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Building up EYEN

How we created the European Youth Energy Network to unite energy-focused youth organisations from across Europe and reshape youth engagement towards a just, empowered and collaborative energy transition.

We started building up EYEN in 2020, but our story begins before that. Are you curious to find out how the seeds of this international network were planted? Well, three engaged youth from three different European countries met at a conference in Canada (close by, right?), identified a problem around youth engagement and decided to solve it together.

Luciana Miu at CEM10MI4

Three people with a big idea - where it all started

In May 2019, Luciana Miu (from Romania), Miguel Mósca (from Portugal) and Federico Barbieri (from Italy) travelled to Vancouver, Canada, as youth delegates to the 10th Clean Energy Ministerial 4th Mission Innovation (CEM10MI4). Every year, countries from around the world come together at this global forum to work together and promote policies and programs to facilitate the transition to a global clean energy system. The three youth delegates took part in the Youth Parallel Forum, the youth programme running in parallel to the ministerial one. The youth programme was organised by Student Energy – a global youth-led organisation empowering young people to accelerate the sustainable energy transition.
Federico and Miguel at CEM10MI4

But there was a problem. The youth delegates couldn’t enter the main ministerial meetings – an eye-opening experience for them! So while attending the youth programme, they met with policymakers, including energy-savvy representatives of the European Commission. Through those conversations, they realised one thing: that we really need direct youth participation in policymaking beyond on-camera appearances and shallow exchanges of words! The general lack of youth participation in high-level debates and ministerial meetings concerning the European energy transition had to stop. They decided that it was time to create an organisation to catalyse youth engagement with the European energy transition.

Back to Europe - what’s next?

• Summer 2019 •

Over the coming months, the three future co-founders of EYEN stayed in contact and Miguel set up a meeting in Brussels to continue the dialogue with the Directorate-General for Energy (DG ENER) of the European Commission and ensure the engagement of youth across different events, including the Research & Innovation Days 2019.

1,2,3 - go! Collaboration with the European Commission kicked-off

• December 2019 •

The co-founders submitted a concept of the European Youth Energy Network to the DG ENER Research & Innovation Unit. Also, a series of meetings were organised to get inputs on the development of a formal youth engagement mechanism for the energy field and to discuss the organisation of the first ever European Youth Energy Day as part of that year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW). The European Youth Energy Day creates a space for youth between 18 and 30 years to share ideas on how to make Europe climate-neutral and advance the European energy transition. On this occasion they got in touch with Cristiana Marchitelli who was a Blue Book Trainee at that time and contributed by facilitating the exchange between EYEN and DG ENER.

The pandemic couldn’t stop us - new relationships across continents

• April 2020 •

As the pandemic reached Europe and changed the world as we knew it, it challenged the network that was just being born. The EYEN-team at that time decided to not give up, and continued to work hard online, away from each other, to turn the idea into reality! And we were not alone in it. We got contacted by Beniamin Strzelecki, one of the creators and current Global Focal Points of the SDG7 Youth Constituency (SDG7 YC). The SDG7 YC, as the energy working group of the Major Group for Children and Youth, is the formal and dedicated youth engagement mechanism in UN and UN-related sustainable development processes focused on energy.

EYEN co-founders represent European youth

• May 2020 •

Beniamin had a proposal for Luciana and Federico: to become part of the coordination team of the SDG7 Youth Constituency as Regional Focal Points for Europe. And they accepted. Their responsibility included building region-specific networks of youth involved in the renewable energy sector, facilitating youth participation in energy-related processes as well as exchanging opportunities and know-how relevant to youth in the sector. More precisely, their mandate was to grow EYEN as a regional youth empowerment network, and build meaningful relationships mainly within the European Union. Following the end of Federico and Luciana’s term in 2021, EYEN volunteer Amélie Girard was appointed as  Regional Focal Point for Europe.

