What our future energy leaders are saying about 2050

Last week the Norwegian University of Science and Technology hosted the biennial International Summit Energy Summit (ISES) in Trondhiem, Norway which attracted 400 students from 64 countries.  This event is held on behalf of the non-profit organization Student Energy and is organized for students by students.  It focuses on sustainable resource management and the role that students will play in defining the future of energy supply and demand.

But these college-aged individuals didn’t meet alone. They attracted 70 speakers that included world leaders like Connie Hedegaard (European Commissioner for Climate Action), Ambassador Richard H. Jones (Deputy Executive Director, International Energy Agency) and Lord John Gummer (Chairman, UK’s independent Committee on Climate Change).  United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon even issued a personal statement of support.

The summary video below gives a brief overview of what went down:

Young energy leaders are key

The bottom line is “students have a pivotal role to play […], these are the generations that are going to have to face the perfect storm of the pressures of globalisation (growth in consumption, quality of life, human rights) pushing up against more stresses in the Earth system (climate change, biodiversity loss, ocean acidification…) head on.”  That’s a quote from David Addison, a Student Energy supporter who works for the Virgin Group where he manages Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Earth Challenge: offering a $25,000,000 prize for scalable and sustainable ways of removing GHGs from the atmosphere. He’s also involved with some of Virgin’s bigger People and Planet projects in relation to existing businesses, and also the occasional Special Project.

So these students are organizing, not to protest and cause social mayhem, but to contribute to groups like Student Energy to advocate for and develop solutions.  It is clear to the Student Energy leadership, for example,  that lots of relevant decision makers and stakeholders in the energy sector aren’t acting or can’t act for whatever reason, instead they see these leaders as just pursuing a very depressing ‘business as usual’ scenario. However, the Student Energy movement is attracting these educated, driven, pragmatic and optimistic young professionals that are coming out of their studies being immensely clued in about the seriousness of solving these complex problems; and also how to embrace and overcome the complexities of the obstacles.

They are tackling topics like the feasibility of moving towards smart cities using existing technology.  Connie Hedegaard, the European Commissioner for Climate Action, points out that the young generation is telling leaders “‘if you don’t do this, we know who will inherit a very, very big debt; we can not accept that, and here are the solutions and the expectations that you are actually delivering the policy framework that we need.’”

International Student Energy Summit 2013 forum

Leading by example

In addition to established world leaders sharing their perspectives and stories there were also alumni of past ISES events contributing to the agenda and demonstrating the vast potential of our youth.  Manuel Wiechers (26), Co-founder and Director with Iluméxico, told me how his social enterprise has installed over 2000 solar home systems in more than 120 communities in México, as well as 20 schools and other projects related to infrastructure for development – all since 2010.

Ryan Dick (29), President and CEO of Radical Energy (and former ISES alumni), has also been doing some amazing things in the solar space.  His organization is currently finalizing the development of its 20 megawatt (MW) Solar Connection SA Project in the Andes mountain range of Ecuador which is located alongside the 30 MW Solar Connection SA Project in the province of Pichincha.  Scheduled to begin construction in the fourth quarter of 2013 and fully operational by the end of 2014, the Solar Connection Project will serve the demands of approximately 41,000 local homes.

It’s quite evident that the young individuals that are a part of this growing movement are tackling the issue of how to transition to a sustainable energy future.  They cite no silver bullets, but rather a large repertoire of existing solutions that can help catalyze this important shift.  Their passion is contagious and they are determined to lead together to realize this desirable and sustainable future.

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  • well summurized Nick, a great summit I also participated to!
    very professional “even though” organized by students for students. As a business professional, VP marketing for Schneider Electric I can give my testimonial: it was very professional, both in term of content and organisation. This NGO Student Energy has a great future in front of it, may be the future “Davos” of Energy where the young generation will challenge the oldest one who controls many levers through the politic.
    the sessions brought a lot about the Energy subject, especially when there was contradiction with open debate, like for the nuclear and the artic drilling topics.

    I gave a contribution about sustainable cities with an audience of 130 passionate students, whose questions were high level and well targetted to open the right debate.
    I strongly encourage any student and young professional to join activities of Student Energy, but also Industry to support this kind of initiative by helping it through sponsorhip, even with a minimal investment.

