Switzerland – Weeks 8-10

Bonjour!

It has been a long time since I have written a blog entry. I have been very busy with my tasks; I am averaging 9-10hr. work days. It’s weird, though. I do not feel mad or upset about staying so late. Knowing that my time is limited, I want to maximize my presence and output while I am here. On that, note – I did extend my internship by one month! They wanted me to stay the full 6 months but… Geneva is incredibly expensive (I am paying over $1000 a month for a bedroom..yikes).

Anyhow, I have to admit that I feel like my posts are always filled with these awesome adventures throughout Europe. Despite my work being very important and exciting, talking about it isn’t very….sexy? With that said, I do have some great pictures from my trip to Chamonix, France where I went up to 12,605ft and -30F air to get near Mont Blanc.. But you’ll have to eat your vegetables, so to speak, and sit through my discussion on my interesting policy work 🙂

I can’t really express my work in words & pictures on this blog, I can hear everyone ..ZZZZZ’ing all the way here in Switzerland. However, to show you how I get my hands dirty, here’s a picture of my typical day in the office….

Typical Office Day

Exciting, right? This sums up my typical work day quite well…. It begins with highlighting through the latest policy research, looking for applicable policies within the ECE member States, then looking at energy data for said country, adding the numbers in excel, run some calculations, and trying to find any patterns and correlations. As sarcastic as I may sound, the findings are quite interesting.

At this point, I am beginning to do research on member States that have less than 100% modern energy access to it’s rural communities. I want to know:

a) where are these communities?

b) What are the factors that lead to these situations?

c) Are policies in place that allow for the development of micro or off-grid renewable energy systems?

It is one thing to review policies and exiting economic and energy data sets to try and come up with theories, but physically locating these regions is something that is above my pay grade, frankly. So far, I have learned to calculate Energy Intensities and Economic Energy Efficiencies (inverse of energy intensity) which is, essentially, how cheaply and efficiently energy is  produced and consumed by basing the Total Primary Energy Consumed over the countries GDP.. For example, a country with a high energy intensity means that it takes a lot of energy to produce a unit of GDP, meaning, the costs to produce the energy and/or consume it are high and vis versa. Another way to look at it is to see how effective the nation is at delivering energy and converting it to economic gain. My point in explaining that is because, not so surprisingly, is that the countries with areas with limited access have high energy intensity values. Furthermore, the countries in question are predominately found in the Caucuses region (former USSR), and have the same infrastructure from when they were the USSR… meaning efficiencies are poor, and the distribution network is limited.

Anyhow, that research is ongoing… hopefully soon I can make some better discoveries/understandings of how the energy situation can be remedied. But for now, enjoy the pictures from Chamonix!

Au Revoir!

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Mont Blanc
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Fellow UNECE Interns
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No, it’s not the Planet Hoth, it’s actually looking into Italy.

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Switzerland – Weeks 6 & 7

Hard Works Deserves a Break… and Long Hours in the Office

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Big Ben & Parliament

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Abbey Road Studios
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Big Ben

Bonjour!

The last two weeks were a fairly mixed bag of events. From burying myself in writing and research at the UN from 9am-8pm, to skipping across the English Channel to visit London. I know the last few entries may have eluded to my time here in Switzerland as a vacation, and in many ways it has been, but the work I am doing has been tough. It is hard to put into words on this blog of the work I am doing…. It’s a desk job and usually staring at excel spreadsheets or reading the latest reports on new policies. But more importantly, I am learning a lot. The experience I am gaining and confidence that I am developing is coming onto me quickly. It is moments like when I am sitting in a bar and having an educated discussion with other interns do I appreciate what I am learned; bear in mind I am discussing this with kids who either studied or are currently studying at schools like Yale, Stanford, Columbia, etc. That is a pretty great feeling. Although I love all of this, I really needed a break. AndIMG_2729 what better than to visit a country where English isn’t just common, but where it’s the official language.. England!

