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UEA students raise a brew to national energy competition success

Students from the University of East Anglia (UEA) have won a national competition to improve the image of the energy sector - with tea and biscuits.

The team of four triumphed at the RWE npower Energy Challenge, an annual inter-university competition to find the brightest young minds in the UK.

Finalists were asked how energy providers can engage more positively with their customers using existing and emerging technologies. The UEA team proposed a range of measures providing something for every type of customer.

Whilst many teams suggested technology-driven solutions such as apps and blogs, the UEA team also offered a sweet idea aimed at the significant proportion of the population less likely to engage with technology.

Their mobile Energy Advice Centre idea struck a chord with the panel, who thought the promise of a cup of tea and bourbon biscuits for every visitor would appeal to older, vulnerable members of the public.

The idea came from surveys that indicated the public’s increasing desire for face to face contact with utility suppliers. The entire portfolio of ideas would cost £3 million to implement, but demonstrated value for money if just 12% of npower’s customers who might normally switch were retained in the first year.

Lead by Chloe Moore who studies Climate Science, the team also included Alice Saunders who studies Environmental Geophysics, Environmental Science student Rhiannon Hughes and Max Thomas, studying Natural Sciences.

Members of the winning UEA team each received a prize of £1250 and an internship at the final for their innovative proposal.

 
Chloe, who is in her penultimate year at UEA, said: “The energy challenge demanded a lot of hard-work and to come first was recognition of our efforts. The event provided opportunities to enhance our future career prospects, the chance to network with those from the energy industry, perform our presentation at ‘The Royal Institution of Great Britain’ and of course an internship with npower. It was great to have the support of so many staff at UEA and I would really recommend it to any students considering participating in the future."

Dr Lawrence Coates, senior lecturer in engineering at UEA, said: “Last year’s UEA team finished in third place, setting the bar high and so this year’s team worked extremely hard to cover every aspect of the challenge, including full costing and considerations of risks and barriers to implementation.

“It was particularly rewarding to hear each member of the team comment on just how much they had learned about the energy industry. It is this student-centred learning aspect of the competition that appeals to me as it can promote deeper learning than traditional approaches. The possibility of winning £1250 also seems to appeal to the students!”

To find out more about studying Environmental Sciences or Energy Engineering at the University of East Anglia, visit http://www.uea.ac.uk/env or http://www.uea.ac.uk/engineering, email admissions@uea.ac.uk or telephone 01603 591515.