Nadia Smith has been awarded the 2019 Community Energy Young Champion Award.
At just 22 years of age Nadia has already played an important role, both in the UK and abroad, in promoting and raising awareness of the benefits community energy offers to local people, businesses and the environment.
Nadia does not have an academic background in environmental studies, science or engineering, rather Nadia who studied international relations, is driven by her experiences growing up in Egypt.
As Nadia attended secondary school, the Egyptian revolution caused widespread political unrest, which resulted in frequent power cuts. She dreamed of a world where communities and businesses could be self-sufficient in their energy needs. Later Nadia started to see large international investments in wind energy in the Egyptian market, and she realised the importance of local ownership, community investment and engagement.
Nadia showed tenacity and determination to ensure she found a route into the renewable energy sector. Her first role, an internship at Communities for Renewables (CfR), cemented her passion for community energy. During her time at CfR her professionalism, flexibility and eagerness to learn was evident to all she worked with. Whilst at CfR Nadia engaged with key stakeholders including estates managers, local authorities, councillors, MPs and the general public. She managed events and communications for numerous community groups, including one of the UK’s largest community solar farms – Burnham and Weston Energy CIC, and re-designed the CfR website. She also worked alongside web developers to create the Local Energy Collective - an online platform to increase the efficiency of enterprise management.
Nadia has gone on to be co-opted as South East London Community Energy’s (SELCE) youngest-ever volunteer director, supporting with both communications and renewable energy generation projects. She is also proactively expanding her areas of expertise, by engaging with the technical asset management and finance working groups.
Nadia’s passion for community energy extends beyond the UK – she is currently volunteering as part of Dream Renewables, a team of UK and Ghanaian renewable energy students, professionals and social entrepreneurs who have set up a practical four-week course on renewable energy. Nadia is heading up the innovative business models section of the course, which has a large focus on community energy and other entrepreneurial solutions for rural communities. Nadia will be travelling to Ghana to teach this section of the course, alongside local PHD students and social enterprises.
Nadia now has a full-time role at the Renewable Energy Association (REA), where she is working to raise the profile of community energy among the wider renewables industry, and in government. She has recommended to numerous stakeholders that they consider engaging with community groups for their projects and put them directly in contact with relevant community energy enterprises. In this role she has led the REA response to government consultations such as the Social Investment Tax Relief consultation, and offered presentation slots at events to community energy specialists.
Nadia is always ready to learn and develop new skills. Nadia set herself a challenge to attend public speaking classes at weekends to improve her confidence in this area. She has since spoken on a panel at Fully Charged Live with an audience of over 300 people.
Nadia also enjoys taking part in practical action to help others. She has been trained to identify households which could access ECO funding, and has taken part in an outreach door-knocking programme with SELCE to advise vulnerable homeowners on the support they may be able to access for energy efficiency measures to tackle fuel poverty.
Nadia is a true community energy champion. She is building a great career; expanding her policy knowledge and technical expertise which she then brings to her volunteering roles. Her passion is grounded in a desire to support communities in a practical way.