Evelyn Mugisha grew up in rural Uganda where, for most people, there still is no power to light the night. But with eyes wide open, she’s dreaming of extending electricity to those rural areas.
She and 24 other young professionals from sub-Saharan Africa — where two out of three people lack access to electricity — have come to the University of California, Davis, to equip themselves to tackle the enormous energy challenges on their continent.
“Rural electrification is an underlying drive of my life,” said Mugisha, a project development manager with her country’s largest electricity distribution company and the founder of a social enterprise bringing renewable energy to remote villages.
Learning from UC Davis and California
Considered the most sustainable university in the world, UC Davis is offering the only energy-themed institute of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, the flagship of the Young African Leaders Initiative, today through July 29. The campus, which piloted the first energy-themed institute last year, is one of 38 universities hosting a total of 1,000 fellows for summer programs in business and entrepreneurship, civic leadership and public management.
At the Public Management Institute on Energy Policy, fellows will learn from UC Davis and other California experts who are advancing energy policies, business strategies and technologies to contribute to the environmental and economic sustainability of the energy sector.
In addition to classroom sessions on energy and leadership skills, the program will allow fellows to experience the campus — ranked first in the world for sustainability by the GreenMetric World University Ranking — as a living lab for energy efficiency. And tours throughout Northern California will show other energy solutions at work.
Building capacity to make a difference
Peter Hartsough, an assistant project scientist in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, is the academic director of the institute. “We aim to prepare the fellows to better address some of the major barriers to energy access in the developing world and the ways in which clean energy solutions can be used to overcome them,” he said.
The UC Davis fellows are 25- to 35-year-olds who have already promoted innovation and accomplished positive change. From 19 countries, they include:
- innovators advancing renewable energy technologies and rural access to electricity through private companies and nongovernmental organizations;
- engineers and project managers for public utilities and state agencies;
- other professionals ranging from an economist for the Seychelles Energy Commission to the project lead for sustainability at a copper-mining company in Zambia to a lawyer working on legislation to combat electricity theft in Madagascar.
Institute features tours throughout Northern California
The program of the energy policy institute, organized by the university’s Office of Global Affairs, draws on the expertise of faculty from a broad range of disciplines and nearly 20 UC Davis institutes. These include the Energy Efficiency Center, which accelerates the development and commercialization of energy efficiency technologies, and the Institute of Transportation Studies, the world’s leading university center on sustainable transportation.
UC Davis visits will showcase West Village, the nation’s largest planned zero-net energy community; the largest solar power plant at an American university; and the Tahoe Environmental Research Center in Incline Village, Nevada.
On the preliminary schedule are tours in Northern California including:
- the damaged Oroville Dam and its hydro power plant
- the Shilo Wind Power Plant in Solano County
- the Stone Edge Farm MicroGrid in Sonoma
- the Marsh Landing Generating Station near Antioch
- sustainable operations at the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Chico
- the Yolo County Central Landfill
- California Independent System Operator in Folsom
- the California Energy Commission in Sacramento
In hands-on service and learning, the fellows will perform campus energy audits, plant trees, volunteer at the Yolo Food Bank, serve with Davis Community Meals and more.
The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is a program of the U.S. Department of State administered by IREX, an international nonprofit. UC Davis is a sub-grantee and is supporting the U.S.–based academic program of the fellowship.