I am very enthusiastic about renewable energy technologies so my choice to do the Sustainable Energy Technology Master was obvious. During my master I gained broad knowledge in the field of energy technology, both on the engineering as the social sciences level. Especially the broad view that goes beyond technology aspects was eye-opening for me.
My motivation was to use sustainable energy technologies in rural areas to improve livelihood circumstances. I did my internship on an organic farm in a beautiful valley in Ecuador. I helped there to design and implement the construction of a micro hydropower plant of 4 kW. By working in the field you find out that there is much more to it than just making calculations behind your desk. It appeared that the soil contained a lot of huge unmoveable rocks and the sand that was needed for the concrete needed to be shovelled out of the river and transported with donkeys. Also the local people with years of working experience have very different ideas about the practical implementation of the construction and while I was there, the weather conditions with extreme heavy rainfall flooded away two weeks of work. Anyway, I stayed motivated because I knew that eventually the potential energy from the water would be converted into electrical energy that provides lighting in the houses of the farmers in the valley.
I graduated at the CSTM faculty at the University of Twente, the department of governance and technology for sustainability. I had the opportunity to do my graduation research in Kenya at an NGO for sustainable community development services. My study was about the substitution of a traditional fire with an improved cookstove in rural households and I researched what the impact was on fuelwood consumption. I find it very interesting to search for the differences between cultures, values and ways of living. It is very important to use this information to get an appropriate technology. For example, a cooking device for us only has function to heat food. But in the hilly areas in Kenya many more functions might be hidden in this device, like heating the room and giving social status to the family. Without the use of local knowledge, local materials and involving local people, a sustainable product will never be developed, and in particular it will never be used.
My internship and graduation project gave me valuable experiences and an idea how it is to work in rural areas with different cultures. It has not deterred me but rather strengthened me for a career in the development sector. I want to contribute to a society in which all people enjoy the freedom to pursue their own sustainable development.