Supercharging a Career with a Master’s Degree
16 Feb 2023
— Say “hi” to Jonathan Tai, who has built up a respectable amount of experience in the renewable energy sector. Since joining the industry upon graduation in 2014 as a project engineer with an independent power producer in Singapore, he has been involved in several large-scale solar projects including rooftop, ground-mounted and floating solar photovoltaic systems.
Over the course of his career, he has noticed that some companies have been slow to adopt sustainable energy practices—and that this is often due to internal resistance to change, technical challenges, or a combination of both. This is an important consideration in his current job at a software company that helps other organisations accelerate their energy transition toward net zero emissions.
“It is not easy for an organisation to achieve net-zero carbon emissions, given that many organisations face various hurdles to achieve the goal,” he shares. “As a technical sales consultant, my role is to provide holistic views about the solutions proposed, which encompass both technical and commercial viability. I need a broad understanding about renewable energy systems to provide suitable solutions to help my customers to decarbonise better.”
Jonathan believes that the sustainability industry holds exciting opportunities, and that he has a chance to become a pioneer in the field. That is one of the reasons why he has joined the Master of Science (MSc) in Energy Systems programme.
He will have to pace himself over the next few years, juggling a full-time job and graduate studies. Since his job requires him to travel frequently, time is a precious resource. Every moment he can dedicate to his studies is an opportunity to expand his horizons and learn about different aspects of energy systems.
Jonathan’s primary purpose in the programme is to broaden his knowledge about energy systems. This is clearly reflected in the two modules he has selected to study in his first semester—Future Fuel Options: Prospects and Technologies (CN5192) and Hydrogen Energy and Technology (CN5190). Hydrogen Energy and Technology is of special interest to him, given the industry focus on hydrogen fuels as a renewable energy source. He feels that the module has brought him up-to-speed on the current state of the entire hydrogen energy chain; from production and storage to transportation and usage.
Renewable Energy and its Future
Although renewable and clean energy sources are often seen as the ideal due to their green footprint, a commonly heard criticism is that their adoption may be more of a corporate public relations effort than any true intention to go green. Jonathan points to multi-national corporations, such as Shell and Apple, that have made public commitments to reduce their carbon footprint as a growing movement by companies to go green. Some of these companies have even brought in independent auditors to track, measure and report on their efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
Carbon emissions and their impact on the environment have been spotlighted in the news, and in the past two decades, international bodies have taken steps to cut down emissions in order to save the world. This is represented by agreements such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as well as the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario by the International Energy Agency. To comply with these international frameworks, many countries are taking concrete steps towards achieving the goals contained within the agreements. Singapore is one such country, and the island nation has affirmed its commitment to reach the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 target.
The description of decarbonisation as a wicked problem is apt due to its complexity. Jonathan is aware of this, having had eight years of experience in this field. Despite being well-versed with solar and energy storage systems, he lacked knowledge about other related areas, such as low-carbon energy sources, emission-reduction techniques and sustainability methods for hard-to-abate sectors. Because these areas are wide and varied, Jonathan faced an uphill task to learn about everything he wanted to and to apply the knowledge in his work.
One day, as he was browsing through LinkedIn, he came across a post by a connection of his, Associate Professor Lee Poh Seng. The professor shared that the National University of Singapore (NUS) was launching a multidisciplinary programme focusing on energy systems, to be taught by the College of Design and Engineering with contributions from the Energy Studies Institute. It seemed that having a carefully curated feed had helped Jonathan pinpoint which direction he needed to move towards.
Experience in the Programme
Although the MSc in Energy Systems programme was just launched in 2022, the course has attracted considerable interest from professionals working in the energy systems industry. Jonathan observed that the majority of his classmates had several working years’ experience in the fields of energy development, as well as petrochemical, environmental and wastewater management.
Meeting such individuals gave Jonathan opportunities to network and learn first-hand about the great big world of energy management through specialists in their own fields. Also, as the class was made up of students of various nationalities, he got to learn about how different countries manage energy systems businesses and formulate laws and regulations surrounding energy system management. Through these connections with his classmates, Jonathan was able to gain an insider’s look into the state of the industry across borders, and to lay the groundwork for possible future collaborations.
The Future is Green
As he looks forward to his graduation in 2024, Jonathan is committed to continue developing his career in the sustainable energy industry. He points to the example of the Net-Zero Emissions by 2050 target adopted by the Singapore government as a measure of the demand for renewable energy both in the present as well as in the long term.
“When people say that sustainable and green energy are unviable options, that is not true,” he states empathically. “Currently solar and wind energy are one of the cheaper energy sources.” He holds firm to his belief that renewable solutions are on track towards large-scale adoption once they achieve commercial viability.
About the Programme
The MSc in Energy Systems programme covers a unique combination of engineering and technology management to meet current and near-future energy development needs in Singapore, Asia and worldwide.
The programme will equip students with holistic and foundational knowledge in energy technology and innovation management, facilitate decision-making in energy solutions and investment through quantitative and qualitative methods.
Read more information about the programme here.