The International Summer School

21 Jun 2023

After months of planning and preparation, this week we were excited to get the cross-consortia International Summer School underway, inviting 80 students from across the globe to explore issues around equity in net zero. Encompassing multiple disciplines, 28 nationalities and 49 different institutions, we had a fantastic mix of students.

In advance of the conference, a considerable amount of time was spent booking international travel, working to secure visas, and making alternative arrangements for last minute airline cancellations, whilst also providing support to students who were hoping to make the journey to the UK. It was a genuine relief to kick off on the conference Monday and see that 78 students had successfully made the journey.

Picture of students at the conference

Students at the conference

The week thus far


We started proceedings by setting the scene, UKERC Director Rob Gross provided remarks on UK net zero strategy before handing over to Melanie MacRae, Scottish Government who spoke on Scotland’s energy transition thus far, drawing on the recent Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan consultation. We then heard from Richard Oduro who provided an international perspective speaking on Ghana’s energy transition framework.

Melanie MacRae presenting at the Summer School

Melanie MacRae presenting at the Summer School

After lunch Sarah Higginson presented the EDI Cube, a tool to help researchers incorporate EDI into the design and evaluation of projects. This was followed by an interactive session led by Duncan Yellowlees, which focused on key communication skills (and pitfalls), and top tips for pitching your research. We then finished the day with a session on career pathways with Phil Blythe, Newcastle University; David van Kesteren, Northern Power Grid; Richard Oduro, University of Leeds; and Colin Ferron, Faraday Institution; interestingly finding out that two of the four speakers had once held intentions of becoming a priest.

Sarah Higginson presenting at the Summer School

Sarah Higginson presenting at the Summer School


We started the day with a with knowledge exchange session, chaired by Ala’a Shehabi, UCL,  and drawing on the expertise and experiences of multiple experts: Thembi Luckett, Newcastle University and online co-contributors Francina Nkosi and Cleopatra Shezi who spoke about their experiences working with women in South Africa; Karen Henwood, Cardiff University, drew on the FLEXIS project; Felix Dorn, University of Vienna, focused on his experiences of documenting lithium mining in Latin America; and Penda Diallo of the Aluminium Stewardship Institution represented Abiba Diallo the founder of Kanya Donse Fanyi, a NGO operating in Guinea which educates communities about the benefits of drying food.

We then split into parallel sessions, one on industrial decarbonisation which focused on cold food chains and food drying led by Xinfang Wang, University of Birmingham, and Penda Diallo respectively. The other session on infrastructure integration and flexibility featured Meysam Qadrdan, University of Cardiff, and Padraig Lyons, International Energy Research Centre who both spoke on elements of energy system flexibility.

The remainder of the day was spent with teams of delegates undertaking site visits, covering InTEGReL, Northern Gas Network’s Hydrogen Home, and Newcastle Helix, with groups reconvening for a poster session with pizza and vegan fish and chips provided by food vans.

Group of students outside Integrel

Group of students outside Integrel


We kicked off a session on building international partnerships, with speakers representing a variety of scales: Ben Peng, of Energy Research Accelerator/HyDEX spoke on the importance of international collaboration for the development of the Midlands’ hydrogen network. Francesca Trotman of Love the Oceans provided a NGO perspective, highlighting the positive impact of bottom up, grassroots approaches for listening to, and empowering communities. Finally Yacob Mulugetta, UCL and Climate Compatible Growth, highlighted some of the challenges of rolling out international programmes, and the importance of foregrounding development in many contexts. Following this students engaged with an interactive session delivered by Rihab Khalid, University of Cambridge, exploring alternative theories for equity, justice and sustainability.

View of Zoom screens during the international partnerships session

View of the Zoom screens during the international partnerships session

We again split into two groups for parallel sessions, with a session on energy demand and economics led by John Barrett, University of Leeds & CREDS, who spoke on at distributional impacts. Karen Turner, Strathclyde CEP then focused on net zero principles for a just transition, and Nick Eyre CREDS & University of Oxford, who discussed…

Finally, just before lunch and the second swathe of site visits, we were introduced to a key element of the programme, the scenario development task. Developed in collaboration with Zambian experts, Bernard Tembo and Mulima Nyambe-Mubanga, this activity led by Nick Hughes, UCL, outlined the task of developing scenarios for a green growth strategy for Zambia. In a brief presentation they provided some country context, outlining key elements for green growth. Students will now spend a large proportion of their time developing their ideas before they pitch them to the experts, with prizes for the best outputs. So lets watch this space to see what they develop…

Special thanks

Delivering an International Summer School is a big task, and special thanks needs to go to the Newcastle team who really have pulled out the stops to help us deliver a fantastic event!

We also want to thank the sponsors who have helped us fund elements of the programme: Lhyfe, LV=, Northern Gas Networks and Northern PowerGrid.

And finally the co-organisers who have assisted with the planning and delivery of the event: Supergen Energy Networks, HI-ACT, CREDS, Energy IRC, UKCCSRC, the Faraday Institute, Energy Research Accelerator and the IDLES Programme.