Exploring the Student Energy Summit 2023

The Student Energy Summit is a youth-led energy event providing a transformative space for young people to collaborate on energy solutions and connect with energy leaders. Occurring biennially in different cities around the world, SES unites hundreds of students from countries all over the globe for a collaborative, multidisciplinary forum.

Last year SES took place in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, from 29th November to 1st December 2023. We sent three of our Grantham Scholars to the event and they have now reported back to us and talked about their experience.

Insight from the Student Energy Summit 2023 – Liang Kong

I was delighted to be involved in the Student Energy Summit 2023. The experience was truly amazing; engaging with 650+ delegates worldwide and encountering many beautiful and intelligent souls. I extend heartfelt appreciation for the support and funding from the Energy Institute and the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures at the University of Sheffield.

The insightful dialogues and thematic sessions provided by SES made me reflect on several points.

Financing Energy Transition for Sustainable Development

Placing a focus on the demand-side value chain, the innovations brought to end-users ensure practical applications and widespread adoption. Integrating carbon capture into the value chain adds an extra layer of significance, not only in environmental terms but also in terms of economic viability.

Ancestral Connections, Indigeneity and Clean Energy

Addressing gender-specific financial hurdles, breaking down barriers, and fostering inclusivity are integral components of the solutions. Understanding the dynamics of downstream supply chains and their impacts on pricing becomes paramount, forming the basis for informed financial strategies. The acknowledgement of ancestral connections and indigeneity emphasises the energy transition tailored to local conditions.

Technology Disruptors and Game-Changers

The emerging technologies, including 3D printing, battery innovations, and hydrogen energy inherently carry the potential for disruptions. Creating market-based innovations, recognising the nuances of demand and identifying existing gaps play pivotal roles in smoothing technology transitions.

The Roles of Researchers in Energy Transitions

While academic endeavours contribute valuable theoretical insights, bridging the divide between research and reality requires a pragmatic perspective. Researchers, therefore, should not only focus on knowledge generation but also realise translating theoretical advancements into actionable solutions.

Supply Chain Resilience and Collaboration

The economic interdependence brings inherent vulnerabilities, accentuating the risks linked to the concentration of global production networks in specific geographic areas, consequently amplifying uncertainties within supply chains. Rather than resorting to deglobalisation, a more effective solution towards sustainability is fostering transparency and collaboration among regions.

Participating in the Student Energy Summit 2023 has instilled in me a sense of humility. It also heightened my enthusiasm for renewable energy and sustainability. The young energy leaders I met during the summit really inspired me. Their passion and commitment have left an indelible mark, fuelling my optimism and determination for the ongoing journey towards sustainability. May our collaboration and communication contribute to a more sustainable future.

My Takeaways from the Student Energy Summit 2023 – Mahdi Ahmed

Attending the Student Energy Summit and a day at the COP28 conference was a transformative experience. They both expanded my perspective as a Chemical Engineer. Typically focused on the technical aspects of decarbonization, such as technology integration and optimization, cost reduction, and supporting existing infrastructure, I was introduced to the broader moral, social, and political dimensions of climate change at these events.

Don’t Think With Your Emotions in Climate Discussions

One notable topic was the debate over technologies like carbon capture, which faced scepticism regarding its efficacy and financial viability. This issue was politically charged, especially given its support by oil-producing nations. The UAE Minister of Energy and Infrastructure’s call to “do not think with emotions” in climate discussions highlighted the need for pragmatic approaches amidst these complex dynamics.

I also observed strategic alliances formed based on shared agendas, particularly between Middle Eastern and African nations. These alliances often countered Western perspectives. They emphasised the desire of African countries to develop their own industrial base using oil and gas from Gulf countries. These interactions underlined the political and cultural facets of global cooperation.

Differences Between East and West

Moreover, a striking revelation at the summit was the global perception of the European Union’s ideology. Regarded in Western countries as a standard-bearer for moral and ethical governance, the EU faced starkly different views from non-Western nations. Contrary to the respect and admiration it often receives in the West, the EU was met with scepticism and at times hostility, particularly over its policies and regulations. This divergence in perspectives was a powerful reminder of the varying narratives and attitudes that exist internationally, especially in discussions on climate change and decarbonization. Understanding and respecting these differing viewpoints is essential in the pursuit of globally inclusive and effective strategies. SES23 was filled with the enthusiasm of youthful attendees. It make it all the more fascinating to observe that such perceptions persist even among the younger generations.

This experience was a poignant reminder of the importance of empathy and understanding in climate change discussions. Recognising the diverse perspectives and expertise in this field is crucial. SES23 and COP28 underscored that decarbonization is not merely a technical challenge but a multifaceted journey interwoven with moral, social, and political considerations. These conferences enriched my understanding of industrial decarbonization, emphasising the need for diverse and inclusive solutions to meet global challenges.