Interdisciplinary success at NorRen summer school
From 17-21 August, the University of Bergen, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and UiO:Energy had the pleasure of gathering 31 PhD-students working within the fields of energy to the 2020 interdisciplinary summer school on flexible energy systems, NorRen.
– This year’s summer school took place at Bjørnafjorden Hotel in Os outside of Bergen. The overall focus was flexible energy systems with a particular emphasis on wind, solar, hydrogen and the interactions between these technologies, says Vebjørn Bakken, Director of UiO:Energy, and elaborates:
– As part of an interdisciplinary approach, the participants were also given insight into legal and financial framework conditions of the new emerging technologies. And in line with UiO:Energy's educational concept, the program for the summer school was designed with perspectives from both industry and government. Amongst others, this included a visit to Midtfjellet wind park at Stord.
Relevant and well-balanced program
Kirsten Milo Nielsen, a PhD Fellow at the Department of Social Anthropology at UiO, was one of the summer school participants. She declares it a positive experience in every way.
– Before leaving, I was a bit unsure as to how relevant the program would be for me as a social anthropologist and with a PhD project that does not focus on the energy situation in Norway. But already after the first day I had taken many notes and developed new ideas for my own project, Nielsen says and continues:
– I also think there was a really good and positive atmosphere among the participants, which created a safe framework for professional discussions and many pleasant, non-professional conversations, where we got to know each other better.
In particular, she was impressed by the program for the summer school, which she says combined different academic perspectives and had a good mixture of academic lectures and lectures held by people from the public and private sector.
Challenging, but rewarding group work
Nielsen took part in a team that dealt with energy conflicts in Norway. They chose to look at both social, historical and environmental factors as to why hydro and wind power have been – and still are – a source of controversy. Then they presented their idea of how the wind power industry might meet the different claims and demands while at the same time contribute to flexibility within a European energy market.
– Working together in interdisciplinary teams was a bit more challenging than what I am used to. We had to discuss for quite some time to reach a solution that everyone was happy with, and where everyone felt being able to contribute. At the same time, it was a good exercise in communicating one’s ideas to people from different academic backgrounds, she says while concluding:
– Overall, I think my team ended up with a good result that illuminated our ‘case’ from different perspectives and came up with a solution that took into account both technical and social aspects. For example, I do not think we would have managed if we had just been social scientists in the team.
– A very helpful experience
Another participant was Bruno Guilherme Fischer Eggert, a Research Fellow at the Institute for Energy Tehcnology (IFE). As Nielsen, he is happy about the summer school program.
– I think it was an insightful experience to be able to relate with other PhD colleagues in my area and from other areas as well. The lectures taught me a lot on important aspects of both existing technologies and promising new ones, while at the same time evaluating the regulations for energy policies in Norway. All in all, a very helpful experience, he says.
Eggert took part in a team concentrating on societal issues with energy technologies where the society feels that the environment or society itself is threatened by the impacts promoted by such technologies. And how to avoid these issues or to mitigate them.
– It was a really good experience to have the chance to work closely with people from different areas and exchange information and ideas. I really liked our work overall, he says.
More interdisciplinary than expected
The NorRen summer school program is broader and more interdisciplinary than most participants are used to, but it was much to Eggert´s liking.
– I was expecting a more technical summer school, and I was pleasantly surprised to come out of it with a lot more knowledge from the existing power grid in Scandinavia and the regulatory policies, he concludes.
Says Vebjørn Bakken at UiO:Energy:
– A key concept of the NorRen summer school is to give a more holistic overview of energy systems, but at the same time allowing the students to see how their particular research can fit into the greater puzzle. Furthermore, the group work represents a safe arena for doing interdisciplinary work and help the students develop communication skills that no doubt will prove useful in their upcoming career.