When an opportunity to visit London came, I took it. Besides the obvious historical site seeing and fun pub endeavors, I did do some minor ‘research’, if you will, be accident. The hostel I stayed at in London was situated attached to/on top of a local pub. Not bad, right? After doing the typical site seeing, I got to end my day with a pint or two (or three) and listen into the local affairs in assorted accidents that we only hear on BBC. One night I was having a pint and a like aged German couple, also on ‘holiday’, struck up a conversation with me. We were all in college, foreigners, with many curiosities to explore. They fielded me the typical American stereotype questions: “Is it true that you put cheese on everything, “yeah, why limit life?”, Are American food portions really as big as people say? “What can I say, we like a good value”,…are you catching my drift? We are fat, America, everyone is aware about it, and maybe a little concerned. Seriously, nearly 90% of the questions I receive from others is related to our food habits… *sigh*.

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Bike Sharing Station – These were all throughout London

However, when it came time for me to ask questions, I only had one thing on my mind: Energiewende. Well, two if I’m honest… I wanted to talk to them about Oktoberfest..

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Westminster Abbey

Anyhow, when I began researching my potential research topics, the German Energiewende or “energy transition” constantly came up during my searches. The Energiewende is a suite of German policies with the intent to transition away from fossil fuels and nuclear sources and towards renewable energy.

This has resulted into rapid deployment of technologies like solar PV and wind power in both large and small scale. The German model is widely considered the poster child for renewable energy policy. So, since the international community loved the idea, I wanted to know what Germans, and more importantly, Germans of my generations thought of the policy. Their response? They both said, simultaneously, that the transition wasn’t happening fast enough. Incredible. The imperative to invest in cleaner energy sources is instilled in them, and neither of them studied in field where climate change would be on any syllabus. It was so enlightening to hear how the youth in Germany really take clean energy seriously and not just as some sort of packaged “eco-fad” that, frankly, exists in America. It was refreshing.

After the glorious time in London, I had to come back to one hell of week. My supervisor was out of town all week on various missions and left me to review a report that we had been working on since day 1. To cut to the chase, this was the “menu of policy and technology options” report that we were able to finish a draft last week. We submitted to my supervisor’s boss, and received the comments on Monday morning. I am in the office to work on it, but my supervisor wasn’t, nor would he all week. Convenient. Nonetheless, I agreed with most of the comments and understood the direction in which she wanted the facts and information to be presented. I ended up sitting down with her to try and fully understand where she saw this going… basically, we were going to have to re-write or re-phrase most of the paper. Oh, joy. The week was spent entirely on this paper, and this coming week will be as well. Hopefully now that my supervisor will be back, we can make some serious strides.

That’s it for now, sorry for the lack of substance, but the policy work is very monotonous, important, but very boring.

Au revoir!

Switzerland – Weeks 6 & 7

Hard Works Deserves a Break… and Long Hours in the Office

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Big Ben & Parliament

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Abbey Road Studios
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Big Ben

Bonjour!

The last two weeks were a fairly mixed bag of events. From burying myself in writing and research at the UN from 9am-8pm, to skipping across the English Channel to visit London. I know the last few entries may have eluded to my time here in Switzerland as a vacation, and in many ways it has been, but the work I am doing has been tough. It is hard to put into words on this blog of the work I am doing…. It’s a desk job and usually staring at excel spreadsheets or reading the latest reports on new policies. But more importantly, I am learning a lot. The experience I am gaining and confidence that I am developing is coming onto me quickly. It is moments like when I am sitting in a bar and having an educated discussion with other interns do I appreciate what I am learned; bear in mind I am discussing this with kids who either studied or are currently studying at schools like Yale, Stanford, Columbia, etc. That is a pretty great feeling. Although I love all of this, I really needed a break. AndIMG_2729 what better than to visit a country where English isn’t just common, but where it’s the official language.. England!

When an opportunity to visit London came, I took it. Besides the obvious historical site seeing and fun pub endeavors, I did do some minor ‘research’, if you will, be accident. The hostel I stayed at in London was situated attached to/on top of a local pub. Not bad, right? After doing the typical site seeing, I got to end my day with a pint or two (or three) and listen into the local affairs in assorted accidents that we only hear on BBC. One night I was having a pint and a like aged German couple, also on ‘holiday’, struck up a conversation with me. We were all in college, foreigners, with many curiosities to explore. They fielded me the typical American stereotype questions: “Is it true that you put cheese on everything, “yeah, why limit life?”, Are American food portions really as big as people say? “What can I say, we like a good value”,…are you catching my drift? We are fat, America, everyone is aware about it, and maybe a little concerned. Seriously, nearly 90% of the questions I receive from others is related to our food habits… *sigh*.

