Energy Transition Institute Board Spotlight: Aura Cuellar

By Angela Jardina

Though Aura Cuellar is a lifelong learner recognized as a successful executive and leader in the energy transition, she views herself in much simpler terms.

“I’m a bit of a nerd,” Cuellar said.

She added that her desire to learn has made her career a fulfilling one. Describing her journey as global, diverse, and educational, Cuellar’s professional travels have taken her from her birth country of Colombia to the Netherlands and South Africa, with stops in Seattle, Louisiana and, of course, Texas.

Thanks to these experiences, the multi-lingual Cuellar has learned the importance of understanding that each location is different and no one solution ever works for all. She added that a key part of being a good leader is having the open-mindedness to understand these differences.

Currently, Cuellar is a board member with Evolve, a non-profit organization working to accelerate electric vehicle adoption within the Greater Houston area. Additionally, she has served as vice president of the energy transition at Shell, leading efforts to accelerate the implementation of the company’s energy transition strategy. Under her leadership, Shell has remained committed to being an integral player in the development of renewable energy and doing its part on the path toward net zero. For instance, Shell is developing EV charging stations as well as deploying hydrogen refueling structures and expanding the renewable power business. The company also supplies fuel to aviation companies like Amazon Air and KLM.

Though she will step away from Shell to embrace a new challenge within industry, Cuellar also provides her expertise to the University of Houston Energy Transition Institute board. When asked of her motivation to serve in this capacity, she mentioned UH’s dedication to the energy industry. Cuellar emphasized the high percentage of first-generation graduates at UH, citing this as an aspect that makes the school so unique and inspiring to work with.

“The university dedicates great resources to its students, researchers, and overall program,” she said.

Cuellar said that America is unique in its energy transition potential because of two aspects, the culture of entrepreneurship and innovation, and the vast amount of natural resources. Though Cuellar predicts that the majority of power will come from clean sources like wind and solar by the mid-2030s, she acknowledges that despite promising technology developments, implementation must keep pace with society’s needs.

That and an innate enthusiasm, Cuellar said, will get the next generation of industry on the right path.

“You need passion to get far,” she said.