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UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources Blog


Discussing global sustainability issues


A research journey from Italy to UCL

By ucqbna1, on 14 March 2016

italy-924043_1280I was raised in Italy and every woman raised in Italy loves fashion, and don’t get me wrong, I really do love fashion. The region where I come from (Le Marche) produces some of the best and most famous shoes made in the country. When I was about to graduate I had to choose the topic of my master thesis.  My professors were expecting a thesis on how business clusters could boost the Italian economy. I decided to do something different however because I did not want to follow the fashion path that everyone was expected to do. The first person who pushed me to think differently was my brother. He kept asking me: do you really want to work in fashion? This is not going to change people’s lives, it will make them more beautiful, but it will not solve any real issues.

I started to think about the main challenges we are facing today. I kept asking myself what prevents people from using clean energy technology. Why don’t people seem to care about climate change, or at least why they don’t care enough to make any real change in their lives? It can be hard to really care at times, often people think that it is too difficult or too expensive to invest in energy measures. Why isn’t it as easy to buy solar panels as it is to buy a pair of shoes? And how could we change the world if we made it easy for people to do so?

Answering all these questions is the focus of my work, which has taken me across Europe and to the United States. Currently, as senior researcher at UCL, I am passionate about exploring the main financial infrastructures in G20 countries and examining the role of finance in overcoming barriers to climate adaptation, mitigation and sustainability action. Previously, at the OECD, I looked at the factors and characteristics behind technology adoption and suggested ways in which disinterested households might be nudged into making their homes greener. Whilst in America, my research at University of California Berkeley, was centred on Property Assessed Clean Energy, a program that supports solar and efficiency investments in US.

The overall theme of these initiatives is to find economically easy ways for every person, household and community to adopt renewables and efficiency measures. My goal is that every household is able to run from renewable self-generated power, and with that there is an economic model that makes sense. I would like everyone to be accountable for their own footprint, to look for and participate in initiatives that are environmentally friendly.  I would love to see people produce clean energy that they could transport and give it to others who need it, like renting a room on Airbnb when you have more space in your house than you need.

To make this happen we need to change financial models and win the hearts and minds of every household and person. We will need appropriate energy policies to take place, funding from private and public sectors, and an intention and awareness at the individual and country level to adopt and be energy efficient.

As a woman speaking to women (but also to men), the ideas that I had in my early 20s have shaped my life and career to date. I held on to these and believed in them and as a result I have been lucky enough to have a number of important experiences. The idea and the dream to see people go solar has always been my driving principle. I look for opportunities every day to explore this, whether it is with my boyfriend at home or in academia, because our driving principles can take us in the most interesting, unexpected and exciting directions.

Nadia Ameli is a Senior Research Associate at the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources

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