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Bike Sharing Station – These were all throughout London

However, when it came time for me to ask questions, I only had one thing on my mind: Energiewende. Well, two if I’m honest… I wanted to talk to them about Oktoberfest..

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Westminster Abbey

Anyhow, when I began researching my potential research topics, the German Energiewende or “energy transition” constantly came up during my searches. The Energiewende is a suite of German policies with the intent to transition away from fossil fuels and nuclear sources and towards renewable energy.

This has resulted into rapid deployment of technologies like solar PV and wind power in both large and small scale. The German model is widely considered the poster child for renewable energy policy. So, since the international community loved the idea, I wanted to know what Germans, and more importantly, Germans of my generations thought of the policy. Their response? They both said, simultaneously, that the transition wasn’t happening fast enough. Incredible. The imperative to invest in cleaner energy sources is instilled in them, and neither of them studied in field where climate change would be on any syllabus. It was so enlightening to hear how the youth in Germany really take clean energy seriously and not just as some sort of packaged “eco-fad” that, frankly, exists in America. It was refreshing.

After the glorious time in London, I had to come back to one hell of week. My supervisor was out of town all week on various missions and left me to review a report that we had been working on since day 1. To cut to the chase, this was the “menu of policy and technology options” report that we were able to finish a draft last week. We submitted to my supervisor’s boss, and received the comments on Monday morning. I am in the office to work on it, but my supervisor wasn’t, nor would he all week. Convenient. Nonetheless, I agreed with most of the comments and understood the direction in which she wanted the facts and information to be presented. I ended up sitting down with her to try and fully understand where she saw this going… basically, we were going to have to re-write or re-phrase most of the paper. Oh, joy. The week was spent entirely on this paper, and this coming week will be as well. Hopefully now that my supervisor will be back, we can make some serious strides.

That’s it for now, sorry for the lack of substance, but the policy work is very monotonous, important, but very boring.

Au revoir!

Switzerland – Week 5

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What a fantastic week. I’ve made significant progress in my work, I met the US Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, went sledding in the Alps, AND went to the Geneva Motor Show. I swear I am interning and doing research out here.. I swear!.

Let’s start with the fun stuff: Policy making….

This last week, I spent most of it reading many, many, many different reports from International Energy Agency (IEA), International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21), and scholarly works. All of the reports dealt with existing/proposed/hybrid policy mechanisms that promote the uptake of renewable energy, example case studies, and basically tried to provide some sort of road map for implementation. Which is exactly what I have to do but specific to the 56 countries within the UNECE.

As it turns out that maybe I have (and I hope many of my fellow Patel Colleagues) have actually learned a thing or two about renewable energy policies. As I am reading I am saying to myself… “oh yeah!…. Hey I remember that!… wait, that is not what Dr. Philippidis said about subsidies”….. just kidding! It felt pretty great to read through the vast amounts of material, understand (most of) it. One tasks I had coming out of this research, was writing up a case study on the most popular policy mechanisms within the UNECE region. After doing some data crunching, turns out that Feed-in Tariffs (FIT) and Competitive Tendering are some of the most common tools used by member states. Now I needed to do some MORE research to find information on prime examples of these tools being utilized in a member state.

To cut to the chase, turns out France recently had great success with competitive tendering; between 2011-present, France has had two calls for proposals that yielded significant project proposals. Between the two rounds, France was able to secure six GW of offshore wind energy by 2020, while creating over 16,000 jobs in the construction, transportation, and maintenance of the wind farms. The tendering process allows for competitors to offer up their lowest price to build and maintain the wind farm, by optimizing all costs of the enterprise, thus, creating the most affordable per kWh price to consumers.

