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Reflections on ISES 2015: Connecting the Unconnected

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Four days flew by in the blink of an eye. Just over a week ago over 600 of us were arriving from over 100 different countries to take part in an unforgettable week – the International Student Energy Summit 2015. Upon landing in Bali, we each were greeted and taken care of by the amazing ITB organizing committee who even went as far as to ensure a special speedy process through immigration so we could be our way and flying through the streets to arrive in Nusa Dua. There we spent the proceeding days engaged in conversation, dialogue and debate on how to create our sustainable energy future.

Day 1

A day of buzzing activity and excitement as more delegates and speakers arrived and settled into their amazing beachside hotels. In the evening, delegates and speakers gathered at the Nusa Dua Convention for networking, dinner, and reconnecting with fellow enernerds from previous Summits.  

The fun began with the grand opening of the International Student Energy Summit 2015!  Everyone was welcomed with traditional Balinese dance  before the summit was officially opened by the Vice President of Indonesia, His Excellency Mr. Jusuf Kalla.

Then Sri Mulyani, Managing Director of the World Bank  provided an insightful energy outlook on the past, present and future, calling on students to be thoughtful, reminding everyone, “You have the option to give back. Make a difference by using a strong moral compass.” 

Next up was Hilman Syahri Fathoni Chair of ISES 2015, and Student Energy Executive Director, Kali Taylor who both gave us insight on the hard work and history that brought us all together for the fourth International Student Energy Summit.  For the remainder of the evening distinguished guests and delegates alike were treated to an elaborate performance of traditional Balinese music and dancing. It was truly an amazing immersion into the Indonesian culture and brought about a sense of community among our enernerds who were about to embark on an intense three-day journey.

Day 2

 Delegates hit the ground the running as they dove head first into the challenges and opportunities surrounding the topic energy access and what it means to connect the unconnected. Notable speakers included the Under-Secretary General of the United Nations, Ms. Noeleen Heyzer, who spoke on leadership and what we as young leaders can do today, as well as Pria Hassen, the CEO of Women in Africa, who explained that there needs to be a holistic approach to the energy transition that includes finance, policy, and social factors.

After hours of non-stop discussion, debate and networking, our delegates experienced an unforgettable cultural night. There, 800 angklungs were distributed and the delegates were taught to play this traditional Indonesian bamboo instrument in harmony. After being the show, we turned it over to the pros and were treated to an unbelievable performance of the Keckak dance the portrayal of an important  Balinese story.

Day 3

Building upon the topics of conversation from the previous day, we started with a deep dive into contentious issues surrounding the future energy mix by examining at the global fossil fuels market. There were many dynamic speakers who each offered a unique position and perspective on the subject, and many students challenging them with tough questions which made for a very engaging discussion. From looking at the fossil fuel market as a whole, the parallel sessions gave delegates the chance to examine particular energies in greater detail from shale gas to bioenergy to geothermal technologies.

An Innovation Jam in the afternoon broke up the traditional plenary sessions by giving delegates the chance to be the ones on stage and pitch their ideas for an idea, project, or technology they think could contribute in achieving a sustainable energy future.  Then they had the opportunity to brainstorm and vet the ideas with other students for over two hours. The exchange of ideas was amazing and the innovation jam was a big hit with everyone.

The final set of parallel session discussions covered three very interesting themes: Global Energy Dynamics, Sustainable Cities, and Global Problems with Local Solutions, which integrated much of the information brought up in previous panels and demonstrated how you can put certain policies, technologies, and innovations into practice to create change.

Delegates then transformed from business attendees and to bells ready for the ball  as they headed to Gala Dinner, which began with a delicious four course meal accompanied by a live band performance. After dinner, participants listened to an inspiring keynote speech from Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the former President of the Maldives. Finally, the winners of the case competition were announced, who won the grand prize of $3,000.

Day 4

The Changmaker panel, a long-standing Student Energy tradition opened the day. This highlighted four current young leaders who are alumni of previous ISES events. Each gave the delegates insight on what impact the Summits had on them both personally and professionally. The Changemaker Panel was followed by a speech from the Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources for Indonesia, who gave delegates an inside perspective on the energy industry within Indonesia and where it is headed in terms of an energy transition.

The following two panels highlighted the upcoming climate negotiations in Paris at COP21 and debated what will be the future energy supply mix as we try to meet our global climate targets.

Our final speaker, Dougblas Broderick, delivered a message from the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, who called up students to take advantage of events like these to make an impact and truly bring sustainable energy to all.

We covered a plethora of topics and themes during these 4 action-packed days but one of the most amazing parts of it all were the connections we made. Connections between peers, connections of ideas, connections of cultures, connections to professionals, and creating a connection to something that is bigger than all of us – our future.

We had so many distinguished speakers and guests at this fantastically organized event, but I must say, the most inspiring people in attendance were the students. While I did not get a chance to meet every single delegate, from the conversations I had and heard from many of them, I am excited to see what our sustainable energy future will be because I know it will come from the drive and motivation of these likeminded enernerds. So keep that energy, that drive and those connections my friends, for you are not just growing the movement, you are crafting and shaping this movement, right now, 365 days a year.