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About the Project


The biannual International Student Energy Summit (ISES) is a global forum that uses a multidisciplinary framework to promote collaboration between all energy stakeholders. Calgary saw the birth of ISES in 2009, with the mission of empowering the next generation of energy leaders that will support the global transition towards a sustainable energy future. Focusing on the three pillars of Markets and Regulation, Global Energy Dynamics, and Technology and Innovation, ISES challenges the current energy system by educating, inspiring, encouraging and uniting students to seek solutions that enact change. Building on the inaugural conference’s theme of Fuel the Future of Energy, ISES 2011 embraces the theme of the Evolving Energy Ecosystem and posed the following questions:

  1. What are the 10 seemingly “unsolvable” energy problems facing our world?
  2. How can stakeholders in the energy ecosystem collaborate to solve these problems?

The list of 10 “Unsolvable” Problems and the potential solutions brainstormed by delegates represents the culmination of concerted thought and embodies the legacy of ISES 2011.




Drawn from the perspectives of stakeholders from around the world, the List of “Unsolvable” Problems highlights some of the most urgent energy issues we face today. It acts as a focal point that unites individuals behind a common purpose that carries beyond the three days of the conference into the global community. ISES challenges its delegates to translate the knowledge imparted by experts in the field of energy into action by pledging to solve the “unsolvable.”

Definition of “Unsolvable”

The word “unsolvable” was used to provoke thought and inspire stakeholders to deconstruct the existing energy system. Upon first glance, certain problems may seem that they have feasible and already implemented solutions to them.  To challenge the status quo, we should examine how far we are from completely “solving these problems.” Also, what obstacles prevent us from reaching our desired outcomes? For instance, while technological solutions or policy mechanisms may exist, barriers created by the conflicting interests of stakeholders may impede the effectiveness of potential remedies.


Progressive Solutions:  To solve the “unsolvable,” we challenge you to transcend the limitations of your comfort zone. While this site includes Conventional Solutions that are currently being pursued, we also propose Progressive Solutions which are intended to think outside the box. As you read our at times outrageous and controversial solutions and think to yourself “that will never work” or “that’s impossible to implement,” examine the basis of your resistance. Changing public perceptions to internalize the importance of sustainable energy is a catalyst to unravelling the 10 “Unsolvable” Problems. Dr. Mark Jaccard, keynote speaker at ISES 2011, described this idea stating that our biases reinforce our current actions and beliefs. Furthermore, numerous examples throughout ISES showed us that within each “Unsolvable” Problem lays an opportunity. Jessica Matthews and Julia Silverman (Co-Founders of Unchartered Play, creators of the sOccket) took the challenge of energy poverty in rural areas and created a soccer ball that was not only fun to play with, but created energy from motion and could power a light.

Examples of Progressive Solutions:

• Turn energy into a form of currency: EnerBucks
• Post-Secondary Institutions and hiring firms ask applicants to report their carbon footprints.
• Candidates running for public office must report the carbon footprint of their party in every advertisement.
• Disallow nations that fail to join and meet Kyoto Protocol targets from participating in Olympics.


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