In Britain, they’ve had incredible success in the implementation of a Feed-in Tariff scheme. Essentially, if someone would like to install up to five MW of renewable/low carbon producing energy systems, the owner of the system is guaranteed a premium per KWh price for energy produced and supplied into the electrical grid. To highlight the success of this law, within the first year, solar PV installations increased by 500% the first year, and another 300% the second year. Holy cow, that is crazy! In two short years UK went from having 40 GWh in 2010 (before the law was passed) to 1188 GWh in 2012……

The case studies were fun to do in the sense that I reviewed some real great examples but now it’s time to get down to brass tacks. I’ve done a lot of research, but now I need to start thinking about this “Menu of Technology and Policy Options”. Essentially, I need to research how can I outline all of the various technology options, the policy mechanisms, and the key elements of nations that contribute the most to promoting renewable energy technologies. The end result should be something in which a polcymaker or anyone can look at and say, “well, I want more solar in my country” – A drop down of policy options shows up – “hmmm, I do not want to subsidize projects, I don’t want to give out grants, oh! How about this whole feed-in tariff? – Another drop down with best case examples, asking which is most like you? – “well, I would say our country is most like X” – OK, based on your results your country would be best suited to implement a hybrid FIT/tendering system that promotes both large and small scale installations.…. Something like that, except I need to review all the in between parts, figure out how to weight them, and ensure that the option presented is the best option. *Sigh*

On other, pretty great news, I got to meet the US Ambassador to the UNOG!! It’s a great story – last Thursday, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour came to the UN to debate with the High Commissioner on Human Rights along with the High Commissioner on Refugees, regarding the many issues the world is facing now. As this was my first opportunity to go to a fairly high level event, I thought it would be cool to see, plus, the event was being held steps from my office…

I ended up scoring great seats near the front row. A woman approached me and asked, “Are these seats for Ambassadors?”…. “Um what?!” I stuttered a bit and said, “As far as I know, it is reserved for someone important, and I think you may qualify for that.” She laughed, sat down and I immediately asked where she was from, turns out she was the Ambassador of New Zealand! Too cool! After telling her about myself, she said, “Come with me.” She takes me acrIMG_2399oss the isle and she pointed, and said “David, meet your Ambassador” before she could finished I practically shouted, “Madam Hamamoto, what an honor!” They all laughed, and I also had the pleasure of meeting the permanent deputy to the US Mission, Peter Mulrean. Both were incredibly nice, happy to hear of the work I was doing and after a short discussion, we all went back to our seats for the debate… Dude I just met the US UNOG Ambassador, directly appointed by President Obama! Holy Sh**! Too cool. And yes, of course I had to get a picture to prove it.

The Swiss Life – Friends, Fast Cars, and the Alps

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To top off a busy week, I got the chance to road trip to Les Dialeblerets in the heart of the Swiss Alps. This stereotypical Swiss mountain town, complete with intricately carved wooden chalets, offered a 4.5mile track down the mountain in a “luge”. Basically, a wooden plank with metal feet that allow you to FLY down the track. I thought the expereince would be very slow, drink in the scenery, and crawl down the mountain…nope. Man, it was a hell of a lot of fun though! The view from the top was absolutely staggering. I thought I had seen some mountains before, but these were monsters compared to anything I’ve ever seen… Enjoy the next few pictures, I think they explain the whole experience better than I can. I’m still speechless.

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……Need I really say more? I didn’t think so! And yes, I was there to take those pictures (some were taken with my Portuguese friend’s camera but they are authentic! I swear!

Geneva Motor Show

One thing I have loved my whole life: Cars, very fast one, specifically. This may be taboo in the realm of sustainability and reducing our use of fossil fuels but my one guilty please has always been cars. My M.O. has always been, if you are going to inefficient with gas, you might as well be traveling over 200mph… but I digress. The motor show was crazy, automakers big and small were there, and a lot that I have read about but are not offered in the USA, which was pretty cool to see.

