From rural energy education to sustainable transportation: Meet the young people building a sustainable energy future
Transforming the global energy system is one of the biggest challenges of the climate crisis, and to have a sustainable and equitable energy system for the long term, we’ll need action across all sectors. Young people around the world are leading the way to a just, sustainable transition, while building strong communities to support long-term changes. We’re profiling 10 youth-led projects that are taking on the climate crisis and building solutions for their communities. Climate action requires collaboration and collective work, so rather than featuring only inspiring individuals, we’re putting the spotlight on teams.
Somos Energía (Bolivia)
Paola Flores Carvajal, Areli Diaz Cabrera
The mission of Somos Energía is to empower children and adolescents from rural areas of Chuquisaca, Bolivia to take action on climate change and environmental degradation through educational workshops on climate change and energy, with separate programs for young people aged 6-12, and those aged 13-17. Through a combination of audiovisual learning, mentorship, hands-on experiments, Somos Energía aims to create a culture of care and value for the local environment while building capacity for active citizenship and local climate action. Paola and Areli are also co-founders of the Student Energy Chapter at the University of San Francisco Xavier de Chuquisaca, in Bolivia.
Sadikshya Aryal, Kuldeep Bandhu Aryal
The Girls4Rurals project started as a green initiative of Himalayan Innovations, with 160 adolescent young girls in rural communities, it recently conducted research on effectiveness of subsidy provision in the energy sector and need mapping of energy in Kavre, Dolakha, Syangja, Nuwakot districts. Building on their assessment, the team created and led dynamic design thinking workshops in rural municipalities to promote gender inclusive productive usage of energy and climate justice; ultimately grew their network to 2000 young people.
Sierra Leone Energy Smart Schools Project (Sierra Leone)
Jeremiah Thoronka, Sheillah Munsabe, Joseph Turay
The Sierra Leone Energy Smart Schools Project helps high school students learn about energy and strategies to reduce energy consumption. The team has strategically selected 20 schools where energy usage is high, and carried out a comprehensive training and awareness program for students and staff on how to reduce their school’s energy consumption in 2020. Their program included a guest speaker series and short course, to teach students about energy conservation and energy efficiency.
REKI – Renewable Energy Knowledge Initiative (Nepal)
Kushal Gautam, Pramod Rijal, Joshua Meinke
The REKI team led a renewable energy literacy program for schools in Nepal, focusing on early-age education for grades one to eight. They identified that there is a broad awareness of climate change in general, but that there is a need for a more specific and action-oriented understanding of how to address this global challenge in the changing energy and social landscape. REKI aimed to support the deployment of renewable energy sources on the local level by focusing on education. Working with the Centre for Rural Technology, an NGO, the REKI team reviewed the renewable energy textbooks for grades one to five and developed a curriculum for grades six to eight.
Storytelling and Journalism
Degrees of Change (India)
Tanmay Takle and Isha Kulkarni
Degrees of Change is an online platform and community that demystifies climate change in India and around the world. Targeted at young people who feel overwhelmed by the climate crisis and by the amount of information there is to sift through, Degrees of Change aims to take readers from theory to action through their accessible articles that break down complex energy and climate change issues, as well as the solutions available to tackle them.
The Energy Talk (Nigeria, Qatar)
Hosted by Olubinmi Olajide, The Energy Talk podcast shares stories about energy as we race to meet our climate goals. With over 60 diverse episodes already live, The Energy Talk interviews industry experts, young leaders, and changemakers from around the globe on topics ranging from transitioning Nigeria’s energy sector to exploring the true cost of an oil spill.
GridLight by +Aware (UK, Germany, Spain, Australia)
Julia Cilleruelo Palomero, Lars Schellhas, Freya Espir, Kitty Stacpoole, Natalie Carter, Monika Blankenburgs, Michael Ehrenstein
GridLight aims to educate and empower consumers to use their electricity appliances at times of lower energy demand on the grid through a simple colour-coded lamp that people can have in their homes. At times of peak electricity demand, carbon intensive generation sources like coal and gas are deployed to meet the increased demand. Like a traffic light, GridLight turns yellow or red when the grid’s carbon footprint is larger than average, and should best reduce your current electricity consumption. When the grid is less carbon intensive, it turns green as a signal for consumers to use their appliances in the “green” times rather than when electricity mainly comes from fossil fuels.