How the European Youth Energy Day strengthened the idea of EYEN

• June 2020 •

At the first ever European Youth Energy Day as part of the EU Sustainable Energy Week, the idea of EYEN was co-created, discussed and further presented to the more than 100 attendees and directly to the Executive Vice President of the European Commission for the European Green Deal and European Commissioner for Climate Action Frans Timmermans. EYEN was also invited to the EUSEW Closing Session in a speech that Luciana gave alongside Director-General of DG ENER Ditte Juul-Joergensen. Immediately after EUSEW, EYEN’s co-founders further consolidated their idea and as a next step organised follow-up calls with all the event participants to gather feedback, build on synergies with existing organisations and recruit new volunteers to work on the project. The aim: representing youth with a unified voice to the EU policymakers and having a mandated space for youth to channel their actions and voices in the energy sector.

Time for getting more energy changemakers on the team and strategizing

• from September 2020 onwards •

In September 2020, serious work started and a full working team was formed. And it was a truly special team, cause remember we’re a network of networks? Many of the volunteers who came together in EYEN were part of an energy-focused youth organisation. Organisations that would later become our Founding Members and Partners thanks to the contribution of these young energy changemakers. Thank you YES-Europe, YES-DC, PIaneta, ELIES, Student Energy and SDG7 Youth Constituency UNMGCY! Later on in January 2021, EYEN kicked off a comprehensive strategy process leading to the EYEN theory of change, mapping out its endgame and activities and proceeding toward EYEN legal establishment as an International Non-Profit Organisation headquartered in Brussels.

The Climate Pact Launch: bridge the gaps towards effective youth engagement!

• December 2020 •

Luciana delivered a keynote speech (min.18 in the video) at the launch of the European Climate Pact, EU’s new initiative to foster cooperative climate action and dissemination of knowledge. In her speech, she called for more youth inclusion and the harnessing of youth potential in future climate action. In the framework of the Climate Pact Launch, EYEN organised the satellite event Youth Shaping the Climate Pact showcasing the fundamental role of youth organisations in engaging citizens as well as sharing concrete actions and successful youth stories in energy and climate. We also co-developed the Youth Shaping the Climate Pact policy paper on “Gaps and ideas for youth engagement” to the European Commission.

Key Challenges identified in “Gaps and ideas for youth engagement” position paper

Inefficient information and knowledge sharing about climate and energy issues leads to lack of awareness in the young generations

Lack of skills and resources is a barrier to effective engagement with official entities in the Energy sector (governments, international organisations, multinational companies, etc.)

Tokenism and non-inclusive youth representation in non-youth spaces/dialogues prevent youth climate action to get the right recognition

International cooperation will be key to an effective mobilisation of youth and the available resources to them (within and across European borders)

How we started into the second year of pandemic (not that bad)

• January 2021 •

EYEN received its first international recognition and was selected as one of the 98 youth initiatives for the Youth Sustainable Energy Hub, the first global platform showcasing the work of youth practitioners in the sustainable energy sector. At the same time, the development of the association, its structures and brand, was in full swing.

NEW: EYEN’s project to enable engagement in policymaking

• March 2021 •

We participated in the EU Youth Conference 48h Youth Digital Hackathon. After facing strong competition in the first round, we emerged victorious with the idea of OpenPolicy Europe, the digital hub for understanding and engaging with policymaking. A big win for EYEN! Six months later, we presented the project during the European Youth Conference 2021 of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and are continuing to develop it.

Back at the Clean Energy Ministerial: hydrogen, youth and women empowerment

• June 2021 •

Do you still remember the Canadian conference that sparked the very beginning of the story of EYEN? Well, two years later, we hosted a side event at the CEM 12/MI-6 Clean Energy Ministerial together with the SDG7 Youth Constituency and the United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth. “Intergenerational Partnership for Hydrogen: Roadmap for 2050” hosted a discussion between youth experts in the hydrogen field to gather main points of the current discourse on the future of hydrogen in the renewable energy scope. We also participated as a speaker in the event “CEM12 and Gender Equality/Youth Participation: Empowering Women as Key Drivers for the Transition towards Low Carbon Economies”. More recordings from the forum can be found here.

The official launch of EYEN - happy birthday to us!