This year, apparently, was the year of alternative fuel vehicles. Each maker had at least 2-3 hybrid or electric vehicles and these were drawing nearly equal attention as the myriad of hypeIMG_2477r cars that were there. However, one of the most intriguing items at the show was not a car at all, it was a tire produced by Goodyear. The tire, made from recycled rice husks, was engineered to transfer the rolling heat generated during use into electrical energy that would then be stored in the hybrid battery system. Crazy! And just look at it, it looks like something out of a sci-fi film!

Another nice touch at the show was that each car had a little placard that rated the fuel economy and CO2 emission against industry norms. The amount of vehicles in the upper percentile was pretty remarkable. I know we all don’t need cars, and some would be happy to see them go away, but it’s nice to know the cars being manufactured now are more fuel efficient, emit less GHGs and still offer incredible technological features.

Here are some cool shots for the Auto Show. Warning – for those who hate cars that, frankly, could care less about CO2 – avert your eyes. Some of these cars may be disturbing for viewers.

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That’s it for now – my next post will be delay because I will be traveling to London AND Paris! I got invited to attend a workshop and meeting in Paris with some fellow UNECE staff, so why not make a weekend out of it? Stay tuned!

Au revoir!

Switzerland – Weeks 3 & 4

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Bonjur!

Sorry for missing last week – I was feeling a little under the weather. There has been thisIMG_2345 hybrid flu/cold bug going around. Plus, I went for a hike in 20 degree, snowing conditions in the Alps.. probably not the smartest idea but hey, you only live once. However, I did pay for it, I was out for a day and had to just rest up with a ton of orange juice (nothing like the delicious nectar I left behind in Florida..).

Other than shaking off a little illness, it was a fairly uneventful last two weeks compared to the previous ones, at least in terms of adventurous activities. I was finally able to glean enough information to understand, in part, what my primary objective(s) will be. Since I was only afforded the dime tour of how the UNECE operates, I gathered as much about the order of operations as I could on my own with assistance from UN interns of years past during week 3.

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Week 4, however, felt like it was a very productive week for me. I spent the bulk of the week compiling data into a table in which it displayed all 56 UNECE member states and criteria pertaining to renewable energy uptake. Fortunately, most of the grunt work had been completed thanks to REN21’s 2014 Global Status Report, however, I needed to extract only our 56 member states. The table is broken into three section:

  1. National Targets and Strategies: Here, we note if the nation has Renewable Targets, or a Renewable Energy Strategy in place (i.e. a road map to implement renewables.)
  2. Regulatory Mechanisms: These include instruments that allow for governments to require renewable energy uptake including:
    • Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards (requires industries or individuals to maintain certain levels of renewable energy utilization),
    • Feed-in Tariffs,
    • Renewable Energy Credits
    • Net Metering, etc.
  3. Fiscal Incentives/Public Financing: These are financial schemes/incentives, that are designed to attract investment (public and private) towards renewable energy. These include:
    • Subsidies
    • Public Investments
    • Energy Production Credits, etc.

After compiling the data, I tallied the results and began graphing/comparing the data six ways to Sunday. For instance, 28 of the 56 UNECE member states are within the European Union, how do those countries compare? How do the results compare regionally; sub-regions of Europe are categorized in many, sometimes contentious ways (western Europe, Caucuses, Balkans, central Asia, Russia, North America, etc). How does the data looked when arranged by gross national income averages? How about when we look at those who import/export the largest amounts of fossil fuels? And so on…… all week, once the data set was created, I tried to think of as many scenarios in which it may be relevant to present those that are excelling/struggling at implementing renewable energy technologies.

Aside from the endless data analysis at the UN, I’ve continued to meet some pretty great people. So far, everyone I have met has been genuine (with the exception of an American I met… imagine that!). I was certainly nervous coming into this whole endeavor, especially trying to meet others who may not view Americans in the highest regard, but it has been the total opposite of what I expected. I quickly realized everyone is in the same boat: they are foreign, new, overwhelmed with the tasks they need to complete, and a little homesick. Sitting in the cafeteria at the UN, it is so easy to pick out those that are interns and those that are full-time employees; the full timers are usually content, obviously focused on whatever preoccupied them before lunch, sitting alone or with one other person, whereas, us interns are sitting in large tables together, laughing, joking, completed intrigued about our cultural differences. It is nice to easily congregate as interns and forget about our difficult objectives and simply enjoy where we are, talk about how we all got here, and learn how common we all really are.

