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Student Energy's Helen Watts speaks at Clean Energy Ministerial 11 - Mission Innovation 5

“My story is one that I share with many young people in our network, to encourage young people to pursue opportunities to work on clean energy innovation regardless of their background or level of experience, and to internalize the value of bringing those diverse sources of knowledge and their own lived experiences to the challenge. I also look at my story as an example of how critical it is to trust young people to lead on their ideas and innovations and see them as key partners in achieving the energy transition, not simply as beneficiaries.”

This morning, our Director of Innovation and Partnerships Helen Watts shared her story and spoke about the importance of treating young people as key partners in implementing the energy transition, at the Clean Energy Ministerial 11/Mission Innovation 5 side event “The Journey of Clean Energy Innovators: Transforming Innovative Ideas into Breakthrough Solutions”

Transcript of Helen’s address:

Helen’s Story

My name is Helen Watts, and I am the Director of Innovation and Partnerships at Student Energy. Student Energy is a global youth-led organization empowering young people to accelerate the sustainable energy transition. We work with a network of 50,000 young people from over 120 countries to build the knowledge, skills, and networks they need to take action on energy. 

I come from a background of community grassroots organizations and global migration policy, areas that for me used to feel very disconnected from the energy technology and climate science space, until I found a platform for me to bring this knowledge to energy systems-change.

I came across Student Energy as a university student, the way that students often connect to new opportunities, through my friends and networks that felt there was something about this organization I would connect with. It was a perfect example of how effective peer-to-peer engagement is to get young people engaged on climate and clean energy solutions.

I ultimately pursued a career at Student Energy because I felt passionately about the mission of the organization. Despite my limited technical knowledge, and limited work experience as a recent graduate, Student Energy trusted me in a leadership role, where I went on to work with organizations around the world, advocate for meaningful youth engagement, and design programs with our partner and youth network.

Now at 25 years old, I have had the opportunity to design the first youth sustainability advisory board for one of the world’s big Five technology companies, I have co-founded a youth social entrepreneurship incubator for young people working on green growth solutions, and started the world’s first Global Youth Energy Outlook.

My story is one that I share with many young people in our network, to encourage young people to pursue opportunities to work on clean energy innovation regardless of their background or level of experience, and to internalize the value of bringing those diverse sources of knowledge and their own lived experiences to the challenge. 

I also look at my story as an example of how critical it is to trust young people to lead on their ideas and innovations and see them as key partners in achieving the energy transition, not simply as beneficiaries.

Importance of Empowering Youth

The fact remains that on our current trajectory we simply cannot afford to leave over 2 billion young people out of our clean energy transition. Their solutions, their lived experiences and their diverse sources of knowledge are critical to bringing new, integrated approaches to the challenge. 

Young people want to be part of delivering the solutions needed — not only the needed technological solutions but new approaches to overcoming financial and adoption barriers to scale existing solutions, identifying co-benefits between energy system change and other goals like gender equality and resilient healthcare, building public advocacy for clean energy to impact consumer behaviour, and educating children so they see energy as an exciting space to learn about climate solutions.

Student Energy has been working for over eleven years to make space for young people to lead on their clean energy solutions. We work with governments, companies, and organizations like Mission Innovation to ensure that young people are included in spaces where they can add value to our shared mission. 

I am delighted to invite all of you here today to engage with us on the next phase of this work, to leverage the opportunity of youth-led innovation. 

Over the next year Student Energy will be working to develop the Global Youth Energy Outlook that will launch at COP 26 in Glasgow. This closes a critical data gap, and will be the world’s first dataset of 50,000 youth perspectives on the energy transition through 2030. Led by 12 youth regional coordinators around the world, we are gathering the priority policy actions, technological and integrated solutions, consumer behaviour changes and social co-benefits that youth want to see in the energy transition. This will define the areas that young people want to work collaboratively with governments and organizations to achieve, and will be a breakthrough moment in equipping young people with a unified and focused call-to-action. 

We will be working with our global youth network and with actors in the energy system to facilitate effective collaboration and support youth-led innovation to accelerate our sustainable energy transition, and we hope that you will join us in this aim.”

Watch the full video:
https://youtu.be/sxqQ-lDIn5o?t=5674