Educators must do more to engage young people in the impending energy crisis

There is a desperate need for a new wave of fresh minds to ensure the world can reliably meet its future energy demands 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.

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.

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Never before has the topic of energy use, its availability, cost and 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.

In order 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 modern life – indeed, most young people would be unable to fathom their lives without access to their digital appliances, electricity and fast transport.

Educators need to engage young people with these challenges and 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 £1.5 million Powering the Future exhibition is the most ambitious exhibition ever mounted in the UK tackling the topic of energy use.

This was only made possible due to investment and support from partners across the energy industry, policy makers and academia. This momentum needs to gather pace so the topic remains in the spotlight.

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 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.

Following the success of the Powering the Future exhibition, Glasgow Science Centre has been working on a first-of-its-kind interactive website 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.

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To develop the site, the organisation has been working with partners across the energy sector, including oil & gas industry skills organisation OPITO, 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 & gas industry UKOOG, with support from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills.

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 stories.

Finding solutions to this intricate scientific challenge will take the brightest young minds in a major combined journey to solve the 21st century’s biggest challenge: ensuring a sustainable, secure and affordable energy supply. 

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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