MSc RENE – Master’s in Renewable Energy – Students, Graduates and Partners

Student – Sunay Gupta Graduate – Silvia Francioso Graduate – Federica Carnicelli
Graduate – Nathan Holford Industry partner – Rafael
Solís Hernández

Student – Sunay Gupta

sunay

Name: Sunay Gupta
Nationality: Indian
Name of Master’s Programme: InnoEnergy MSc RENE
Current University: École Polytechnique (France)

MSc RENE student, Sunay Gupta, is an idealist and a realist. His passion to create a positive change drives him, while his feet are firmly grounded knowing that these renewable energy ideas need to be effectively delivered to the marketplace. This mix of knowledge, innovation and entrepreneurship is what brought him here to InnoEnergy Master’s School.

Why did you choose the MSc Rene programme?

I am passionate about renewable energy but I’m also very business-oriented. The RENE program offers me solid technical expertise and then knowledge how to actually apply it in the industry. This is very different from conventional master programmes, which focus more on the laboratory based research work. I want to learn to design, develop and then deliver ideas to the marketplace.

Why are you interested in sustainable energy? Do you have a specific passion within this field?

I believe that it’s possible to create a positive change in this world, especially in developing countries through renewable energy. It is this field that makes me feel satisfied everyday about my work – which is not something that everyone can say – and hope that it continues to do in future. I am passionate about decentralized electricity generation to provide electricity in off-grid areas in developing countries.

Is there any special project or a degree thesis that you are working on at the moment – or have worked on before?

Yes, several interesting ones during this master programme. Right now I am working with my Swedish friend on a cleantech initiative to provide an affordable and accessible phone charging solution in Tanzania. Our initiative received support from KTH Innovation – which is funded by the Swedish government. I’m really proud of what we’re doing. And then during my thesis, I am going to work as a Renewable Energy Strategy Market Analyst for EDF in Paris, one of the InnoEnergy industry partners. I’m really excited! They are the world’s biggest electricity provider… so it’s going to be very interesting to work there – and will give me invaluable insight into how these big companies work.

How do you find the integration of business and entrepreneurship in the programme?


It matches perfectly with what I wanted in my master’s programme. The training in management and innovation – but also business and entrepreneurship are very important elements. These connect you with the real world. They prepare you, both skill-wise and mentally, to find viable business solutions to tackle the energy problems of the future. This is also where you really develop that perfect mix of hard and soft skills needed to succeed.

In what way, do you believe your 2 years at InnoEnergy Master’s School will contribute to your professional career?

A lot! It’s giving me an opportunity to study cutting edge renewable energy courses at top universities in Europe – with access to in-depth industrial knowledge through a large network of research centres. Moreover, this immense exposure and skills on adapting to cultural diversity through my international travel and lifestyle – this benefits are immeasurable. That’s not something that’s learned in a textbook. That’s real-life. Without any doubt, I can say my experiences here are going to help me a lot in the future. I really made the right decision when I chose this programme. I wanted to make a change and now I have a chance to do that.

Graduate – Silvia Francioso

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Name: Silvia Francioso
Nationality: Italian
Name of Master’s Programme: MSc RENE
Current Employer: Devergy
Current Position: Scouting Coordination

Silvia Francioso has a real love of people. She started with volunteering to foster education and social inclusion of the immigrant kids from her neighbourhood when she was 16 – and this spirit of giving back to the world community continues to this day with her work in designing and distributing appropriate technologies in developing economies. With the skills acquired at InnoEnergy Master’s School, Silvia will be able to stay true to her dream.

Why did you choose InnoEnergy Master’s School?

I wanted to focus my Master studies on international cooperation and innovation for developing economies, and one of my peers suggested instead the InnoEnergy Master’s School, as it would have given me a broader overview on innovation. I mainly desired a chance to connect with like-minded people. I was tired of seeing most of my classmates studying just for good grades and a secure job, while I was striving for making a difference for the people.

Why are you passionate about sustainable energy?

