Dozens of undergraduate and graduate students from across Duke University are taking deep dives into the energy industry this summer. Many connected with their internship opportunities thanks to the interdisciplinary Energy Internship Program, and 21 received supplementary funding through the program.
Created by the Duke University Energy Initiative in 2019, the program identified more internship listings than ever for summer 2021, including opportunities at start-ups, utilities, renewable energy developers, large firms, non-governmental organizations, and government agencies.
As in the past, students could apply to the Energy Internship Program for financial assistance if offered unpaid or low-paying positions. Thanks to a partnership with the Energy Access Project, some funding was reserved for internships related to energy access or energy transitions in low- and middle-income countries.
One of the students funded by this year’s program is Will Slap, who is pursuing dual master’s degrees in business administration and environmental management at the Fuqua School of Business and Nicholas School of the Environment. Will is a finance intern at BlocPower, a climate technology startup that retrofits buildings in disadvantaged communities with clean energy projects, helping lower utility bills and create jobs. Founded by Duke University alumnus Donnel Baird (’03), BlocPower has garnered national attention with its creative approach to advancing sustainable energy, energy efficiency, and economic development in American cities.
“I'm able to take the modeling and strategy tools I've learned at Duke and put them to work in service of decarbonizing buildings and expanding access to those who traditionally have been marginalized and left out of the green economy,” Slap reflected. “I'm so grateful to the Energy Initiative, the Fuqua School of Business’s Summer Internship Fund, and the BlocPower team for this opportunity.”
Tina Machado, a rising junior at the Pratt School of Engineering, received funding for her project management internship with Sustaining Way, a nonprofit that uses education, collaboration and advocacy to create sustainable, caring and equitable communities. “I am getting real-life experience working with sustainability and energy efficiency that I would not otherwise have,” reported Machado. “I am making great connections with my coworkers and enjoying every minute of the internship.”
“We want to be able to connect as many Duke students as possible to real-world experiences with the energy industry,” explained Dr. Brian Murray, interim director of the recently merged Energy Initiative and Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. “Thanks to a network of Duke alumni and friends, we’ve been able to match more students to new opportunities. I’m deeply grateful for their generosity and look forward to continuing to grow the Energy Internship Program.”
The Energy Internship Program provided supplementary funding to 21 undergraduate and graduate students in the summer of 2021:
Scott Burstein, a rising senior majoring in earth and climate sciences at Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, is a summer intern at Standard Normal.
Abhinav Jain, a rising junior majoring in economics at Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, is a summer intern at Terrafuse, Inc.
Rajat Khandelwal, who is pursuing a master’s degree in environmental management at the Nicholas School of the Environment, is a summer intern at the Indo-German Energy Forum. **
Pierce King, who is pursuing an MBA degree at the Fuqua School of Business, is interning at Clean Energy Ventures.
Colin Lee, a rising senior studying energy mechanics and geopolitics in the Middle East at Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, is a summer intern at Aspire Power Solutions. **
Harry Lord, who is pursuing a master’s degree in management studies at the Fuqua School of Business, is interning at EQ Research.
Christina Machado, a rising junior majoring in electrical and computer engineering at the Pratt School of Engineering, is a summer intern at Sustaining Way.
Kate Neal, a rising junior majoring in environmental sciences at Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, is a summer intern at SmartBlock Communities.
Jonathan Peralta, who is pursuing a master’s degree in environmental management at the Nicholas School of the Environment and an MBA from UNC's Kenan-Flagler School of Business, is a summer intern at Aspire Power Solutions. **
Hope Pratt, a rising sophomore majoring in biomedical engineering at the Pratt School of Engineering, is a summer intern at Aspire Power Solutions. **
Jose Pumarejo, who is pursuing an MBA at the Fuqua School of Business and a master’s degree in public policy from the Sanford School of Public Policy, is interning with the Doing Business Project at The World Bank. **
Casey Schoff, a rising sophomore student majoring in economics and public policy at Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, is a summer intern at Ecolytics.
Swetha Sekhar, a rising sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering at the Pratt School of Engineering and computer science at Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, is a summer intern at Ecolytics.
Curious about experts’ takes on resilience & upheaval in the energy industry? Care about climate issues? Looking to expand your network? Check out theDuke University Energy Conferenceand other free virtual events during the fifth annualEnergy Week at Duke (Nov. 9-12, 2020).
SPARK Career event(Tues., Nov. 10, 5-7 p.m.) — Open only to Duke undergraduate and graduate students. Come explore career opportunities and network with 20+ employers from across the energy sector.
Duke University Energy Conference(Wed., Nov. 11, 9:30 a.m. - 4 p.m. ET) —Open to all. How can individuals and companies in the energy sector demonstrate resilience in the face of disruption? Come get industry experts’ insights. Keynotes include Amy Harder (Axios) on the post-election energy policy outlook, Wes Edens (New Fortress Energy, Fortress Investment Group) on future disruptions in investment and infrastructure, and Carmichael Roberts (Material Impact, Breakthrough Energy) on entrepreneurship in uncertain times. Additional panel discussions and quick talks will tackle energy and cleantech investment trends, energy’s role in sustainable development, and what’s next for energy markets.
