After returning to Fuqua from my summer internship at one of the largest renewable energy developers and best-managed utilities in the country, I found myself reflecting on the value I bring to the table in accelerating the clean energy transition. I wondered: what impact do I want by working in energy? What about this industry compels me to undertake this journey, and what is my role in it? For weeks, I let these questions and many others like them turn over in my mind.

Understanding the Impact of Energy

It was not until our Center for Energy, Development, and the Global Environment (EDGE) Fall Seminar session with GT Hollett and Katherine Bond from Dominion Energy that I realized why working in energy has so much potential for impact. It was a reminder of the roles people—not just technology—can play in accelerating an equitable transition to cleaner, increasingly affordable, and reliable energy. While the discussion and questions from my peers focused heavily on understanding the company’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), Katherine’s work within external affairs tilling the soil in local communities captivated me.

By the end of the discussion, we got to the heart of what the work should truly be about: people and ensuring they live a decent life. Energy is the means to that end. Energy is not the end goal, and a clean transition is not the end of the road.

A conference at Harvard Business School

When I attended Harvard Business School’s annual Climate Symposium, I heard Stephane Hallegate from The World Bank speak about not just ending poverty or financing the adoption of clean energy technology through pilots, but also increasing livability for the world’s most vulnerable populations. A lunch with a developer in Hawaii with AES reinforced this further. We can’t make progress if we don’t get the communities where we develop projects on board, we need to develop true trust in the communities in which we operate. As Katherine emphasized, we need to do well before we have a project in mind, and we do well for the people who stand to be impacted.

All of these insights have left me with a clearer understanding of my own potential for impact—bridging the gap between people and what they care about and need to live meaningful lives. People are empowered by access to clean, affordable, and reliable energy, but there remains a need to scale clean technologies.

Creating My Energy Philosophy

I don’t want to just sit in an office and perform “desktop analysis” limited to my singular understanding of the world or insights written by others. I want my work to have a direct impact on people that can be empowered by clean energy so they can live their most full and joyful lives. Access to energy for vulnerable populations can be the difference between endurance and enjoyment. As I move forward and beyond Fuqua, I will dedicate my career to roles that enables me to use my understanding of energy and voice to put people, not just technology, first in this transition.

Daytime MBA student Amelia Atencio presenting at NextEra Energy

All of this is to say that I am grateful for learning opportunities like having guest speakers such as Katherine and GT in class and attending conferences to hear from the world’s foremost thought leaders tackling the world’s greatest climate problems. These experiences have challenged me to rethink what truly matters in this transition. While of course, the environment is the focus, it is all in the spirit of preserving a high quality of life for all of the planet’s inhabitants. To advance technology and markets in pursuit of a cleaner world, we must galvanize and empower people by learning about what matters most to them.

For the longest time I tried to find a singular thing that united people but realizing that what unites people is not a simple physical attribute or object, it is the right to a livable planet.