I decided to go for the Energy Engineering field because sustainability and energy in particular are a social matter – just as much as a technological one. I am not the typical engineer passionate about technology and software: I have a scientific mind-set, yes, but I love working on social issues in contact with people rather than doing experiments in a lab. Moreover, my mum reminded me that when I was a kid, I went on and on about transferring the heat from a volcano in Sicily to my city in the North of Italy, which gets pretty cold in the winter. Thanks to my active collaboration with Engineers without Borders, I found my path in the “appropriate technology” concept that slowly became my mantra.   In the last year, I have been working on energy and financial inclusion with a focus on rural electrification with renewable energy technologies and microfinance.

What is your best memory from your time at InnoEnergy Master’s School?

The two years of Master’s School have been incredible – thanks to my peers who are like my family now. An awesome moment was at the end of KICKoff, the event with all the first year students, when we are sitting in circle around Claudia: I really felt I was part of a movement that strives for the energy transition. Nevertheless, the best memories are certainly the small moments in which I felt at the right place at the right time: the smile on the faces at the international dinners in Lisbon, the parties at the campus of École Polytechnique in Paris, the endless inspiring discussions, the road trips and the tearless goodbyes because we all know we are going to see each other again somewhere.

How would you like to contribute to a sustainable future?

Countries like Bangladesh are ranked very low on many indexes, but yet solar energy had a massive penetration, especially in the rural areas. Whoever said that renewable energy is expensive and should only be provided by the large utilities probably won’t be able to explain that! I believe that decentralized renewable energy systems can very well serve the needs of rural population around the world, creating customer education and fostering poverty reduction and social inclusion for all. Therefore, I would like to contribute with my technical and project management skills in order to best design and distribute such systems in developing economies.

What would, in your opinion, be the main benefit of doing an InnoEnergy Master’s Programme?

The main thing that convinced me was the opportunity of a double degree certificate from two top-ranked universities while travelling around Europe. However, now I feel that the main benefit was the participation in the side events – such as the KICK-off, the Alumni event and the European Utility Week – where you will have the chance to meet like-minded people, build your professional network and have tons of fun with the CommUnity

 

Graduate – Federica Carnicelli

Federica is originally from Italy and is settled in France on the first year of the RENE programme. She is passionate about making a difference in the world by putting the technical theory of renewable energies into practice on real projects.

Why did you choose the RENE programme?

I just fell in love with it right away because it has so many factors that I was interested in. Renewable energies together with the summer school, where they give us some management and entrepreneurship skills that we otherwise wouldn’t learn on any kind of engineering degree.

Why are you interested in sustainable energy?

I’ve always been passionate about renewable energies in general. I was inspired by my grandfather who, at the age of 70, decided to build a small solar-thermal panel in his garden. It was basically mirrors that reflected and concentrated sunlight onto a tube containing water. A very simple system but useful for the purpose.

Why is sustainable energy important?

There are millions of people in India or Africa that don’t have electricity, and renewable energies could be the solution. For example photovoltaics: you could put a small panel in your garden for maybe €50 and produce electricity. We don’t need big power plants in order to do this; we don’t need big investments.

What are you working on right now?

I have just finished my exams and I’ve been working the past few days on my internship. I’m working at the photovoltaics lab where they build and measure solar cells. It’s important to get hands-on experience, because even though we study the physics and mechanics behind the projects, we don’t actually do things for real. In the end, if you want to create a start-up or some project on this subject you need to know the practical part as well.

What about the future? What is your goal?

It would be interesting to work in an international company for the first part of my career. That’s why I am interested in Total, for example, which is based in France but works all around the world. Then I’ll see whether I do some project by myself and try to make a difference. I’m particularly interested in solar energy, but anything would be interesting.

What do you think of the programme?

It’s a great opportunity to bring all the people who are interested in these subjects together to exchange ideas. What’s important is not only the two years of study, but also the network that remains with us after the programme.

