This week Gothenburg hosted the prestigious Noble week dialogue. The event brings together noble laureates, world-leading scientists, policy makers and industry leaders to discuss the energy issues and the prospects of wide-range use of sustainable energy sources.
All the students in autumn 2013 in-take at Chalmers had the opportunity to sign up for the event and attend it in person. The event was hosted at the Svenska Massan, located at Korsvagen; it is the main exhibition centre and congress hall in Gothenburg. The building itself is mesmerising and aesthetically pleasing, having well lit spacious halls that give an aura of royalty and grandness. The event was divided into three phases; introductory seminars in the morning, lunch time sessions and three parallel streams of discussions in the afternoon. I signed up for the afternoon stream where the panellists were to discuss the promising renewable energy sources and the challenges of providing access to energy to all people across the globe. The panel comprised of six people including distinguished scientists like Steven Chu (Noble prize in physics 1997), David Gross (Noble prize Physics 2004), Alan Heeger (Noble prize Chemistry 2000) and Hartmut Michel (Noble prize Chemistry 1988).
For the younger stream of engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs today, the debate over sustainable energy is not something new; we all have grown up hearing about the promise of wind, solar and other alternate forms of energy. The need of the hour is to implement these ideas, and move the discussions out of the drawing rooms. This is where this event was different; it outlined various efforts where sustainable energy is being provided to under privileged people and the necessity to take these efforts a step ahead. Brazil, for example, is harvesting some of its barren territories to grow crops dedicated specifically to generation of bio-fuels. In a small village in Africa, solar panels have been installed over huts, which generate 3 W of electricity-enough to light a bulb and charge your phone- and function on a pre-paid scratch card system. It is too early to make judgements and dismiss any progress, as being too costly or in efficient. We have to supplement what we have with improved ideas to put brakes on the rapid environmental degradation of our planet. Similarly the baby-steps taken towards making energy more accessible should be appreciated. The catch here is not to set sight on the utopian vision of ‘a European lifestyle for every individual’. As the energy sector evolves it should give a sense of inclusivity to all and not merely make big bulky businessmen more heavy and spoilt!
These discussions instilled in me tremendous motivation to focus on energy efficient building solutions. The energy challenges of 21st century are exciting since they offer a tremendous scope for innovation. I feel that there is a dire need to break away from the age old notion of a ‘9 to 5 life’ and make ourselves more useful by working on core issues of our generation. Sitting and waiting for a mind-boggling invention or a million dollar idea is not good enough.
If we always keep the prevailing energy crisis in mind while we practice our professions, then all of us can make a difference and set the wheels rolling in the right direction. And then, along with this, to think of the million dollar idea that I mentioned above is not bad; world coming down crashing to your feet, media, interviews, popularity. Yeah! I love to think of all this too, so do you. Imagination is an amazing gift, takes you to the best places! Just make yourself useful for others while you are aspiring to find Neverland in some part of your head!