For me it was a little bit like a dream came true. Together with my colleague Michiel Roelofs we participated with our proposal: The collective power platform in the MIT Climate CoLab challenge. I guess initially it was just a thing to try out without expecting much out of it, but once the announcement came that we reached the final round, I knew that thanks to the InnoEnergy network we will manage to win the popular choice award. All this led to the wonderful opportunity to participate as a competition winner in the Climate CoLab conference where we could present our proposal.
Shortly summarized, the idea we presented is a new way to structure energy markets, by creating local markets where the local, preferably renewable, energy coming from prosumers is traded on a local level. We were driven by the idea that energy prices should reflect the local conditions of its generation.
So it happened that I could pack my things and take the plane to the US where I would participate in a 2-day conference bringing together a lot of experts from various fields to discuss how to challenge climate change. The first day the winners of various contest categories such as buildings, smart cities or aviation got the chance to present their projects and proposals to the conference participants. The contest winners were placed into thematic groups and a moderator was assigned to guide the discussion in these groups. After an open discussion the winners could have private discussions with anyone who had a particular interest in the respective topic.
For me this part of the conference was very insightful. It was a great way to get into contact with a lot of professionals and listen to their motivation on why they had an interest in our proposal. Some people told us that they liked our idea but raised the concern about the motivation of utilities to adopt to such a model. Thankfully, in the discussion round there was a professional from Eversource, an utility operating in the Boston area serving 3.2 mil customers. He confirmed many of the points we mentioned and in addition, it showed me that many people lack the insight into how energy markets work. That moment I draw a conclusion that in order to innovate our energy systems we should put effort on creating transparency about the way our energy systems and markets work.
In the evening we all gathered together listen to the announcement of the grand winner of this year’s competition. The Winner was the emission monitoring dashboard for cities by Canadian based company Climate Smart. Coincidently I learned that the CEO of that company is also the aunt of one of the InnoEnergy alumni.
The second day the focus was on the conference itself but instead of following an agenda, the participants were encouraged to create its own agenda. I learned that this concept is called an un-conference, basically participants write down what they find interesting. Based on all the input the agenda for the day is created.
I had the chance to join the discussion about how to shift to a low carbon economy while sustaining and creating social equity and about collecting and accessing data in order to measure and adapt to climate change. The very interesting thing was that people from various fields were present, so we got input from industry, engineers, policymakers, economists and so on. That allowed to create a very diverse point of view on these topics.
The evening was dedicated to the winners only, where MIT explained how the institution can help to bring our proposals and projects to the next level. We were introduced to fundraisers, law consultants and other institutions which can help us to boost our projects
All in all. this experience was very energizing and gave me a lot of inspiration for my future plans. In addition, friendships were created and I hope I have the chance to visit MIT very soon again.
By Nikodem Bienia
19 October 2016