 

Graduate – Nathan Holford

I graduated with a Master’s in Physics from Imperial College, London in 2012, having taken a ERASMUS year in Germany as part of my degree. It opened my eyes up to the value of studying abroad, and having studied quite a theoretical Physics course, I really wanted something that was more practical. I applied for two InnoEnergy programmes, which appealed because of their ‘two country, two degree’ approach, as well as offering training and skills development in business and entrepreneurship. I spent my first year at UPC in Barcelona, and then moved to Paris for my final year to study at the École Polytechnique at Paris-Saclay.

On studying abroad

“My first year in Barcelona was fantastic. The course was interesting and gave me a good grounding in all the basic elements of renewable energy. As the course was completely international, all my fellow students spoke English, and all the lectures were in English, so I didn’t have a problem with the language at all.

During my second year, I focused on Solar Photovoltaics as a specialisation and it was inspiring to be studying at a place that had such a fantastic reputation in the field. I was also able to work on the latest cutting-edge technologies which was exciting.”

On entrepreneurship and networking

“In the summer between my degree years, I attended the InnoEnergy summer school at ESADE Business School in Barcelona, which gave me a strong insight into the world of entrepreneurship, and the skills to think about setting up my own business. We also got access to senior leaders from some of Europe’s leading energy companies throughout our time on the programme. We were able to attend presentations and networking sessions with the top guys at InnoEnergy’s partner companies, such as Total. I don’t think any other course could offer these close links with these big companies – I made some great contacts!”

The right skills for the perfect job

“For my thesis, I started working with BBOXX, a company based in the UK that brings solar power to remote communities in Africa. My qualification was an asset in getting this job. BBOXX’s founders themselves are from around the world, and the geographic spread of our clients and workforce means that my experience in working internationally, as well as remotely, is invaluable. Studying abroad gave me skills in working with people from other countries, and this has been really useful in my current role. I’ve also found the entrepreneurial skills I learned at ESADE incredibly helpful – in fact I found myself using some of the techniques only last week!

In the future, I’d like to think about setting up my own business in the field of sustainable energy, but right now I’m happy to be using my skills and experience in an exciting company, which is bringing vital electricity supplies to remote parts of Africa.

To anyone thinking about studying for an InnoEnergy course, I’d say, ‘go for it’ – you won’t find the two-centre qualification, business skills and links to big business in the sector anywhere else.”

Industry partner – Rafael Solís Hernández

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Name: Rafael Solís Hernández
Company: EDP Renewables
Position: Senior Communication Manager Europe & Brasil

Rafael Solís Hernández, as Sr. Communication Mgr. for EDP Renewables, knows what it takes to make it in today’s marketplace. He’s seen the changes over the last years and acknowledges that the game has changed. The players need to adapt to the global reality we now live in. He shares how a Master’s from InnoEnergy prepares students to meet these challenges.

Can you briefly describe what your company is doing?

With presence in 12 markets worldwide, EDP Renewables is the third wind energy player globally, and it is opening its portfolio to solar PV projects in different geographies. It is also part of a broader group, EDP, Portugal’s largest industrial corporation and one of Europe’s primary energy companies.

What challenges in sustainable energy do you see in the coming years?

RES are not only the future, but also the present. Wind and solar PV are the most competitive source of energy nowadays, thus the challenge for the years to come is to create the right policies in the different states – so that these types of technologies can keep growing. This will not only allow those countries to be more competitive, but also will allow them to achieve international protocols such as COP 21.

What type of people are you looking for to help meet these challenges?

The global world that today’s professionals meet is much more complex than twenty or thirty years ago.  Today, it is not only necessary to course a degree; but to also know how to speak in several languages and possess those soft skills that allow them interact effectively in this International business world. Professionals need to be creative in order to face the global industry situations that they will find in this global reality that we now live in.

How is EDP involved with InnoEnergy’s Master programmes and its students?

We have developed several business cases, what InnoEnergy calls “Engineering & Business Cases” (E&BC). In these classes, students can experience real-life industry issues and situations with the guidance of real industry professionals. They learn by doing. In our opinion this is the best way to prepare for the employment market that they are going to meet.