Energy Innovation Showcase (Thurs., Nov. 12, 5-7 p.m. ET) — Open to all. Explore cutting-edge energy technology and business solutions. Featuring remarks from innovators at GRID Alternatives and Greentown Labs, as well as the opportunity to network with entrepreneurs, investors, and researchers from other inventive companies and organizations.
ABOUT ENERGY WEEK AT DUKE: This annual event series is organized by several dozen undergraduate and graduate students from many Duke degree programs, with support from the Duke University Energy Initiative, EDGE Center at the Fuqua School of Business, and corporate sponsors.
This past summer, the Energy Initiative sponsored two fellowships in the Environment, Energy, and Economics (EEE) track of the Sanford School of Public Policy’s Program in Global Policy and Governance. Program fellows undertake internships with top international policy organizations in Geneva, Switzerland, supplementing their experience with a one-week intensive course in their chosen track featuring numerous site visits and expert guest speakers.
Nicholas School of the Environment Ph.D. candidate Rubenka Bandyopadhyay and Master of Environmental Management student Jessica McDonald were selected for 2015 EEE fellowships. Their essays document non-stop summers that prepared and propelled them to tackle the global energy policy challenges of the future.
Learning to make meaningful contributions to "practical policy-making"
By Rubenka Bandyopadhyay
These are exciting times for students, researchers and professionals working in the field of energy. Growing concerns over climate change and increasing awareness about the pressing need to transition to "green" energy sources have created tremendous opportunities for technical and policy-based innovations in this sector.
As an electrical engineer currently working towards a Ph.D. degree in Energy Policy, I have always been very interested in the work done by international policy organizations focused on clean energy. Participating in the Environment, Energy and Economics track of Duke University’s Program on Global Policy and Governance (more commonly known as the Geneva program) gave me two special opportunities simultaneously: an internship at the Sustainable Energy division of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) in Geneva, and the chance to attend a course week that focused on international policy-making and global governance as applied to energy policy.
The course week consisted of site visits to various policy organizations and talks by invited speakers, giving participants a one-of-a-kind introduction to the myriad objectives and modes of operation of varied intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations based in Geneva, especially those that work on energy policy problems.
A casual glance though any current listing of job opportunities will give the reader an idea of the importance that employers place on internship experiences. While any kind of internship experience provides valuable hands-on training in dealing with real-world problems, Duke University’s Geneva program stands out because of the extraordinary range of opportunities that it presents to its participants.
As an intern at the UN, I learned how to make meaningful contributions to "practical policy-making," identified my strengths and weaknesses, and was able to observe the wide range of energy-focused problems handled by the different branches of the UN. The course week, besides providing insights into the workings of a host of other international policy organizations such as the World Trade Organization and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), also allowed us to make useful professional contacts and interact with section heads and employees at these organizations.
As part of my internship, I helped prepare documents for the UNECE Group of Experts on Cleaner Electricity Production from Fossil Fuels. These included meeting documents, outlines of suggested goals and targets, and an outline of potential normative instruments to improve energy efficiency measures for CO2 emission reductions in the coal-based electricity sector. This familiarized me with the protocols for preparing such documents and also improved my understanding of UN’s goals in the energy sector.
I was also very fortunate to have the opportunity to perform an assessment of the scope of implementation of coal-wind hybrid technology as an alternative source of electricity production in the UNECE region. This primarily included information searches on current research coupling coal- and wind-based electricity, and analysis of the scope and benefits of implementation of this alternative energy source in the UNECE region.
Lastly, I surveyed potential mechanisms for green technology transfer in the UNECE region. This also included information searches, as well as analysis of the effectiveness of policy mechanisms to facilitate green technology transfer from developed to developing economies consistent with the current legal framework protecting intellectual property rights and patents.
The UN headquarters in Geneva was a fascinating place to work. It demonstrated a truly overwhelming diversity of cultural and professional backgrounds among its employees and interns, and it was a privilege to be a part of such an organization. Besides honing my professional skills, this internship allowed me to interact with my peers by building a social and professional network of fellow students and researchers from all over the world.
My time in Geneva would not have been half as enjoyable or productive without the support and friendship of my fellow participants and assistance from the program coordinators. From picnics in the famous Jardin Anglais overlooking rainbow colored-lights reflecting off of the Jet d'Eau, to a visit to CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) on the border of France and Switzerland, to impromptu weekend trips to places like Paris, Istanbul and Mont Blanc, Geneva has much to offer. Having the company of new friends from the program as well as from my internship made my summer in Geneva incredibly fulfilling both in terms of personal and professional growth.
I’d like to thank Duke University’s Energy Initiative for funding my participation in the Geneva Program. As I look back at my experience over the summer, I realize what an immense help this funding opportunity has been, and the critical role that it played in allowing me to fully utilize all the resources that the Geneva Program offers. I look forward to utilizing the skills that I developed over the summer in achieving my career goals and being an active member of the growing community of alumni and current participants of Duke University’s Geneva Program.
