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The future is now: A youth-led energy transition

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By Michelle Arellano-Meza

· 4 min read

The future is now: A youth-led just energy transition

The past couple of months have been extremely busy on both personal and professional levels. At the end of April, I had the privilege of being part of the team that brought to live the 26 th World Energy Congress in Rotterdam, where the World Energy Council’s Future Energy Leaders stole the spotlight with their insights and enthusiasm for change. There is a strong need for young people to be active participants at all levels of the debate. This is essential, not only to bridge the intergenerational gap much needed for collaboration, but also to close skills gaps, transfer knowledge, and empower the next generation of leaders to tackle challenges and implement the solutions.

While these young energy professionals were already getting their seats at the table, in May, I once again had the chance to talk to primary school kids about just energy transitions. We discussed wind farms and wind turbines using a wooden model I brought with me. We talked about electricity and how energy surrounds us. While some pupils were more interested than others, giving young children the opportunity to explore practices and concepts around sustainability, climate change and energy in a ludic way enticed them to continue asking more questions and think about these topics in the following days. I hope these conversations continued at home. Reflecting on these interactions, it became clear to me that engaging the future generations is key to advance these transitions at the scale and speed needed. 

These experiences showed that involving children and young people in the conversation can make a significant difference. Young kids are learning that they have agency and a shared responsibility to foster just and clean transitions in their community. Young people play a critical role across many aspects of the energy transition, including employment, entrepreneurship, digitalization, education, and advocacy. With 1.8 billion individuals aged 15 to 29 worldwide, youth are the key to a sustainable energy future. In countries with rapidly growing youth populations, the energy transition is not only an environmental imperative but also a crucial opportunity to provide them with the necessary skills to transition into meaningful employment.

The Future Energy Leaders Programme: Best practices for youth engagement

The World Energy Council’s Future Energy Leaders programme aims to inspire, develop and connect the next generation of energy leaders that make faster, fairer and more far-reaching energy transitions happen. Collaboration is a key component of the Future Energy Leaders programme.

By bringing together young energy professionals from different sectors as well as senior energy practitioners and decision-makers, participants have the chance to share ideas and engage in discussions with people from the entire energy landscape. This exposure encourages empathetic thinking, listening to different perspectives, and ultimately broadening their skills to drive change. This collaboration often extends from the global to the local level through national programmes.

The biggest impact can be made locally, leveraging their local networks and skills. Younger generations are uniquely positioned to gather communities and help people understand their roles and choices. Local groups are then better situated to address the challenges in the territory with the help of a global platform ready to provide the tools and support much needed to make the transitions happen.

Final reflections

Involving younger generations is key. Through energy literacy and active involvement, we can see how seemingly small local actions can create a systemic change. The new generation of leadership is happening now, and they are ready to act. Creating a cohesive society from the start by bringing all the generations into the table is crucial.

We cannot expect transitions to happen without involving the people who will be implementing the proposed changes. Confidence in the capacity of the youth to transform our world for the better is not a leap of faith, it is an investment in a healthier, more just future for all.

illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

Michelle Arellano is an international affairs professional, with over 15 years of experience in the field. Her expertise lies in energy sustainability and climate change, bringing a multidisciplinary perspective that includes socio-economic insights to an often technocratic sector. She is currently leading the Future Energy Leaders programme at the World Energy Council, where she promotes clean and just energy transitions for a healthier, more inclusive future for all.

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