Lancaster MBA gave Amjad strength to pursue green energy agenda in Pakistan

Amjad Ali Awan stands in front of the Chaplaincy Centre and some bare winter trees on the Lancaster University campus.

Maybe it should have been obvious when he liked the windswept environment of Lancaster University that Amjad Ali Awan would go on to be such a big proponent of wind energy.

Amjad (MBA, 2006) credits Lancaster University as providing a turning point in his very successful career. But it was not the Lancaster climate that led him to become a key figure in the drive for clean energy in his home country of Pakistan, rather the lessons he learned in the MBA classroom.

Amjad has spent more than a decade working to boost the renewable energy sector in provincial and federal government in Pakistan. In that time, he has overseen the introduction of large-scale infrastructure.

Having arrived in Lancaster with a background in electrical engineering and the civil service – working in the power sector and in federal government, where he held roles in the Higher Education Commission, and the Planning Commission of Pakistan – Amjad wanted to develop his management skills through the MBA.

“I came to think that Lancaster would be good for me, imagining my career and where it could go,” he says on a visit back to the campus to take part in the Communities Together Climate Change conference, some 16 years after his graduation. “I wanted to build my career in the government sector – and it certainly helped me achieve that.”

While the MBA did help his career, it took it in a direction Amjad was not expecting.

“Some of the subjects at Lancaster drew my attention towards sustainable development, green technologies, the clean energy sector,” he says. “The University changed my thoughts and motivated me to go in that specific direction. My turning point in my career was my period at Lancaster University.

“It created an interest in me to work in green technologies, like solar, biomass. I’m thankful to Lancaster for many things. The University played a big role in drawing my attention to global issues – CO2 emissions, climate change.

“If you want to create remedies for climate change, then I think we should start from the energy sector. We should learn to find ways of power generation which do not produce hazardous greenhouse gas emissions.

“That is something that came to me from Lancaster. One of the subjects I studied on the MBA was ‘global society and responsible management’. That talked about these issues, and how we could make a better world.”

The Lancaster MBA motivated Amjad to explore the horizons of energy and climate change through a Research Fellowship with the University of Birmingham. He has been a Fulbright Hubert Humphrey Fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and has also been professionally affiliated with District Department of Environment, Washington D.C and Roxbury Community College, Boston, USA.

Addressing climate change issues is especially important for Pakistan, as Amjad explains: “In Pakistan’s case, in the last year we have experienced the most terrible, catastrophic floods. These floods inundated more than half of Pakistan's physical geography. It was the first time it has happened, and it is because of climate change. Pakistan is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, which it why we witnessed this calamity.

“We are not ready if it should happen again, if it should become a cyclical manner. If that were to happen, it would be dangerous to our population and our economy. We have to stop it happening.”

To play his part in doing that, Amjad became the first Managing Director of one of the largest waste management companies in Pakistan, the Faisalabad Waste Management Company (FWMC), then worked for the federal government as CEO of the Alternative Energy Development Board (AEDB). Here, he was in charge of Pakistan’s work on developing wind, solar, biomass, geothermal technologies.

“Around 1950 MW of capacity of renewable energy projects (wind, solar PV and biomass) was deployed and connected to the national grid from those technologies put in place while I was there, and that was a proud achievement,” Amjad smiles.

Further career moves took Amjad to become CEO of Technology Commercialization Corporation Ministry of Science and Technology for Pakistan (STEDEC). He now works as CEO for the Punjab Public Private Partnership (PPPP) Authority.

It is a career Amjad puts down in large part to his Lancaster time– where the global MBA cohort gave him a wider outlook on global challenges and potential solutions, and where he and his family had a life-shaping experience.

“I really enjoyed my time here,” he says. “When I’m here, I am quite nostalgic about the area – I think it’s the best part of the world.

“I brought my family here. My eldest daughter was two at the time, and I remember that fondly as well. My daughter is now 19, she’s doing engineering as well, and I would love for her to come here as well.

“I never miss the chance whenever I am in the UK to visit Lancaster. I have a connection with this university and with the people here. My bond is not only because of the degree, it is a special relationship with the place, the people. I love this place.

“Whenever I’m here, it doesn’t feel like I’m coming back after such a long time. It feels like yesterday. I can imagine myself as wandering in the past – there are new buildings, but the culture, the people, the feeling is the same.”

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