Rise, stretch, quick intake of some Balinese air....scramble. For some 200 student delegates on the first day of ISES 2015, this was the morning routine in order to arrive at Bali Nusa Dua Convention Center on time for an early departure to Bangli for the summit's first ever field trip. Despite the early rise, the anticipation of seeing Bali and the renewable energy projects highlighting the trip created a palatable energy.
Where we began is where many Balinese people hold roots, the 700 year old Penglipuran Village in Bangli. The village's name is derived from the words "relaxing" and "sadness" - villagers originally arrived to relax their minds. The air that guided us to the Bamboo Forest, the introduction to Bangli's pilot project, was just that - relaxed. The 75-hectare bamboo forest was awarded the highest environmental award (Kapaltaru) by the Indonesian Government in 1996 for their effort. Bamboo, which is capable of growing in the harshest of conditions, promises to be not only the most renewable source of energy available in Indonesia, but also a source with little waste and one capable of generating jobs for people in rural communities.
After our walk through the dense forest, we traveled to a nearby biomass power plant, managed under a local government owned company, Clean Power Indonesia. The project aims to promote Bangli as a destination for research and development in clean and renewable energy in Indonesia. Upon completion it will be the first bamboo power plant in ASEAN and the first on-grid biomass gasification distributed power in Indonesia. 50-70% of the bamboo waste from the local bamboo plantation we just observed is collected and used at the plant. It was inspiring to see the beginnings of what will be a renewable energy model for the region.
The last stop on our tour was the National Volcano Museum at Batur Geopark - but not before first indulging in a delicious Indonesian feast in view of the gorgeous Mt. Batur. Once at the Geopark, my participation in a press conference as a representative of Student Energy, along with a fellow Student Energy colleague, segued into an inspirational presentation on Indonesia's emerging role as a renewable energy leader in Asia.
Provided with a first hand view of renewable energy project activity in Bangli, my introduction to Indonesia as a catalyst for change was deeply affecting and served as an exciting precursor to a conference that had not yet officially begun. With opening ceremonies in just a few hours, it was time to board our buses and head back to begin what we had traveled from all corners of the world to do.
As a participant in ISES 2015, it was important for me to see first hand how renewable energy projects are being executed and be provided the opportunity to discuss directly with the leaders the logistics of project sustainability. Of course the knowledge gained on the field trip did not end when we boarded our buses. It had only begun. ISES 2015 provided information that will be used to enable student ideas, our ideas, to be realized. The conference gifted us knowledge and inspiration that will precipitate further involvement in an industry whose future success is necessary for so many others, and will help facilitate relationships between students, changemakers and industries that otherwise would remain apart. As Pria Hassan, Executive Director of Durban based Women of Africa WOA Fuels & Oils stated during the Energy and Women Empowerment Session, "Our hunger to do more, know more, be more, it's never going to change. Don't change yourself." And herein lies the beauty of Student Energy. We can't transition to a renewable world and encourage synchronicity without dedicated individuals working together to connect the unconnected. Student Energy enables students with a shared passion to work together to help make a sustainable future possible.
In this moment, as I write this, I get chills thinking about how many engaged students touched me - their work, their lives, and their unbridled dedication to what we were all at ISES 2015 to do - discuss ways in which we could help transition the world to one in which renewable energy is the leader of the pack. Halfway across the world, in your pocket of life, your program of study, the success of the projects you discuss may seem abstract and the practicalities of their execution questionable. But on my first day of attending ISES 2015, any question I had about the feasibility of this fight being won was immediately discarded. It's an emotional and profound realization to find your passion shared by so many. And it's incredible to realize further that we're just a fraction of individuals who want to engage others on the merits of a more sustainable future. There's a whole world out there who we will eventually connect with as our futures create webs of interactions, between people and industries, across oceans, among diverse minds. I can't help but be excited for this energy fueled life.Peace.