishes are wild boar pappardelle and beef wellington.

“And my marzipan cake – people generally faint when they eat it, it’s so good.”

Read more about the East of England’s energy industry in the latest issue of Insight Energy.