With as much progress that was made the last two weeks, I am hoping to carry this momentum into next week and come out with some great results. Next weekend is shaping to be a fun filled one (Toboggan tracks, alpine towns, and the Geneva Motor Show!).

Au Revoir!

Switzerland: Weeks 1 & 2

Week 1: February 9th – 15th

 Jet Lag, Broken French, and a Beautiful City

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For someone who hasn’t flown any further than California, 13hrs of flying and a 6 hour time difference was rough. After flying from Atlanta to Paris (8hrs) I got maybe 1-1.5hrs. of sleep, tops. On the bright side, literally, I saw the sunrise of Great Britain which was incredible.Coming into Geneva, was unbelievable – seeing the first glimpses of the Alps was like a postcard. The epic, sheer, and steep, snow covered faces was unreal.

After arriving into Geneva, I grabbed my free 80 minute public transport pass (epic!) and headed into the city. I rushed to my hostel, not taking in much of the city ambiance in because I had two large suitcases and frankly, was completely whipped from traveling. Luckily, I got my room right away and fell asleep for something like 12 hours.

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City Hostel, Geneva

Once I recharged I woke up and decided it was time to hop on the tram and explore Geneva. What is really cool about Geneva is, apparently, all hotels/hostels etc. give out free transport cards for the time you are in Geneva. Insane! One of the first things I needed to do was meet with someone who was offering a room to rent. Apartment and room shares are the most “affordable” ways to live and work in Geneva, especially for unpaid interns like myself. Thankfully, the place turned out to be great, and I am able to live with a very welcoming Malaysian family. Now that I don’t have to worry about housing, I am going to spend the next couple days like a tourist!… That’s it for now, I’m going to focus on learning the city for the next couple of days.

…..A few days later

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Palais des Nations

The last couple of days have been absolutely incredible. I am very glad that I decided to stay at a hostel in the middle of the city for a few days. The extra time and central location allowed me to get familiar with Geneva by using the very punctual TPG (transit system) and I have seen some beautiful sites and met some wonderful people. My first stop while exploring Geneva was seeing the row of flags at the Palais des Nations, the United Nations. I was floored when I saw the flags and realized the gravity of the situation of where I am. It was one of the first times in my life where I was genuinely proud of myself. There were benches that faced flags and I sat there and soaked in that feeling of pride and accomplishment. I was not only getting a chance to represent the USA and USF, but also myself.

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Reformation Wall, Bastions Park
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Lake Leman

After being injected with energy from seeing where I will be working for the next 90 days, I went out and to explored Geneva  like a tourist and did some site seeing. I took a tram to the other side of the Rhone River and visited the “Old City”. It was picturesque, just like everything I had imagined old European cities to be; narrow, cobblestone streets with Gothic architecture and archaic churches. I started my tour by walking through Bastions Park , which was a nice piece of greenery in the middle of the concrete jungle that surrounds it and interestingly enough, the first botanical garden in Geneva started here. There were University of Geneva students were playiIMG_2152ng giant chess, an ice skating rink, The Reformation Wall. The wall memorializes the the world renowned reformers of centuries past.

After that, I meandered my way to Lake Leman to see the world famous Jet d’Eau. Along the way, I came across the staggering 12th century church, St. Pierre Cathedral. I wandered around the narrow alley ways surround the church before I finally made it down to the lake where I could a great view of the Jet d’Eau.

I think I can safely say, I am going to love it here.

 Week 2 : February 16-20, 2015

1st Week at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)

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The Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room

Oh, me? I’m interning at the UN…. wait, is this really happening!?

Overwhelming; that’s a fitting word for this week. This week I was overwhelmed with pride, excitement, and intimidation by the tasks I had lying ahead of me. My anxiety levels for my first day were through the roof. I had no idea what kind of first day I would have; would it be the typical ‘watch all these HR videos, fill out paperwork, and create a password for your voicemail’ kind of day? Nope.

