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17th-Century stories provide answers to today’s energy issues

Mar 23, 2021

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Tallow Chandlers brochure used to sway public opinion in 1692

Transporting readers back to the 17th Century has helped three Ivey students present solutions to some of today’s most pressing energy issues.

Michael Sawers, HBA ’21, took top prize in the second annual Energyphile competition with his story, The Candlemaker, while Ada Zhang, MBA ’22, and Helen Schreyer, HBA ’21, were runners up.

Student storytellers were challenged to think about the world’s energy future from the perspectives of the Tallow Chandlers, a group that represented candlemakers, and other stakeholders who faced the introduction of new technology into the industry. Simply put: A curved lens attached to streetlamps and other lanterns was going to be too effective in the distribution of light, costing jobs and bringing economic uncertainty.

The story competition was presented by the Ivey Energy Policy and Management Centre in partnership with Executive-in-Residence Peter Tertzakian, Deputy Director of ARC Energy Research Institute.

“The students' passion for writing about energy matters, and how to think about vital human issues like loss of employment during our transition to new energy systems, is laudable,” said Tertzakian. He was particularly impressed by how Sawers’ story made the reader feel as though they were living in 17th-Century England.

“He captured the reader, making them feel as though they were living in the time,” said Tertzakian. “His story's point of view -- a civic councilor having to make a tough societal decision about technological choice -- is representative of the difficult policy decisions required by government officials today. Congratulations to Michael and the other two finalists, Ada and Helen, and many thanks to all the student participants for their significant efforts.”

Guy Holburn, Director of the Energy Centre, said it was a pleasure to host the competition.

“I was very impressed by the high-quality set of submissions, and offer sincerest congratulations to Michael, Ada and Helen,” said Holburn.

View Finalists' Complete Essays