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A testament to how exciting things are in Student Energy’s world right now, speaking at a United Nations Conference in New York was only the second coolest thing we did this week!
To coincide with the launch of the brand new StudentEnergy.org, we were invited to host a panel at the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All Forum in New York City. The SE4ALL Forum is the UN’s annual gathering of over 1,000 global leaders who are tackling the three main objectives:
The panel, “Rising Tide: Harnessing the Power of Youth,” was hosted by Student Energy Co-founder, Sean Collins. The goal of our panel was to use case studies of youth-led projects to demonstrate the incredible power that youth have to shape our energy system today.
At Student Energy, we are always preaching the potential impact of youth. We do NOT need to wait our turn in order to shape our energy system and it was so motivating to gather this panel to hear from youth that have taken this message to heart.
Our panel was kicked off by the UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi. Mr. Alhendawi had some inspiring messages about the role that youth can play as innovators, voters and consumers in shaping our energy system. By using our creative capacity, we can think of innovative solutions to our current energy challenges. By engaging with politics and voting, we can ensure that energy issues and youth issues matter for politicians globally. Finally, as consumers, we can choose to support companies and businesses that value the environment in their operations.
Alan Burchell then took the stage to discuss his path towards sustainability based entrepreneurship. Alan is the founder of urbanstrong an incredible new startup that is focused on sustainability in the urban environment. Alan shared the inspiration for starting his business, as well as the challenges of being a sole proprietor, building a new business from scratch.
Next up, we had two recipients of the Zayed Future Energy Prize’s Global High Schools prize. The Zayed Future Energy Prize is an absolutely incredible program that awards 4,000,000 annually to leading non-profits, corporations, youth organizations and individuals, for lifetime achievement.
Melbourne Girls College was the first project to present. Their Environment Captain, Ruby Wynn-Williams gave us an overview of one incredible program. Do yourself a favour and watch a short video they put together on their recent “Pedal Powered Cinema” event.
The most striking thing about all of the work going on at the Melbourne Girls College was the deep level of understanding of the need to make renewable energy projects tangible and visible. One project they are currently pursuing is to install micro hydro in their school. In this system, the hydro setup would actually flow throughout the middle of the school, allowing students to charge their phones and devices directly from the visible hydro project. Imagine a future where we could only tweet or post on instagram if our phones were first charged by renewable power!
Last, but certainly not least, was Dikirani Thaulo, a youth educator at the Zayed Solar Academy in Malawi. Dikirani started off his presentation with a powerful visual of the current lighting solution for most rural homes in Malawi: candles. A single candle is the primary means of lighting up the vast majority of homes in Malawi and can be quite expensive when the costs are aggregated for your whole family for a year.
Dikirani then went on to discuss the solar academy and the role they play in training solar technicians to build and install solar power in rural villages. For only $60 USD, they can provide a small panel, an adapter and a basic tablet device. Not only does the tablet act as a light inside homes, but books and educational materials can be downloaded at internet cafes. This combination of renewable energy and education was very inspiring for all those in attendance. It is proof of the massive impact that even moderate access to energy can have in overall quality of life.
After this panel, the Student Energy team was able to take in some inspiring sessions on topics such as “Catalyzing a Trillion Dollar Investment” and “The Arab World’s Transition to a Sustainable Energy Pathway”.
The big picture take-away from these presentations is that the tide is turning in the world of sustainability. Here’s just one example: a representative from Dubai told the audience that a recent tender for solar pv installations drew such cost effective bids that Dubai decided to increase their order from 100 MW’s to 1,000 MW’s. These sorts of exponential increases in the deployment of renewables will have game-changing impacts on our global energy system.
The SE4ALL Forum was an incredible opportunity to both learn from current world leaders in energy and to also share the youth viewpoint with these leaders. Climate change and energy issues do not belong to any one generation, we must all work together to achieve the sustainable energy system we need.