After getting my official badge, and being introduced with fellow UNECE staff, I was introduced to my supervisor. I walked out of that conversation with a handshake, a 60 page report that I needed to review and reduce to about half AND the task of creating a template for determining the optimal renewable energy packages for all UNECE 56 member nations. Woa, wait, what?! These guys don’t mess around. And I still wasn’t 100% sure what and how the UNECE does what it does. I hadn’t even had the grand tour of the hallowed grounds I’d be working on. Nonetheless, I dug in and started working on what I needed to do. IMG_2303

It would probably be good if I shared where I will be interning and what (at least I think) I will be doing. As I mentioned, I will be at the UNECE, specifically, the Sustainable Energy Division. Within this section there are various divisions, mine will be the Renewable Energy Section. Hell yeah! Anyhow, back in November, an expert group was established to help increase the uptake of renewable energy in countries within the UNECE region. The group formed was titled the “Group of Experts on Renewable Energy”  (GERE) which consists of private sector aficionados, policy gurus, international organization leaders, etc. The goal of this group was to create various goals that would support the ECE region as well as the Sustainable Energy For All initiative (for more information http://www.se4all.org/).

Out of this meeting, the following objectives were created:

1. Support in the coordination and contribution to the Status Report on Renewable Energy in the ECE region;
2. Research, first draft and analysis of a menu of economic and efficient renewable energy technologies and their policies to support them;
3. Same as above 2 but focused on those communities with no access to energy;

Pretty awesome stuff, right? I was going to be working on not only getting energy to those who need it, but in the form of renewables! It most these regions, rural communities are too far for a cost effective grid connection to an existing power plant. So, this would provide an excellent opportunity to pair them with off-grid renewable energy technologies. Of course, many factors come into place such as wind and sun availability, geopolitical tensions, competing national interests, etc. but I will be helping to design the most optimum technology and policy package for IMG_2209the greatest chance of renewable uptake.

After things died down a little, I had the chance to walk around and take in the history of the Palais des Nations. My office is located in the “old building”, which is the original building constructed in the 30s for the League of Nations. Pretty cool! I got to walk through the largest forum hall for the UN, stroll through row of flags, and eat at one of the restaurants that has a panoramic view of Lake Leman and the French Alps including Mont Blanc, Europe’s tallest mountain. I am also fortunate enough to work in an office that has that view! Not too shabby for an unpaid intern.

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Not a bad view, huh?

In addition to the rich history and architecture of the UN, Geneva itself is an epicenter for professionals, experts, and interns from around the world. So far, I have met people from Russia, Ukraine, Finland, France, Portugal, Tunisia, Greece, Romania, Serbia,Malaysia, India, Italy, China, and the United Kingdom… in a single week! I’ve met physicists working at CERN, Ebola aid worker from WHO, PhD’s from various universities, interns from all across the UN system and so much more. I have never been so immersed in so much cultural diversity. I have had a blast sitting at bars and talking to people about quirky customs of their and my own country (on top of being badgered about our “ridiculous” gun laws, and our American culture). I’ve also learned a great deal about the people of Geneva. One thing is for certain, they really care about big picture stuff. For example, crosswalks; in the states, we J-walk like it is going out of style. Here in Geneva, even if there are no cars coming from either direction, people will wait until they are notified to cross. One time, I saw a guy cross the street when he was not supposed to, and the group glared at him like he had kicked a baby or something.. I know, crazy! Also, the minimum wage here is 25CHF ($26) for students and I think 30CHF ($31) for everyone else. They actually recognize the high costs associated with living in a city and adjusted living wages accordingly. You can tell it makes a difference in people’s lives. Going to McDonald’s here is like going to a sit down restaurant in terms of service.

Overall, the week was fantastic; challenging but extremely rewarding. I was able to connect and learn with so many people working on so many great causes. To be honest, I am still baffled at where I am. I look out of my office and I see the Alps? I get to walk by the row of flags and into the UN offices everyday? It has been overwhelming on so many levels. In the weeks to come, I’ll be able to explain more about the on-going work and goals of the Sustainable Energy Division of the UNECE, I certainly need to figure out where I fit into all of this. but that’s it for now.

Au Revoir!

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