As an employer, what benefits do you believe an InnoEnergy Master’s degree gives the students – this combining of engineering education with business and entrepreneurship skills?    

From my point of view, it is very common to see engineers working in so many different fields nowadays. From designing, through calculation of structures, construction management or simple management. The job market is tough, that is why in Spain so many young people are starting their own companies. This is why a holistic education is needed – one that covers all areas of technical knowledge as well as actual business creation skills – it’s a must for engineers now. They will need practical skills and to know how to work in a multi-cultural environment. And this is exactly what InnoEnergy Master’s School provides them with.

How would you describe the students that you’ve engaged with?

Students at InnoEnergy’s Master´s programmes are a mix of international, well prepared people that – without any doubt – will be a strong force in the marketplace in the following years. They are well prepared in terms of theory, they are able to speak several languages and they have those ever-important soft skills to effectively work in and solve complex business situations. I am excited to see what they will do!

Graduate – Mercè Labordena

Mercé Labordena

Name: Mercè Labordena
Age: 29
Nationality: Spanish
Programme: MSc RENE
Year of graduation: 2013
Position: Working on her PhD at the Human-Environment Systems group at ETH, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich, Switzerland.

 

Mercè Labordena is currently doing her PhD at ETH, the technical university in Zürich, Switzerland. With a background in industrial design and engineering, she had a broad base of knowledge, which she has combined with her studies at MSc RENE, the KIC InnoEnergy Master School programme with focus on renewable energy production.

 

Concentrated Solar Power

For her master’s paper, which she did in the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Vienna, she worked on renewable energy, more particularly solar power and is now preparing her first paper on concentrating solar power, CSP.  She says that if the European Union wants to meet its climate obligations, it will be fundamental to manage large systems of renewable electric power in a reliable manner. Taking into account that solar and wind are intermittent, we need dispatchable technologies like CSP to balance the system.

Mercè thinks she was prepared enough to go into work on sustainable energy, and now, working on her PhD, she and the Human-Environment Systems group are analysing the needs and how the 2020 and 2050 targets can be applied, and some pathways to achieve these goals.

Mercè says: “Whether I work in the EU, China, Australia or somewhere else, there are goals and people need to be prepared in a technical way to reach these goals. We hope that my contribution with my PhD clarifies some issues regarding the reliability of future renewable systems.”


Contact with new cultures

When it comes to her studies at MSc RENE, one thing that stands out is the memory of the lecturer Alessandro Sanches Pereira at KTH in Stockholm. Mercè studied Applied Energy Technology Project and Climate Change Mitigation Tools that Alessandro Sanches Pereira was teaching.  She says that his constant support and devotion to his students is definitely the best memory:  “He cared about us and suffered with us – let’s call this feeling empathy. This feeling allows students to be more confident about their work, which is being reflected in the results.”

The experience of studying internationally wasn’t that different or shocking to her, she states, since she had so much previous experience: “It was really a continuation of my way of living. However, previously living in Italy and Canada, I had not had much contact with Eastern cultures but the first year I had colleagues from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, countries I hadn’t had contact with before.”

After her studies, she decided to go for research, but if in the future some entrepreneurial opportunity shows up, she could be interested, especially because now, according to Mercè, she knows more people: “I cannot do everything at once. It is important to focus on that thing that you feel you are best at.”

Mercè advises students to have more and deeper contact with the academic world, and points out: “Students should not sit still and should talk to professors and researchers working in academia. Academia can provide deep knowledge and exciting opportunities for the master thesis.”


We cannot rely on a single technology

When it comes to the future of energy, CSP can offer a high level of reliability to the power systems, according to Mercè, but the challenge is in the location. CSP works best in the desert, where solar resources are in abundance. This implies the need of deploying power lines along vast distances to reach the centres of demand, such as Europe.

Political engagement is important in order to meet the energy challenges of the future, Mercè points out and adds: “We cannot behave like isolated countries, but as a part of the EU and in cooperation with the neighbouring countries. We can’t rely on a single technology either, we need the best renewable technologies available and with the right mix to feed the grid.”