An odyssey into the world of biofuels

Leonidas Kanonis, director for communications and analysis at the European Waste-based and Advanced Association (EWABA), highlights why he finds the policy side of this energy sector so fascinating 

What was your first job?
My first experience was when I was a teenager in Athens, Greece, following around my father who was a civil engineer and was often visiting construction sites. I would plaster and clear debris and help with anything I could. My first real job was during my university years at the University of York, England, where I worked part time as a bartender to earn some pocket money. It was during my gap year from university when I got my first job in the energy sector, as an intern at Oeko-institute in Berlin, Germany, following EU and national legislations on energy issues.

What interested you about the biofuels industry?

I acquired experience in a small London consultancy on market analysis for biomass and that is when I was first introduced to biofuels. Before I even joined the sector, I really liked the international label that biofuels had as an industry. The fact that biofuels as a sector was developed entirely through legislation also fascinated me. I spent three-and-a-half years at Argus Media’s biofuels desk in London where I learned a lot about different types of biofuels and met many people from within the industry. I think my desire to move to the policy side was steadily cultivated and EWABA appeared at the right time.

 What does a typical day consist of?
Most mornings I read about new developments and press stories surrounding our industry and make certain that our website and overall media outreach is kept up to date. I have several scheduled external meetings via Teams/Zoom to discuss legislative files with policymakers, associations, industry representatives and the media. Internal meetings take place daily, stemming from policy, communications, or wider strategy discussions. I often speak with our member representatives on several topics including common projects, policy issues and market-related developments.

Tell us a bit about EWABA and what the organisation does?
The European Waste-based and Advanced Association was founded in 2013 and largely represents the interests of the European waste and advanced biodiesel industry. Our work aims to secure public policies that enable large-scale deployment of sustainable biofuels across the EU, in the most efficient way possible. To that extent, we represent over 35 members from 19 European member states before EU institutions, national governments, industry stakeholders and the media. The EWABA Secretariat shares expertise and exchanges knowledge with different stakeholders, and represents the industry at key international events.


What type of leadership skills do you think you possess?
I like to believe that there are two types of leadership – one that is cultivated by experience and one that comes more naturally. Personally, I have very strong drive and ambition and try to pass this on to people around me. I do not lose my faith or my nerve in difficult situations and that keeps me focused when taking a decision. I have learned that if you adopt the right attitude, work ethic, and have self-belief then you will be given opportunities to show your value. So, it’s a matter of making those opportunities count. Being a good communicator also helps considerably in my line of work.


What is your favourite book and film?
I am a fan of (almost) every film Quentin Tarantino has made and my favourite one is Pulp Fiction. I also really like Martin McDonagh and particularly In Bruges and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Favourite books are the Stranger by Albert Camus and Township Plays by Athol Fugard.


How do you like to relax?
I have many ways of relaxing to cope with stressful or long days. Meeting up with friends or dinner with family is always very nice. Running, reading a book or watching a nice film are all part of my routine. Swimming in the sea though probably beats everything.


Where is the best place to go on holiday?
I consider the Greek Aegean Sea as my favourite place to be especially in the summer. If I had to choose one place it would be Molyvos village, on the island of Lesbos. This picturesque village is built underneath an impressive castle found at the top of a rocky hill. Stone houses, cobbled streets and a small port full of fishing boats add to the scenic landscape and gives you a captivating feeling. The island has been struggling a lot due to the refugee crisis, but it is certainly a place worth visiting.


What piece of advice would you give to someone thinking about entering the biofuels industry?
This is a challenging and fun industry to work in and most people are open to discuss with you. Striking a balance between business and regulatory knowledge is very useful for an industry such as biofuels, since policy and innovation often go hand in hand. It may go unnoticed at times but educating people about what the industry does and informing the consumer of what it offers really goes a long way.


What do you think are some of the immediate challenges the sector faces in the years ahead?
The biofuels sector will continue to thrive based on technological innovation and policy promotion. The Fit for 55 package and specific files like the ReFuelEU, FuelEU as well as the revision of existing files like the REDII and CO2 emissions standards would set the direction of the whole industry for decades to come. For the waste-based biodiesel industry, we believe that a holistic approach for transport that incorporates technology neutrality would be sufficient to showcase the numerous benefits of our product and wider industry.

For more information: Visit ewaba.eu/

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