Exploring the link between trade and energy/climate
By Jessica McDonald
It was my second day in Switzerland, and the pristinely clean tramcar I was on weaved through the narrow streets of Geneva as I approached the headquarters of the United Nations, formally referred to as the Palais des Nations. A woman's voice sang over the tram's loudspeaker, rattling off numbers in French and, while I understood a few of them, I was more excited to hear her say, "Approaching stop Nations."
The national flags of the United Nations member countries blew furiously in the wind, framing the manicured lawn and white stone building that stood loftily in the background.
I've been eyeing a career with the United Nations since I became interested in finding solutions to climate change, as greenhouse gas emissions must be tackled internationally. When I first arrived on the Duke University campus last year as a first-year Master of Environmental Management student concentrating in energy, the Geneva Program caught my attention immediately.
I thought the program's Environment, Energy and Economics track (EEE) would give me an inside look into international environmental governance and allow me to more thoroughly assess how multilateral institutions stand up to the complex challenges of transitioning towards a low-carbon economy. I walked away from this experience with full confidence that my involvement in the Geneva Program will be beneficial for my future career.
As a junior associate with the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) I researched and analyzed new policies or policy reforms for the BioRes Publications team. BioRes is one of ICTSD’s eight international publications, and my supervisor was the lead editor Kimberley Botwright.
While the other publications focused more on trade and the developments within the World Trade Organization (WTO), my work with BioRes concentrated on the link between trade and the most recent developments on energy and climate within both national and international contexts. This summer was an opportune time to be covering these issues, with multilateral negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in June and August for a new universal climate agreement, the Financing for Development Conference in July, and the lead-up to the adoption of the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Academically, I enjoyed diving into these multilateral negotiations and figuring out how these international regimes are linked and how they are evolving. On average, I wrote about two articles per week, covering topics ranging from the establishment of the European Union’s Market Stability Reserve, to the informal ministerial climate meet in July, to the development of China’s national emissions trading scheme.
The EEE course week was the highlight of my summer, as our class engaged with over 20 experts from international organizations in Geneva. Our course instructor, Tana Johnson, brought in experts from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development, the WTO, and the International Institute for Sustainable Development, among many others.
Our discussions often grappled with the large-standing issues of accountability and the thin line that comprises the "carrot versus stick" approach to environmental problems. Many of the speakers agreed with our classes' view that the UNFCCC's process of consensus in the framework of the convention has hindered the success of climate agreements, as the text is often watered down to please all parties. However, despite this and the speakers' frustration over the slow progress within the UN system, many remained adamant that the UN system is still important as a force influencing positive environmental change.
When comparing the UNFCCC framework to other international regimes I became interested in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which is an international treaty under UNEP aimed at regulating worldwide trade in protected species. My favorite speaker from the week was John Scanlon, the Secretary-General for CITES, who thoroughly described how CITES has been more effective in its mission because the framework is built on a two-thirds majority voting system instead of consensus.
In addition, during the week we often referred back to the WTO and how the use of the WTO's dispute settlement board keeps countries accountable. However, it was very interesting to me that the failure of the WTO to conclude the Doha Development Agenda and update the international trade regime rules has resulted in a global trend towards bilateral and plurilateral trade agreements.
Interning at ICTSD exposed me to one of the most promising developments within the WTO, the Environmental Goods Agreement. This agreement will eliminate tariff barriers for a certain number of clean energy technologies between 17 WTO members. I also gained an inside scoop on key bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) such as the Trade Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. These agreements are often left out of the media spotlight and negotiated behind closed doors. While I learned that many FTAs include environmental protection provisions and oftentimes encourage the transfer of clean energy technologies, I am hesitant to think that they result in positive net environmental benefits, as the provisions are only good as the government's monitoring and accountability mechanisms.
This summer experience opened up doors for many new professional experiences since Geneva is a hub for international development and policy organizations. After the course week I made sure to stay in contact with many of the speakers, particularly with the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD), as I am most interested in energy development and energy access issues. I am now helping UNCTAD on a global biofuels report that will be published for an EU Conference being held later this year
I am also still working for ICTSD’s BioRes team remotely as a part-time editorial consultant on international climate developments. I'm thrilled that I will be assisting ICTSD during the UN’s climate conference, titled the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21), to be held Nov. 30 through Dec. 11 in Paris. I was able to receive accreditation for the conference as a student in the Duke UN Practicum course.
The Geneva Program's great reputation among international organizations was crucial for securing my internship and my participation in this program would not have been possible without funding from the Energy Initiative.
While I have traveled outside of the United States for short periods of time, this international internship experience solidified my desire to work abroad on issues related to climate policy, energy access, and renewable energy development. The Geneva program was a great experience, and I highly recommend it for other students interested in climate and energy work who are looking to learn the inside scoop about the working relationships of international organizations and network with a wide-range of dedicated and passionate professionals.