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London Calling

This May,  participants in the final year of the Natural Resources, Energy, and Environment (NREE) UAlberta MBA specialization had the opportunity to travel to London, England for a capstone course and last the hurrah of their master’s degree program. While London may not be the first city that comes to mind when one talks about energy, it is a preeminent hub of finance and an important center for international relations (not to mention a fun place to spend nine days in May!). Our instructor, and former Deputy Energy Minister for Alberta, leveraged his extensive network to set up meetings for the group with government and industry leaders while organizing the trip to accommodate lots of tours and sight-seeing.

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We arrived in London on Saturday morning of a long weekend in Britain, which left us three days to explore everything this busy city had to offer. Some of us stayed in the city, while others ventured further afield to Bath, Stonehenge, or York using the well-developed and quick British rail system. Along the way, many of us saw large, formerly agricultural, fields occupied with countless rows of solar panels. We later discussed this development in our meetings with industry leaders – this trip provided us with a chance to notice the changing energy landscape for ourselves. For those who stayed in, landmarks like the Tate Modern museum and the Tower of London provided a diverse menu of history and culture, topped off with Instagram-worthy food and entertainment at the numerous pubs, restaurants, and street markets.

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We started off our work week with a busy Tuesday that included meetings with the trade division of the Canadian High Commission in Trafalgar Square and the CEO of the Committee on Climate Change. This gave us an opportunity to learn about the array of (free!) services the Trade Commission provides to Canadian businesses which are expanding abroad. The depth of their expertise on the ground, network access, and ability to navigate complex financial and supply chain challenges can be invaluable and we now know how to leverage them! The discussion with the Committee on Climate Change gave us insight into the successes and challenges of Britain’s journey to (efficiently and economically) decarbonize the grid, and other emissions reductions hurdles yet ahead. These are experiences we can take back to Alberta, as the province is starting out on a similar journey.

Wednesday was kicked off with a tour of the British Parliament, a historic landmark as much as it is a monumental political building part of which consists of a landmark known as Big Ben. We were lucky enough to get a private tour, complete with access to the House of Lords and the House of Commons and lots of history lessons. We even saw a little bit of Canada inside – the Constitution Act of 1867, establishing the Dominion of Canada, was on display for its 150th anniversary this year. We then met with UK Onshore Oil and Gas (British CAPP equivalent) to discuss future exploration of shale reserves. We spent Thursday morning with Centrica, one of the big energy companies in the UK, discussing the ongoing and radical changes in the electric grid, coal phase-out, and Britain’s new capacity market – all timely and relevant insights that many NREE grads will immediately benefit from applying in their careers. While our schedule was packed with lessons and meet-and-greets, we managed to get in many other activities into the busy week – the Lion King at Piccadilly, (window)shopping at the famed Harrods, visiting the Science and Technology Museum… I could go on.

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Friday morning was spent touring experimental Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) facilities at the Imperial College of London. I don’t think any of us will soon forget standing inside a functioning (albeit small-scale) CCS plant!

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We capped off our week with an amazing group dinner to celebrate the conclusion of our London trip, our NREE specialization, and our MBA journey. It was an absolute privilege to learn from regulatory and industry leaders, put research and lectures in context, and experience London with this great NREE cohort! It’s hard to keep this post short, as this journey was an experience of a lifetime. To future MBAs:  it’s 100% percent worth it.

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Blog post written by NREE Capstone student Maryna Goncharenko with photos courtesy of Ran Gao. 

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