Next generation energised to make a difference

Posted on 9 November 2013

Deep in the cavernous halls of the World Energy Congress, the future of energy was being shaped – quite literally.

The ‘future’ refers to the 100 young energy professionals, hand-picked by the WEC’s member committees, to network and gain international experience through the Future Energy Leaders programme.

Enthusiasm, drive, and a desire to make a difference are the hallmark of these young professionals.

They had already started working together for two months on several initiatives.

Congress 2013 FELs group room

Over four days of the Congress, their ‘peer working groups’ met to thrash out the final details of several initiatives, including a global survey of consumers on their attitude towards alternative fuels, a new model to finance energy projects, an assessment on the impact of geopolitics on balancing the ‘energy trilemma’, and a tool for project managers to evaluate the acceptability of energy projects based on the trilemma metric.

In specially tailored sessions, they heard from and exchanged views on innovation, policies, and research with 20 experts including Sanjit “Bunker” Roy, founder of Barefoot College; Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC; Fatih Birol, Chief Economist and Director of Global Energy Economics of the International Energy Agency; and Salvador Namburete, Mozambique energy minister. The WEC’s leadership team, including Chair Mrs Marie-Jose Nadeau, Secretary General Christoph Frei, and Senior Director of Studies Karl Rose, provided further insights and an extra dose of inspiration.

The efforts of the WEC’s young leaders are set to make an impact beyond the energy community.

Antoine Skyem, from Lebanon, wanted to start a project to provide the Syrian refugee communities in Lebanon with solar power and train them on how to maintain it.

He met Bunker Roy through the programme to see how the Barefoot College model could be replicated in his country, which is already seeing significant increase in energy demand.

“I contacted Barefoot because we needed an experienced partner to help out.”

The Barefoot College provides training for rural people – in particular women – on healthcare, energy services, livelihood, and teaching skills to transform their villages in isolated areas. After leaving the campus, the newly trained solar engineers would return to their homes to light up their villages.

Started and run largely in India, the College has also trained villagers from other countries.

Having explored the options for implementing his project, Skyem realised that the best way forward would be to send members of the Lebanese host communities to be trained on Barefoot’s campus in India.

“We are currently searching for an appropriate community to implement the project, even though on a small scale,” he said.

More countries could one day benefit, too. At the Congress Mr Roy pledged to help the young professionals from Nigeria and Argentina bring the Barefoot approach to those countries.

The WEC’s Future Energy Leaders’ programme was established to provide a platform to foster collaboration and learning for young professionals in an international setting. Members take part in select WEC events and the World Energy Congress.

This year’s participants came from 45 countries. One-third of them were women, an under-represented group in energy.

Congress 2013 FELs Juhi Rajput

Ori Chandler, who heads up the programme at the WEC, said that more is yet to come.

“The Congress is very much the start for this exceptional group,” she said. “We want to cement this community within the WEC network and provide a platform for them to share their fresh ideas and new approaches. We want them feed into our global work programme, through joining our study groups, knowledge networks, and also by building on their peer working groups.”

“We are also keen to help them establish national chapters,” she said, adding that there is already interest for such groups in Colombia, Hungary, and India.

The experts who met the young professionals at the Congress found it critical to engage the next generation.

Tatiana Mitrova, Head of the Oil and Gas Department of the Energy Research Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that the young professionals “can really make a difference”.

“They are open for the cooperation, tolerant, flexible and well educated. In 10 to 20 years they can become decision-makers, and this is the main reason why they should be engaged right now.”


– Story by Monique Tsang