Petra is from Silesia, Třinec. She finished her Master´s degree in 2012 and has since continued with her PhD studies at the IES while also working as an Economic Consultant in London. She completed her undergraduate degree at Masaryk University in Brno at the Faculty of Economics and Administration. During that time she spent one year at École Supérieure de Commerce in Montpellier, France, and also worked for a non-governmental organisation: Le Mouvement Européen-France in Paris. She completed her studies with first class honours and then moved to the IES for her postgraduate studies. While completing her Master´s degree she taught French and in 2011 started working for Ernst & Young in the Performance & Improvement Department in Prague. At the IES she received a number of awards, such as the Renomia Recognition Award for work in development economics and the Karel Engliš Award for the best graduate in social sciences. She also participated in a university exchange program in Australia, at the University of Queensland. As for her career, after having worked at Ernst & Young for two years, in 2013 Petra joined an international economics consultancy in London, Frontier Economics, where she currently focuses on energy markets. From October 2016, Petra will also be teaching a new course at the IES – Energy Markets & Economics. In her free time Petra enjoys sports, especially cycling, hiking and running. Recently, and for the first time, she ran a half-marathon. When not busy with sports, Petra likes trying out new recipes and exploring new places such as sidewalk cafes or local restaurants. She also loves travelling and spending time with her friends and family.
You started your undergraduate studies at Masaryk University in Brno and then your post graduate studies took you to IES. Why did you decide to change cities and universities? How do these two universities differ?
For my undergraduate studies, I’d chosen Masaryk University for its interdisciplinary degree, which allowed me to study simultaneously at the Faculty of Economics & Administration, Faculty of Law and Faculty of Arts, with the Faculty of Economics & Administration being the primary one. At that time this degree was perfect, allowing me to get a solid grounding in economics and law whilst also improving my language skills.
In the final year of my undergraduate studies I was thinking about what to do next. I happened to speak with some IES alumni and their positive experiences encouraged me to explore this option. With hindsight, I really think it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Its postgraduate studies are high quality and taught in English and, without doubt, I learnt a lot. I’m convinced that this education broadened the range of job opportunities open to me, even to include opportunities outside of the Czech Republic. Moving from Brno to Prague was also a nice change, bringing new opportunities and challenges, even though I liked Brno very much as well.
You’re going to teach a new subject at the IES this semester: Energy Markets & Economics. Did you start it from scratch, or did you take inspiration from other similar courses at the IES? Why did you choose this topic?
I indeed started it from scratch and I’m just in the process of preparing the course materials before the semester starts. Similar subjects are, of course, taught at well known universities such as MIT and Harvard—and the aim is to take some inspiration from these in the topics covered and underlying course literature. The timing also worked well. When I started to develop the idea, I spoke to Martin Gregor, the director of IES, and it turned out that they were already thinking of launching a similar course.
I chose this topic as I think energy economics is a very interesting and practical field of economics and it is basically something I apply in my daily work at Frontier Economics. The core idea behind the course is to provide students with a more practical application of economic theory. It combines theoretical knowledge, that anyone can acquire from books, with practical application of the theory to real-world energy markets. For example, I’ll also talk about projects we do at work, which I believe can prepare students better for today’s competitive job market. Having worked in the area of energy economics for a couple of years, I’d like to pass on to students all the knowledge that can best be described as ‘what I wish I’d known when I first started working in energy economics’. I will be delivering this course together with a colleague from Frontier who has over 20-years of industry experience, so it should be interesting!
You are working in London at Frontier Economics. Could you describe your role there?
I joined Frontier Economics almost three years ago and for the first year and a half I was rotating across different practices: competition, telecoms, energy, strategy and public policy. Then I specialised in energy as I found this field really interesting and challenging as it’s an area that is evolving quickly and there is always something new to learn.
Currently, I’m working on several different energy projects, advising both public bodies and the private sector on market design, regulation, renewable support, electricity access, and the financial performance of power utilities. In sum, a very wide range of topics! To give a better idea of what I actually do, let me give you two examples of recent projects I’ve worked on.
Lately I advised a private sector company on the business case for developing a gas market in South Africa. If this goes ahead, and South Africa decides to develop its gas market by importing liquefied natural gas, this has the potential to displace some old coal-fired generation capacity, and thus substantially decrease its CO2 emissions. Developing a gas market could also provide savings to industry by displacing more costly fuels, and enhance security of supply of electricity. This is especially relevant given that South Africa has been experiencing power shortages since 2007.
In another recent project, together with my colleagues from Frontier, we assisted the World Bank in developing an energy sector policy note intended to support the Government of Mozambique in determining priorities for policy decisions. The ultimate objective of this note was to provide advice on how to deliverer efficient and technically and financially sustainable electricity supply to the Mozambican population, as well as substantially increase the number of people with access to electricity. It’s an area that I find particularly rewarding because I can see the huge difference access to affordable electricity makes to households’ quality of life and economic growth.
Is it possible to combine your teaching duties in Prague and working full time in London? What does the future hold for you; do you plan to stay in London for a long time, or do you see your career somewhere else?
I think that it is entirely possible to combine working and teaching, as I will be teaching an economic field I apply in my daily job at Frontier. In fact, I have always enjoyed teaching. For example, during my years at university I occasionally taught children chess and French so now I aim to get back to it. What is also helpful is that the course will be taught in ‘block’ lectures; i.e. rather than having one lecture each week we will have 2 – 3 lectures on the same day, decreasing the need to travel back and forth to Prague to a feasible level.
When it comes to my future, I think this can be quite unpredictable! I very much enjoy my work at Frontier and I would like to carry on working for them and further broaden my knowledge and develop my skills. However, I am not entirely convinced I would like to stay in London, which might have been influenced by the recent Brexit vote, so one scenario could well see me helping to set up a Frontier office in Prague if they decide to expand their presence to Central Europe one day.
Petra, you are travelling a lot, you studied in Australia, France, Czech Republic, you are working in the UK, experienced shorter summer jobs in Spain and even in Iceland. Which country suits you the best? (I mean for example by the character of the society…)
This is actually very true. I like travelling and exploring new places, learning about new cultures, living a slightly different life in each place and getting into the habit of speaking English/French/Spanish on a daily basis. Of all the places I’ve lived so far, I probably enjoyed Australia the most for its beauty and nature. I also liked Spain for its friendly, outgoing and open culture. However, as time goes by, I more and more appreciate Prague and therefore there is a chance that I return one day.
What do you do in your free time?
I’m passionate about sports. I bought a mountain bike during my university exchange programme in Australia, which I brought back to the Czech Republic (leaving behind other personal possessions, such as clothes, to stay within the weight limit, which was quite funny). I also bought a road bike in the UK. Having two bikes from Commonwealth countries means that I’m now confused about the gears and brakes - they’re the reverse of European bikes - as well as which the side of the road I should be riding on! I also started running last year and was persuaded by a friend to run a half-marathon in April this year which I really enjoyed. I also enjoy hiking. I did the tour of Mont Blanc this year, which I can strongly recommend to anyone interested.