Calling on next generation to safeguard energy
Dr Stephen Breslin, chief executive of Glasgow Science Centre, reflects on the need for continued collaboration with education
It has become crystal clear is that there is a desperate need for a new wave of fresh minds to ensure we can meet our future energy demands reliably, at an acceptable economic and environmental cost.
With a growing population worldwide there is an ever-increasing demand for energy. In order to continue to meet this demand, bright minds shall have to find alternatives to add into the current mix of oil, gas and renewables.
We need to engage young people with the challenges and with the support of our educators, help them to imagine themselves playing a part in finding solutions to the impending energy crisis
If nothing is done, matching supply and demand will only become more challenging as old coal power stations close and gas generators are mothballed. The closure of Longannet in Fife, Scotland’s last coal power station, is a primary example of how real this change is.
Never before has the topic of energy use, its availability, cost and its green credentials, been more prevalent in the media; from Hollywood science fiction movies showing extra-terrestrials in search of fuel for their spaceships, reports on our elderly choosing between heating and eating due to rising fuel bills, and even control of natural resources cited as the catalyst for wars waged around the world.
To have a chance of addressing the future energy crisis we need the topic of how to solve our future power needs to be as pervasive. Energy use is at the centre of our modern lives: indeed I imagine most young people would be unable to fathom their lives without access to their digital appliances, electricity and fast transport. We need to engage them with the challenges and with the support of our educators, help them to imagine themselves playing a part in finding solutions to the impending energy crisis.
Great work is being done. The UK Government and Scottish Government have the energy challenge firmly on their agenda. Glasgow Science Centre’s new £1.5m Powering the Future exhibition is the most ambitious exhibition ever mounted in the UK tackling the topic of energy use. It was only made possible due to investment and support from partners across the energy industry, policy makers and academia. We need the momentum which has been started on this to gather pace so the topic remains in the spotlight.
Last year, entries into STEM subjects by young people including maths, science and engineering jumped by more than 78,000 in a year, bucking previous trends
Recent figures published by the Joint Council for Qualifications show that these efforts are having a positive impact. Last year, entries into STEM subjects by young people including maths, science and engineering jumped by more than 78,000 in a year, bucking previous trends which suggested young people were less likely to choose STEM subject. The number of entries into STEM by females was up 30,000. This is a fantastic achievement for all involved.
For our part, following the success of the Powering the Future exhibition we have been working on an interactive website which is the first of its kind that will engage 11-16 year olds with the science underpinning the critical issues related to energy supply and equip them with the knowledge to form their own views around the energy trilemma. To develop the site we have been working with partners across the energy sector including oil and gas industry skills organisation OPITO, the not-for-profit renewable energy trade association RenewableUK, manufacturer of enriched uranium for the nuclear power utilities URENCO and the representative body for the UK onshore oil and gas industry UKOOG with support from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS).
OurFuture.Energy gives young people and their teachers a place to find unbiased, relevant and fascinating information about the energy industry. Through games, quizzes, animations, videos, and lots of stories written in an easily understandable way.
Finding solutions to this intricate scientific challenge will take the brightest young minds in a major combined effort to solve the 21st century’s biggest challenge: to ensure a sustainable, secure and affordable energy supply.
For more information visit OurFuture.energy