Six years after completing her Masters Claire Curry (SEF 10-11) is now Head of Applied Research at Bloomberg New Energy Finance and has recently had her MSc in Sustainable Energy Futures thesis published on the scientific website ScienceDirect. We catch up with Claire who tells us a bit more about why she chose her project and how her research then is relevant to her current role now.
What was your thesis about and how did you choose the topic?
My project involved me travelling to Pretoria to work with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the Tshwane government in determining the success of a national solar water heater (SWHs) initiative. The federal government and Eskom had a plan to provide free solar water heaters to poor communities who did not have hot water. This was with the aim of achieving increased quality of life for those families while reducing the peak power demand on the local, overloaded, power plants (due to households creating hot water through boiling electric kettles).
I choose this topic with my supervisor Dr Judith Cherni as I always had an interest in the development goals of emerging markets and how renewable energy could play a part in improving the quality of life. With advice from my supervisor Judith Cherni I choose a project that allowed the possibility of being involved in helping a very complex and somewhat broken energy system in South Africa, a place that I loved (and was keen to get back there).
My thesis was the results of detailed surveys I undertook of households who had had the SWHs for up to two years. The results showed that electricity demand had indeed decreased and households were saving money on their electricity bills. However the money saved was not as much money as the SWHs cost the government to buy and deploy, and household expenditure on water had actually increased, often due to leaking of the systems which damaged any overall savings. There had also been no training for the households on the systems so some were not using them well and would abandon them if they were faulty.
How did your project prepare you for your current career?
Working on this project prepared me to speak to a whole range of people, become very organised, collect data methodically and learn how to analyse large data sets for trends. It taught me the importance of being a good communicator and of seeing the bigger picture amongst a lot of details and even though I am no longer researching this topic, I do still carry out research into energy and technology using all of the skills learnt during my thesis, working for a firm that deals with a lot of similar issues.
What is your favourite memory of the MSc?
Even though I left some years ago, my favourite memory of the MSc course was all the great friends I made there and all the interesting projects we worked on. I loved the lectures, the camaraderie with the Imperial staff, and the variety of opinions and backgrounds that everyone had!
I am still in touch with quite a few of my MSc friends, and I’ve met more SEF friends since leaving Imperial joining Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
You can read Claire’s thesis at