• 29th June 2021 •

We officially launched EYEN on 29th June at an online event with the blessing of Ditte Juul Jørgensen, Director General for Energy of the European Commission (DG ENER), Gauri Singh, IRENA Deputy Director-General, and Prof. Dr. Frank Gielen, EIT InnoEnergy Education Director. The Launch Event aimed to position EYEN as a key player in youth engagement for the energy sector and introduced us to a wide range of EU stakeholders. It also kick-started dialogues between EYEN and its potential members and partners. You can watch the recording of the event here.

Now, the EYEN team is working across Europe to turn our vision into reality. We have big plans for coordinating youth efforts and reshaping youth engagement, empowering individuals and organisations, disseminating opportunities and best practises, connecting organisations as well as creating the preconditions for youth to act. This we will achieve through activities such as policy advocacy, (co-)organisation of training and youth events, thematic working groups on energy technologies and providing support for the establishment of new youth organisations. Want to support the European Youth Energy Network, for a future in which youth have a strong voice in the European energy transition? Then check out our crowdfunding and chip in!

What happened since our launch

Finally united! #youthenergy-team power in Bella Italia

• July 2021 •

Every organisation working remotely needs some offline team power. So in between months of lockdowns and online meetings, we organised a small, spontaneous team weekend in Italy! After discussions around strategy and project management, membership, communication and governance towards our legal establishment in Brussels, the volunteers deserved some multicultural explorations.

The second European Youth Energy Day: driving youth communication for the energy transition

• October 2021 •

We participated in the EU Sustainable Energy Week 2021, the biggest annual event dedicated to renewables and efficient energy use in Europe, as an official partner. Co-organising the European Youth Energy Day with its energy + communication hackathon to develop innovative communication solutions for consumer engagement with renewables and energy efficiency was definitely an important milestone for us. With the support of the European Commission (DG ENER and CINEA, the European Climate, Environment and Infrastructure Executive Agency), we unlocked funding and concrete opportunities for the winning teams of the hackathon.

Youth for the urban energy transition - a promising new project

• September - November 2021 •

Last but not least, EYEN’s has been leading a project on young citizens’ participation in the urban energy transition (Reshaping the Urban Energy Landscape: Citizens’ Perspective On The Urban Energy Transition). The project started out with a workshop in partnership with REN21, YES-Europe (Young leaders in Energy and Sustainability), Young Energy Specialists & Development Cooperation (YES-DC), BRICS Youth Energy Agency and Student Energy, as part of All4Climate/PreCOP in Milan in September. At the COP26 in Glasgow, we presented its key resuts to a wider audience together with BRICS YEA. Now, we are finalising a workshop structure that can be further developed to support local youth organisations to engage in city-specific political actions.

The European Youth Energy Network goes to COP26

• November 2021 •

Did you read our article about EYEN’s experience and learnings made at COP26? Then you can do it now. We went to Glasgow to shape the future of EYEN, placing the stones needed to build meaningful partnerships with European institutions and intergovernmental organisations that play a fundamental role in the European energy transition. Beyond network-development, we not only presented our urban energy transition project (in the event above), but we were on a panel with three other youth experts on topics around “Youth and decision-makers discuss nature, energy, water and sustainability in the global economy”. And we participated in a COP26 live session on energy and carbon markets finance by ClimaTalk, a youth-led non-profit organisation that seeks to demystify climate policy and amplify young people’s voices in the fight against the climate crisis.

Citizen Energy Forum - consumer rights are youth rights

• December 2021 •

We were outspoken, during the annual forum established in 2008 to explore the perspective and role of consumers in the EU energy market towards achieving the clean energy transition. The forum that directly feeds into the work of the European Commission in the energy and consumer policy areas. Speaking in two roundtables of the working group on Just Transitions of the forum and intervening in a parallel session on consumer rights in the gas and district heating sector we pushed for an acknowledgement of youth as a key group in the just transition. And we highlighted the evolving priorities of younger generations with regards to their energy use, as well as issues of home ownership, digitalisation and a broader social inclusion in the energy transition for and of youth.

As by now you must have realised: we are aware of our potential and are working hard to unite energy-focused youth organisations, be their voice and empower their energy changemakers to speak up in the Energy Transition discussion at European level.

Do you want to help us continuing to writing this story? Find out how you can join us.

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