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Leadership Summit: Interview with AES Corp. COO Bernerd Da Santos

Humility and commitment to completing the goals ahead are two key tenets of success which have driven Bernerd Da Santos since his early days growing up and starting work in Venezuela.

Now he has risen to chief operating officer of global power generator AES Corp.—and all the power and responsibility which comes with that­—but very little has changed in his approach.

Watch the full interview:

“Surround yourself with people better than you,” he told Power Engineering content director Rod Walton in a recent video interview via Zoom. “I’m only a human being carrying responsibility of organization, but that title is for the people. You are here to open paths to remove barriers and make things happen for them.”

Da Santos’ 36-year energy career has taken him from South America around the world. He oversees operations for a giant generation portfolio that includes conventional, renewable and storage assets.

Like many utilities, AES has set a path toward greater sustainable generation portfolios and reduced carbon emissions. 2050 has been the year many pin-point as ground zero for zero-carbon, but Da Santos was eager to talk about 2030 also, because the near-term goals are crucial to completing the big picture.

“In 2020, we are hitting less than 30 percent on coal (portion of the generation mix)…By 2030 it will be less than 10 percent,” he said. “The economics are there, the reliability is there and the technology is moving that way.”

AES will deploy greater renewables and storage assets to help achieve its sustainability goals. “The first step is making the commitment.”

Da Santos also revealed a bit of his unique family history during the interview. Raised in Venezuela with a Mexican mother, his maternal grandfather once fought alongside Pancho Villa.

The big fight today is against the coronavirus, possibly what may prove to be the key battle of the 21st Century. AES is taking all precautions to project its employees, supply chain and liquidity at this time, he said.

And those 25,000 employees come first.

Click here to see more of the Power Engineering Leadership Summit interview with AES COO Bernerd Da Santos.