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In order to attract and train new generation economists, the promotion of quality research and energy role models should be high on the priority list, states Roula Inglesi-Lotz, Associate Professor: Department of Economics, University of Pretoria and President of the South African Association for Energy Economics (SAAEE), a supporting association at the African Utility Week.

This article first appeared in ESI Africa Edition 2, 2018. You can read the full digital magazine here or subscribe here to receive a print copy.

Speaking with ESI Africa ahead of the 2018 conference, the associate professor points out that there is a lack of skills aligned with the needs of the South African economy and Africa as a whole. Inglesi-Lotz notes: “Regarding the energy field, its multidisciplinary nature is more demanding in the combination of skills needed. How can an energy report be complete if it does not consider engineering or environmental or economic (and many more) aspects?”

On the topic of there being a shortage of energy economists, Inglesi-Lotz explained that economics is a field with many different sub-fields; and usually economists gravitate towards more mainstream fields in monetary and trade economics. “However, I would say that this fact is changing slowly but surely. In my experience, young economists are curious, interested, and sensitive regarding topics of climate change and energy security and their connection to developmental issues.”

To stimulate this interest into a career path conversion, the associate professor highlighted the importance of driving “awareness programmes, active participation in energy
policy discussions, and general open debates on energy issues.”

Networking platform

“Through my experience over the years and discussions with colleagues from all spheres of the energy sector, the need for a platform to exchange new ideas and knowledge, networking opportunities and promoting and encouraging energy research was a frequent topic,” she states. This was the basis for the inception of the South African Association for Energy Economics (SAAEE), over which Inglesi-Lotz is presiding.

This national forum, aimed at energy specialists from all professions and spheres of the energy sector, was implemented through support from the International Association for Energy Economics (IAEE), energy enthusiasts and Inglesi-Lotz’s colleagues.

Explaining the platform’s vision, the associate professor says: “It intends to build intellectual capacity and thereby improve energy policy propositions and implementations.”

To ensure SAAEE members are kept on point with trending news and information, the Association aims at providing a suite of benefits for its members and continuous involvement with current affairs of the local and international energy sector.
Inglesi-Lotz adds that members will receive information such as expert opinions and a calendar of national energy events; panel discussions of current energy and environmental topics, where energy specialists debate and exchange ideas and perspectives, expert talks and presentations; and technical workshops, where energy specialists present a variety of modelling and quantitative methods used in the energy field nationally and internationally.

In addition, there will be a student chapter with activities that provide expansion of skills and networking opportunities.

Best starting point

“To promote knowledge, to produce better quality research, to propose and implement evidence-based policies, the sector needs to talk energy.” In order to achieve a ‘talk energy’ norm, collaboration across the sector chain is necessary. This includes more
interconnection between sector, research academia and the experts themselves. “The sector needs more avenues for interaction opportunities.”

Through the networking initiatives, which include the African Utility Week conference – “one of the best examples I’m referring to” – the SAAEE will promote integration
amongst the various professions within the energy field while facilitating building of intellectual capacity and exchange of ideas.

You can read the full digital magazine here or subscribe here to receive a print copy.