Clean energy education is a national imperative. Comprehensive programs in clean energy education are needed to guide the nation towards a future in which our system of energy sources, distribution and use is resilient, affordable, and reduces the risks associated with climate change.
The term systems is featured because real solutions involve the deeply intertwined issues of energy resources, technologies, demand and utilization, water resources, land use, economics and business, policy and regulation, environmental impact, safety and security.
Progress in clean energy requires that each stakeholder have a depth of understanding and a breadth of appreciation for the issues that affect the other stakeholders. Educational programs at all levels – K-12 schools, colleges, universities, workforce training programs, communities, businesses and government – are needed to promote informed decision-making about competing energy alternatives. We need an energy-educated citizenry.
A focus on energy does not detract from the need to improve the performance of American students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Rather, clean energy is an engaging and inspiring challenge that motivates the student to master and apply the knowledge from these fundamental areas.
Energy education also prepares those in the workforce to innovate, manufacture, install and operate clean energy systems. Job creation at the local level is a national goal. Community and technical colleges will play a key role in clean energy workforce development; coordinated interactions with four-year colleges and universities will enhance their progress.
The myriad issues and problems of energy completely span the subjects of teaching and research at universities and provide important opportunities to create multidisciplinary curricula and research environments. The escalating demand for energy in the developing world also implies that science diplomacy about energy will play a significant role in efforts to stabilize international relationships.