    Personnally I learned a lot, both as a citizen and as a professional

  • Nick Blandford

    10 years ago

    Thanks for the comments Michel and I completely agree with your thoughts about ISES being the future “Davos” of energy – so true!

  • Jane McRae

    10 years ago

    I also came away from the ISES summit feeling very inspired. As the CEO at Sustainable Cities International (SCI), my presentation on the panel with Michel Orlhac focused on the critical role of cities in advancing low carbon energy futures. SCI has been working with cities for the past 20 years to build the capacity required to move away from business as usual scenarios. We recently launched a new program – the SCI Energy Lab – with a cohort of 10 cities representing 5 different regions – North and South America, Europe, Middle East and Africa. As a platform to develop and advance collaborative and innovative solutions, the Lab has many parallels with the Student Energy initiative. It recognizes that it is one thing to learn about and understand technological solutions, but quite another to implement and make change happen. The ISES symposium was not just “talking heads”. Through effective moderation by the student members, we explored controversial perspectives but did not get bogged down in whose is right. Change is most often achieved when people from different backgrounds and perspectives work together towards a common goal.
    The purpose of the symposium was clear – it was to support this group of dedicated students, as the future leaders and change agents, in making informed decisions and undertaking the actions that will be required to move us from the energy wasting pathways we are on.
    I look forward to staying in touch with Student Energy and hope to see you all at the next ISES event.

  • Hey Nick. Great write up and summary of an amazing event. I left my second ISES event super inspired and optimistic about the future prospects of energy becoming a whole lot more sustainable thanks to all the passionate young leaders who attended. Thank you kindly for your kind words about Radical Energy’s successes. Thanks again to Schneider Electric for their strong support of this event! I hope they are involved in the next summit!

  • Nick Blandford

    10 years ago

    Hi Jane – Thanks for the comments and it was great meeting you at ISES. Looking forward to working with you and SCI in the future – let me know if you’re ever in Victoria.

    Hi Ryan – Thanks for the comments as well. Pleasure to meet you too and hear about the exciting things Radical Energy is doing in the solar space – truly amazing stuff!

  • What a wonderful organization! I am so glad to see a group of proactive students mobilizing for scalable ways to transition from our current energy models to sustainable ones in the future. I am the Communications Executive for an Auckland-based electrical contracting company called Fuse Electrical and I write blogs regarding our various services. In the time that I have been doing this, I’ve become aware of some amazing and startling facts regarding lighting, specifically. Out of curiosity, I did the math on the average lifespan of CFLs and halogens and discovered that if every home in New Zealand were to use these bulbs, over a twenty year period of time, something like 500,000,000+ bulbs would be added to the landfill (and in the case of CFLs that contain toxic mercury, that’s especially alarming to me) I recognize that not every home is going to use all one kind of bulb or another. I simply averaged out 20 bulbs across 2 million homes for the sake of easy math. Certainly a far more scientific approach could be taken to get a more accurate estimate.

    My point is that I started to discover, for myself, that many purported “environmentally friendly” lighting alternatives were not so friendly after all (now that there are even better options available) but could see that they were improvements on the previous options available. That is why I like this organization so much – Student Power seeks to improve upon the existing system and recognizes that while many of the people in high city or national government positions cannot or are not (for whatever reason) acting to create change, at least they are there and seeking to sniff out solutions. I see Student Power as a helpful ally or consultant to the key players in the energy sector, and I look forward to learning more about this organization and thanks to Schneider Electric for making me aware of this organization!

  • Nick Blandford

    10 years ago

    Hi Katie – Thanks for the comment and I’m happy that you came across Student Energy via this blog post! If you want to connect with Student Energy for whatever reason, please feel free to reach out to me and I can provide contact details or visit their website (https://www.studentenergy.org/)

  • You revealed the true heart of ISES! In a friendly and light way, this is how I perceive it and as a participant I can say that you pointed the highlights of the summit. And if I had not been there, after reading this, I would want to know more about ISES and get involved.
    I will keep reading your articles!

  • Nick Blandford

    10 years ago

    Hi Alice – Thanks for the comment and happy to hear you were able to attend the ISES event in Norway!!

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