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Blog Post 5 November 2021

Developing a pipeline of skills for the energy access sector

The energy access sector is booming. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, the sector is set to create more than 42 million jobs by 2050. Its goal is to help the more than 750 million people who lack access to electricity globally reach the appliances they need to stay healthy and build resilience to climate change.

On day five of the global climate conference, the UK COP26 Presidency, in collaboration with YOUNGO – the Children and Youth Constituency of the UNFCC – and other youth partners, will give space to youth voices and ensure a platform for young climate experts to engage with decision-makers on their priorities. Events throughout the day will highlight the critical role of empowering, educating and training the next generation of experts in driving climate action to keep global temperature rises to within 1.5°C, as set out in the Paris Agreement.

At Energy Saving Trust, we understand the importance of developing a pipeline of skills for energy access and are helping to support university students looking to break into the sector.

Efficiency for Access Design Challenge

In our capacity as co-secretariat of Efficiency for Access, we deliver the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge with the support of Engineers Without Borders UK. Funded by UK aid and the IKEA Foundation, the Challenge is a global, multi-disciplinary competition that enables teams of university students to create affordable and energy efficient appliances and technologies for the global south. By bringing together and inspiring students, the competition aims to foster innovation and seeks to help address barriers that limit market expansion in this area.

The second year of the Challenge began in September 2020, with students from 21 universities in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Nepal, Sweden, Uganda and the UK participating. Students submitted their projects in April 2021 and presented their projects online to a panel of expert judges in late May. The Challenge came to a close in June with the Grand Final event, which showcased participating teams’ innovations to an audience of 150 representatives from aid agencies and foundations, private sector representatives, academics, and the broader civil society.

You can watch highlights from the Challenge in the video below:

Inspiring a younger generation to care about energy access

Earlier this year, we spoke to Jacqueline Garcia, senior project manager, market stimulation and incentives, and Sean Davy, project coordinator, who managed the Efficiency for Access Design Challenge at Energy Saving Trust, about their favourite aspect of working on the Challenge.

For Jacqueline, it was: “Fostering the connections between students and their mentors and watching these partnerships develop. Each mentoring experience is unique, as it depends on the needs of both sides. After the Challenge, some students and mentors keep in contact for potential opportunities. These interactions are what we would like to see more of through the programme. In turn, mentoring could help young generations build skills and expertise, while encouraging them to work towards a better world.”

Sean’s favourite part of working on the Challenge – besides working with a great team – was “when a learning opportunity we can provide a student matches up with one of their core interests. The prototyping opportunities, particularly with so many engineers in the cohort, is a clear win on that front. Additionally, it’s inspiring to see students with burning questions during or after webinars, and hear students reflect on their time in the Challenge as a whole.”

Energising today’s youth to act on climate change

We were also keen to understand how their work on the Challenge has contributed to inspiring a younger generation to work in clean energy access in developing countries. “Throughout the Challenge, students have to think about all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and how their design contributes towards them,” explained Jacqueline. “I believe that the more people working in the sector ensuring clean energy is accessible to all, the more sustainable world we will leave for future generations to thrive.”

Sean added: “I think opening the door for young people, and showing them that designing products that enable clean energy access is possible and interesting, is powerful. Asking them to go through the full design process, including designing elements of the business model, and with the support of industry experts, provides them with an informed view of what a career in the sector might look like. And if they enjoy the process, perhaps it inspires them to continue this work beyond their university career.”

The Efficiency for Access Design Challenge forms part of our collaboration with CLASP as co-secretariat of the Efficiency for Access Coalition, which helps provide access to low carbon energy and high-performing appliances in the global south.

Head to our Climate talk at COP26 hub to keep up to date with the latest news and announcements from the climate conference.

Last updated: 5 November 2021