Gauteng youth help solve technology challenges of the global energy transition
High schoolers from Gauteng have taken on the challenge to learn, innovate and lead society’s transition to a net-zero future, as participants in the global energy decarbonisation company Siemens Energy’s recent Just Energy Transition (JET) Hackathon.
Thabo Molekoa, Managing Director of Siemens Energy in South Africa, welcomed 28 top students from seven high schools to the challenge. He called the youth’s contribution to the development of “sustainable, affordable and reliable” green energy technologies “critical”, not only for the future of the planet but also for the stability of the global economy.
The importance of young people’s contribution to the global energy transition
“It is incredibly important that we involve creative young people with fresh ideas and problem-solving mindsets in our critical mission to help save the planet through innovative technologies,”Thabo Molekoa, Managing Director of Siemens Energy in South Africa
“The energy transition is quickly gaining speed with world economies rushing to create that foundation needed to shift their energy systems. Such a shift requires innovation, knowledge and continuous revolution in training and education. Our young people must be made part of the process as early as possible. Initiatives like this one provide this next generation of energy professionals with valuable opportunities to learn and lead in the energy transition.”
Brilliant young minds shine at the Siemens Energy Transition Hackathon
The hackathon was joined by Grade 11 and 12 learners from Leap Science and Maths Schools in Diepsloot and Alexandra, St Barnabas School of Specialisation in Randburg, Parktown High School for Girls in Parkview, John Orr Technical High School in Milpark, Curro Academy Parkdene High School in Boksburg, Midstream College in Midrand, and Woodhill College in Pretoria. The event took place in Midrand on 26 and 27 May 2022.
Contestants in the Just Energy Transition Hackathon were set the task to solve a data centre energy challenge puzzle. Each team had to find innovative ways to power up as many servers as possible in a virtual data centre while keeping CO2 emissions and costs down whilst maintaining adequate energy generation and employment levels. Their virtual data centres could be powered up by a combination of renewables, hydrogen and gas energy.
Woodhill College won the challenge with their highly efficient innovation, followed closely by Parktown High School for Girls, and Leap Science and Maths School in third place.
Molekoa said Woodhill College impressed the judges with its phased approach away from coal, the clever mix of jobs and skill levels they built into their renewable energy plan, and the combination of technologies they used including solar, wind, biomass, and specifically biogas waste to produce silicone. Their plan also carefully considered the costs of their proposed technologies.
Prizes included Siemens Energy bursaries for the winning team and all participants received a certificate of participation.
Molekoa said Siemens Energy South Africa hosted events such as these to inspire and encourage young people to use new technologies and collaborate on the development of green technologies. Events like these are as important to the just energy transition as reskilling and training existing energy industry workers. The green economy could provide new and skilled jobs, social justice, and poverty eradication. The renewable energy industry needs more young people with an interest in science and engineering to join its ranks, he said.
“South Africa has enormous potential, as well as a great responsibility - with Africa being disproportionately affected by climate change - to become a global force for positive change in the global climate crisis. The journey of transition requires that we ensure that we use the resources we already have at our disposal to meet the world’s energy demands. Without energy, people can’t live safe and healthy lives, and economies can’t move forward. And without clean energy, the planet won’t survive. There is nothing less than everything at stake here.”
“I have been overwhelmingly impressed by the skill, talent, and ingenuity of these bright young minds. I am extremely optimistic and confident for the future knowing that these students will soon be joining the ranks of companies like ours to tackle the energy challenges of the future,” Molekoa said.