While the team had to pivot away from the original idea, everyone of the team continues their sustainability course, e.g., as consultants or by founding new sustainability startups like SimplyLCA (LinkedIn).
Fun fact: The GridLight team first met through another Student Energy program, the 2019 Student Energy Summit in London, where they were named one of the winners of the Innovation Jam.
Climate Crisis Coalition (Canada)
Grace Young, Serena Mendizabal, Sam Andison, Dan Nejman, Elijah Dietrich
The Climate Crisis Coalition (CCC) is a coalition of like-minded student groups concerned about Western’s performance on critical climate and sustainability-related issues. The CCC is a forum to convene all students, faculty, and staff at Western University interested in advancing a sustainable, zero-carbon campus and full divestment from their university’s fossil fuel holdings. Engaging in advocacy and activism, the CCC mobilizes Western’s community to support climate and divestment movements. Participating in an extensive research process, the CCC is working to produce comprehensive recommendations for Western’s strategic plans, calling on Western to commit to tangible goals and take part in the worldwide effort to mitigate the most damaging effects of climate change.
Easy Bike Unpad (Indonesia)
Fariz Muhammad Rizwan, Kenny Yohanda, Lia Yuliansah, Arya Fajrul Ikhsan, Muhammad Fadhlih Rizqon Khalish
Student Energy at Universitas Padjadjaran, Indonesia, initiated the project “Unpad Energy Project” to support the Energy Transition Movement, which contains 2 main projects, including EASY BIKE (Electric Assistant System in Bike) and Unpad Terang.
EASY BIKE is an electric bicycle that we developed to help friends (colleagues) in mobilizing on campus. They saw that their campus had an up and down contour of the road, conventional bicycles are difficult to use because of it. They tried to find out how they could develop the innovation of this electric bicycle to better support the energy transition, so they focused on developing a solar-powered charging system. This project was initiated in 2019 and will be completed in 2021. The bicycles have also been introduced in the news and media in Indonesia including BBC Indonesia, Tempo.com, and Kompas.com. Last February 12th, the Easy Bike Unpad project was presented in front of the Governor of West Java Indonesia, and launched with their Rector.
The second component of their project was Unpad Terang, which is a public street lighting project that uses solar power as its energy source. This project uses a 100 Wp Solar Panel as the main power source, connected to the battery. With this project, they hope to illuminate their campus environment.
Bader Bilgin, Büşra Yıldırım, Ceyhun Koç, Elif Bişirici, İlayda Özırmak, Merve Peker, Ozan Can İlhan
The ReconMETU team aims to solve an ongoing transportation problem on the Middle East Technical University campus while simultaneously reducing carbon emissions, and improving the GreenMetric World University Ranking of their university. After collecting data to assess the need for charging stations, the team developed prototypes for solar-powered charging stations to power electric scooters and bicycles. From their research, they learned that bureaucracy and budget constraints were perceived as the biggest barriers to implementing this solution, and quickly pivoted to create a Conference Paper, to provide data and evidence to support the need for sustainable mobility solutions. The ReconMETU team is currently preparing to participate in conferences to share their Conference Paper and seeking financial opportunities to scale their Solar Charging Station prototype.
About this story:
In this story, Student Energy highlights some of the impactful youth-led community projects that resulted from the inaugural Student Energy Fellowship in 2020. The SE Fellowship is a unique 10-month virtual program that combines core energy system and project management education with coaching and mentorship for participants to apply their learning in a tangible energy project. In 2020, the program included 50 teams of young people from around the world. From launching fully fledged prototypes to virtual storytelling platforms to ongoing iterative research, this series showcases different approaches to taking action on energy and celebrates the continuous learning and problem-solving that systems change requires.