"There isn’t another program like this that’s rapidly educating and deploying professionals who are ready to tackle the challenges ahead of us in terms of growing this industry and accelerating the pace of change to decarbonize our energy system."
- What has been unexpected about the program?
I would say what's been unexpected has been both the depth and breadth of different issues that are covered as part of the curriculum. As we're doing this interview, we're just nearing the halfway point of the program, but I've already been really pleased with just how much content about the clean energy industry and energy system has been covered. I feel like I've gained a lot of knowledge of things that I wouldn't have thought of that I'm able to then take and apply back to my day-to-day work.
- What are some examples of those skills or pieces of knowledge that you feel like are really applicable to your job?
I work for a nonprofit membership association focused on helping large organizations find ways to procure more renewable energy. At the moment, we're doing the technology transitions course, and looking at technologies beyond your traditional wind and solar has been really eye-opening. Really diving into the issues of what’s “zero-carbon,” what's “renewable,” what are some of the benefits as well as the challenges associated with different technologies like hydropower or geothermal has been really interesting, and understanding how a lot of these large institutional or corporate energy users can utilize these technologies and understand their impacts. There's no such thing as a zero-impact energy source, so it's a matter of understanding the impacts and managing and balancing them against different goals, targets, and standards.
I certainly appreciate being able to flex my quantitative muscles a little bit—you don’t come out of this program an engineer if you weren’t already an engineer, but it’s useful to take a more quantitative approach to questions about how efficient are the different technologies, how are they designed, why are some favored over others. My ability to effectively analyze these kinds of questions has definitely increased.
- In what ways has the program enabled you to expand your network?
The cohort format is really conducive to building that network. A highlight of the program is that participants are from across (and even outside of) the energy industry, but are dedicated to accelerating the impact of the entire industry regardless of what they do. Everybody's approaching the program and content with an eye toward innovation, decarbonization, and rapid deployment of new technologies, so it's really eye-opening as to all the ways that different participants in the program approach these things, the questions they ask, things that I would never have thought to ask myself. It's really great to be part of these discussions, and the live sessions every week allow for a lot of this dialogue to happen.
As far as other forms of diversity, the variety of people in the program, the backgrounds they come from, the industries they work in, the years of experience they have, where they’re based—the diversity is immense. Having the geographical diversity of experience is particularly interesting, because we’re talking about different lessons from the U.S. energy market and also thinking about applying them globally. The participants from Southeast Asia, Europe, Latin America, Africa, which all have wildly different energy markets, actually face a lot of the same underlying challenges. Some participants even bring experience from the fossil fuel industry, which is really useful for putting the energy system in perspective, especially compared to someone like me who has been in the sustainability world for his whole career. The way they analyze technologies or policy questions, or their ideas about what’s coming next, are often quite different from mine. So when we’re put into breakout groups for discussions, whether you’re in a group of three or the full cohort of 80, you know you’re going to get a great discussion. We have a FDCE “book” with profiles of all the participants, and I reference that document frequently when we break out. Even though we have this diversity of background, we all come into the program with a shared purpose, which is so powerful, particularly now in a period of social, political, and economic turmoil. That's been a very unifying thing.
- What are some of the other ways that you're able to connect with your classmates throughout the week?
In addition to the live sessions I mentioned, we’re assigned to smaller groups of three or four people from the cohort. After the live session, we try to find a few minutes to debrief with each other and share our big takeaways from the discussion. We also try to find some separate time every other week or so to get together and have further discussions either about the coursework or just for the purpose of building community and learning more about each other. Everyone is very proactive, so it feels like a true community of practice around a sense of shared purpose of accelerating and transforming the energy system, and I often find those small-group meetings to be just as valuable as the time in the classroom.
- Why did you choose this program?
I almost fell into it by accident, actually; my direct supervisor is a Yale School of the Environment alumna, and after a meeting with the CBEY team she passed information about the program on to me. I’d been looking for ways to enhance my knowledge of the renewable energy market, as my background is more rooted in broader issues of sustainability and it’s only more recently I’ve been focused on the energy industry. I wanted to dive deeper into specific energy issues, and the FDCE program was so interdisciplinary, which drew me in. It’s a holistic approach to looking at the energy market. Here was a program designed to be one year to take people who are already working in this industry or who are looking to enter it and look at practical approaches to shaping and accelerating trends toward rapid adoption of clean energy. You also get that interdisciplinary focus of, “here are the issues in policy, in finance, and in the environmental impacts themselves that you should know about as a renewable energy professional, and here’s how they all intersect and impact each other.” It wasn’t just focused narrowly on one of those things. I think understanding how all of these functions interact is really important for the rapid change we want to see. That approach was clearly at the core of this program, and right away in reading about it, that was the key thing that was really attractive to me, and I hadn’t seen a program quite like it before. I wasn’t trying to go back and do another full degree, so this seemed like a great option to be able to advance my knowledge, build my network, and enhance my ability to make changes in my industry.
- Who would you recommend this program to?
I’d definitely recommend it to people like myself who have entered the energy industry from a related industry, and also definitely to early-to-mid-career professionals who are looking to enhance their knowledge. I’ve been working in the renewable energy sector for several years, and I still find this program hugely valuable, because there are inevitably going to be parts of the sector that you haven’t had exposure to. For instance, if you haven't gone out there and built renewable energy projects and directly financed them or designed and built this technology, this is a really good way to get a broader overview. I’d also say anyone who is looking to build their network of people within this industry will certainly benefit, whether or not you’re already coming from the industry. People who are purpose-driven about the renewable energy transition, who want to have that sense of shared purpose with others, will love it. I came from the nonprofit world, which is obviously very mission-driven, so this program was very attractive for that exact reason. Plus, you can get all of it in only a year’s time, where you deepen your knowledge in a variety of areas with incredible resources from Yale’s faculty from the School of the Environment and the School of Management, which are brought together by CBEY. It’s the right time for a program like this to exist.
- Is there anything else you’d like to share about the program?
I think it's really critical to enter this program with an open mind. Everybody who comes into this program is going to come in with preconceived notions of what the industry currently looks like and what it may look like in the years to come. Being open and allowing those perceptions to change is really important, especially given this rapidly changing industry in a rapidly changing world. Also, for anybody browsing programs like this, I actually have not yet encountered another program quite like this; there’s not a lot else out there in the market that really was going to help me meet the needs I had or what I was looking for in a program. There isn’t another program like this that’s rapidly educating and deploying professionals who are ready to tackle the challenges ahead of us in terms of growing this industry and accelerating the pace of change to decarbonize our energy system.