Planetary Solutions in Clean Energy - Internship and Fellowship Program (PSiCE) offers summer research and internship opportunities to students at Yale who are committed to advancing and pursuing a career in the clean energy field. This year we spoke with students in the initial cohort to learn about their inspiration, goals, and experience through the program.
Imagine developing a way to provide affordable, renewable energy for marginalized communities with nothing but a good internet search and your hands. That's what Vijjasena (Sena) Sugionois achieved at a time when most of us were just preparing for our senior prom.
Sena is currently a second-year student at Yale University and small-scale investments for low-income communities is where he believes he can make a difference. His love began in grade school when he created his first clean energy project, a solar oven. That, he reminisces, was the spark that ignited his passion for clean energy.
“Between 11th and 12th grade, I was helping at an old age home. They had issues with electric reliability and it was kind of hard for the older people to move around when it was dark. So I basically came and added solar lighting and also added some light in their garden, which was like a farm. I made sure there was reliable lighting around the area and the folks there were excited about the project. That's when I realized for me, it was the people that really mattered.”
Sena’s overall goal in the clean energy industry is to ensure everyone has access. He believes that as a society we need to rid ourselves of the notion that renewable energy is for the rich. He believes that small-scale solar panels can greatly influence the clean energy sector in the Global South. For the price of a cheeseburger, Sena plans to change our outlook on clean energy.
“When we are thinking about solar, we are thinking about solar farms and those cost upwards of 10 million dollars to make. What I am thinking is more like in a remote community, $300 for panels would be sufficient to create a community charging station or a communal refrigeration center. It is communities investing in themselves to get much more value.”
Energy access is the goal for Sena. He believes that continued access provides a financial benefit, as the cost will become marginally smaller and smaller as communities become electrified.
Sena says he is a ‘tactical cooporatist” when it comes to transforming our society from fossil fuels to clean energy. This school of thought focuses on practical solutions and this is where Sena believes the future of energy lies.
“We need to cooperate. We need to be practical. We need to find solutions by working with other people – even though some actors don't start out in good faith – and so a lot of the work has to do with how to find ways to balance how much should we push versus how much should we give people some breathing room. Because if we attack fossil fuel companies, then we lose the opportunity to work with them.”
“It's like finding the balance between how much pushing and how much do we yell at them versus how much we try and engage with them. Finding that balance is something I believe would be key to solving this issue.”
Sena believes if we can send people to the moon, then we can find a collective solution to clean energy.
Sena is a Yale Energy Liaison and acts as the Student Representative at the Energy Studies Academic Program Steering Committee and the Yale Clean Energy Collaborative. Additionally, he works as the Chair of the US Collegiate Energy Consortium, serves as the North America Regional Focal Point for the SDG7 Youth Constituency, the coordinator of the Youth Sustainable Energy Hub(YSEH), a Project Officer for the Impact and Growth team at SDSN Youth, and a Fundraising Officer for the Global Youth Climate Action Fund (GYCAF).
CBEY is proud to congratulate Sena as an inaugural cohort member of the 2022 Planetary Solutions in Clean Energy (PSiCE) program.