On August 10-13, 2020, the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center hosted Veterans Advanced Energy Week (VAEW), a weeklong, interactive virtual learning and networking experience dedicated to veterans and military spouses working to strengthen US national security through careers in the advanced energy industry.
More than 265 veterans, reservists, military spouses, and other energy professionals tuned in for a week of engaging panel discussions with over sixty speakers, digital networking sessions with the Clean Energy Leadership Institute and BunkerLabs, and film screenings with the American Resilience Project. Veterans and transitioning service members looking to start a clean energy career had the opportunity to submit their resumes and connect directly with representatives from ten energy companies.
Veterans understand and may have experienced first-hand how US military dependence on oil and centralized energy renders forward-deployed forces and installations vulnerable to attack, putting lives of soldiers protecting fuel in theaters of war at risk. In 2009, for example, the Army Environmental Policy institute found that US forces sustained one casualty for every 24 fuel convoys in Afghanistan. In 2007, 170 US service members lost their lives in action securing oil for military use. For many veterans, clean energy is not just a professional opportunity but a national security imperative. In this regard, clean energy development and advancement is crucial to enhancing US combat performance, improving military readiness, and saving American lives.
Veterans can leverage their valuable skill set in the commercial energy sector, and their involvement in advancing new technologies strengthens US global competitiveness in the energy field and improves domestic energy security. The advanced energy sector employs veterans in numbers that exceed the national average. Veterans gain knowledge and skills in military service that directly translate to jobs across the clean energy spectrum.
VAEW participant and US Navy Veteran Connor Cox explained, “veterans are uniquely positioned to lead the transition to a clean energy economy given their technical skills, drive to succeed, and mission-oriented leadership abilities.” Whether it be working on advanced nuclear reactors, solar panel installation, or wind asset management, veterans enter the civilian workforce with the tools to succeed in the advanced energy industry.
According to Dan Misch, founder and co-director of the Atlantic Council Veterans Advanced Energy Project, “a career in clean energy can help veterans continue service to the country after they take off the uniform. This year, Veterans Advanced Energy Week recognizes and celebrates the important contributions that military veterans and spouses are making to the energy transition that is making our country safer, more resilient, and more independent.”
Veterans Advanced Energy Week brought all of these points to the forefront, highlighting the role of veterans in building the post-pandemic clean energy economy while also providing conference participants with direct access to clean energy career opportunities at a time of high unemployment and uncertainty for the sector.
VAEW afforded veteran and military spouses a medium to connect with like-minded people and develop meaningful personal and professional relationships with those who share a commitment to service and the global energy transition. At a time of historic social isolation, VAEW afforded veterans, reservists, and military spouses with the ability to grow with and learn from those with whom they can directly relate.
US Army veteran and Atlantic Council Veteran Advanced Energy Fellow Robert Hayward affirmed, “this event has opened a door to a forward-thinking knowledge and experienced-based community that will help me shape future relationships, collaborations within my organization, and communities I currently serve.”
Veterans Advanced Energy Week is a part of the Veterans Advanced Energy Project, which leads an annual fellowship program for future veteran leaders in the clean energy field and an annual summit every August.