Two weeks of the YSEALI Academy’s flagship seminar on Energy Economics and Policy has officially culminated with its graduation ceremony on July 16, 2021. Throughout the seminar, 35 young professionals coming from different backgrounds across ten Southeast Asian countries and Timor-Leste have come together on a quest for knowledge and bonded under the name of YSEALI Fellows.
The two-week intensive seminar covered a highly interdisciplinary field from not only energy economics and policy perspective but also incorporated other YSEALI’s signatures such as leadership skill workshops and cultural exchange experiences. Converging all YSEALI networks, the Fellows were invited to participate in a wide range of activities from morning to evening with professors from well-known universities such as Harvard Kennedy School, Monash University, UC Davis, and industry experts from the U.S., Europe, and Asia Pacific region with diverse experiences in Southeast Asia. Joining the seminar were also guest speakers from leading private corporations such as Siemens, First Solar, Wärtsilä, Nami Energy, Asia Clean Capital Vietnam, and Baker & McKenzie.
The seminar discussed a variety of topics ranging from the basics of energy use and conservation to macroeconomic framework and policy tools for energy management. It also took a close look at energy trends and issues facing the region involving emerging technology and policies, encompassing clean and renewable energy. And with that, the seminar concluded with a discussion on the future of energy, how circular economy framework can be embedded in businesses and governments’ climate strategies.
Utilizing the interconnected and multicultural aspects of such cohort, Fellows from different countries teamed up to deliver the “capstone” Team Projects on critical issues relevant to the seminar theme, e.g. clean energy transition, solar power, hydropower, solid waste to energy, energy, and circular economy, and power sector policy. This collaboration brought to the seminar practical and diverse examples from each Fellow’s work in their community, thus combined to deeply root into the region’s context.
“The seminar has been nothing short of an insightful and great learning experience for me. We have been hearing from experienced industry leaders and academic professionals who have shared their invaluable time and expertise with us. I think overall, the seminar has been a good balance of reality and ideals. It has certainly equipped us with the fundamentals that we will need to navigate the challenges we are facing today and in the next few decades, while also helping us build connections in the region, whom I can now call my friends. For that, I will always be grateful.” – Ng Clarisse, a Fellow from Malaysia, exclaimed.
Young leaders united to take on challenges
In his remarks at the closing session, Professor Jay Siegel, Provost of Fulbright University Vietnam, encouraged the young leaders to continue embracing new challenges as they have been taking climate change into their own hands: “I think [this] is an incredibly important seminar because it’s an empowering seminar, it highlights your qualities as young leaders and encourages you to take risks as young leaders, to reach out to the world globally, to reach out to problems that may have once been thought of and that need to be thought of again.”
Though 35 Fellows of the inaugural cohort may come from different backgrounds and experiences, they all share a unified spirit to tackle the climate crisis. At the certificate granting ceremony, Ms. Marie Damour, U.S. Consul General to Ho Chi Minh City, applauded the Fellows for stepping up to address this critical challenge amidst the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Climate change represents an immense challenge to the security and prosperity of Southeast Asia. And the region desperately needs the contribution of leaders like you to confront this existential threat. Your success is our success as you lead the development of an integrated, sustainable, and prosperous Southeast Asia.” – Ms. Marie Damour emphasized.
Prof. Dr. Le Vu Quan, the Director of YSEALI Academy expressed genuine thanks to the U.S. government’s support in establishing YSEALI Academy and entrusting such grand responsibility to Fulbright University Vietnam. Despite the disruption of the global pandemic, the flagship seminar still carried weight in delivering crucial conversations and connecting young leaders in the region for an imperative cause.
“COVID-19 has separated us by distance, but not in our heart and mind. In fact, the pandemic has enhanced us in unity as we had demonstrated in the seminar. 35 strangers who would not recognize each other on the streets of Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, or Jakarta now become colleagues and friends, sharing common goals and aspirations for ASEAN. We are unity, ASEAN unity in one vision, one identity, and one community.” – Dr. Le Vu Quan remarked.
A milestone to success
Embodying the “we are unity” spirit as YSEALI cultural ambassador, Kuvarakul Thachatat, a Fellow from Thailand, looks forward to a promising future: “We are all going back to our own work after this seminar, where we will collect a lot more of knowledge and expertise along the way. And maybe in a few years, we should be in a position that we can give something back to the program, to YSEALI as well as to Fulbright University.”
Thachatat is the youngest employee of GIZ Energy Thailand who earned Band 5 level “Deputy Director” in a German International Corporation. His previous experiences all revolve around energy, from being a part of the task force that supports the Ministry of Energy, Thailand in the development of the Thailand Smart Grid Action Plan, to lead and manage the Thai-German Climate Programme: Energy (4-year project with a budget of EUR 3 million); he was also invited as a guest lecturer on energy-related topics in many universities.
Kuvarakul Thachatat is like many other YSEALI Fellows, who as Dr. Le Vu Quan has described as young leaders with great talents and qualities. “[They – the Fellows] will succeed no matter where they are. But it would be our, the YSEALI Academy at Fulbright University Vietnam’s, honor to be a milestone to their success.”