Photo: Claire West and Axel Sinhuber, also from UoA (Engineering Dept, MEnergy)


The following is a report from Claire West, who won a bursary to attend the Student Energy Summit (SES) at the Imperial College in London.

The Student Energy Summit (SES) is a unique bi-annual conference that brings together students from all over the world to engage with a wide range of professionals connected to the energy industry. This year, 650 university students representing 98 countries aggregated in London for SES 2019, and I was fortunate enough to be one of them.

The concentration of cultural and academic diversity, passion, and ambition made this event unlike anything I had experienced before. The organizing team had done an incredible job of scheduling panelists and workshops that provided an unrivalled range of perspectives and expertise. Our full on schedule packed as much education into the three days as possible, complimented by interactive workshops and opportunities to mix and mingle with other attendees.

The interdisciplinary focus of the summit added a lot of value to the experience. It also emphasised the connection of all sectors to the energy crisis we are facing due to finite fossil fuel reserves, climate change, and increasing global population. This variety of perspectives was invaluable for encouraging us to deeply consider the political, financial, social and technical challenges inhibiting the energy transition. There were several recurring themes throughout the conference, which made up some of my key takeaways. These included:

– Policy and political will are key to accelerating the energy transition.

– Social conflict, energy and financial poverty, inequality, and climate change are inextricably linked. These are some of the biggest issues of our time and solving them will require holistic solutions that address all of them at once.

– Diversity and inclusivity are key. Involving consumers and indigenous communities in decision making will ensure that solutions are tailored to the problems and reduce social inequalities. Businesses and people that currently depend on fossil fuels for a living must also be consulted, in order to achieve a just transition.

– There is no “silver bullet”. Complex problems rarely have simple solutions. Addressing the energy challenge will involve many symbiotic approaches working towards the same goal, and there are countless ways to contribute.

As well as learning from the panelists, some of my highlights from the conference were:

– Student presentations, where delegates were given an opportunity to present their masters or PhD projects. This was an insightful glimpse into the range and scope of new developments in the energy space

– The Innovation Jam, where delegates worked in teams to pitch our ideas for solving real-world problems. This was an excellent opportunity for us to develop our critical thinking skills and apply the holistic mindset we had been learning from the panelists.

– the Gala dinner, held at the natural history museum. This formal event was a wonderful social evening of mingling with delegates, organizers and professionals in one of London’s many iconic historical buildings.

The experiences and people from SES 2019 have changed my mindset and will stay with me for the rest of my life. I am incredibly grateful to the CHEMMAT department for sponsoring me and enabling me to make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We were asked to set ambitious goals, challenge existing systems, and come up with new models. The tagline of SES 2019 was “breaking barriers”, and from all I learnt during my time there, that is exactly what I intend to do.

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