Sometimes you need to do something extraordinary to highlight a problem and inspire innovative solutions. This was the motivation behind the South Pole Energy Challenge, which saw veteran explorer Robert Swan and his 23-year-old son Barney, undertake an epic 600-mile trek, on foot to the South Pole – powered solely by renewable energy.

The aim was to highlight the need for more and cleaner energy solutions to meet the needs of a growing global population. The explorers relied on advanced biofuels provided by Shell to keep them warm, dry and fed in the icy Antarctic temperatures that can dip as low as -40o C. The expedition was a real-life example of using smart ideas to tackle energy challenges, one of the tasks that is set for students who join the Shell Ideas360 programme.


Bright ideas brought to life

The biofuels were developed specifically for the expedition and used a technology called IH²* that turns solid waste into biofuels. They were created by an international team and produced at Shell’s Technology Centre in Bangalore, India. From day one the biofuels played a vital role in keeping the team fed, with Robert using them to melt water to cook their very first polar meal. This shows how multidisciplinary, global teams, like those who enter the Shell Ideas360 programme, can work together to bring amazing ideas to life.

This unique journey is the last big expedition of Robert’s career and retraces the trek he made to the South Pole 32 years ago, but it is far from the end as he is passing the baton on to his son. Barney is equally passionate about finding new energy sources to power the future. Even after a tough day on the ice and snow he kept his spirits up by reminding himself of the bigger picture. “I’m super grateful for everything ahead and all the things I’m inspired to do with energy solutions and protecting our planet”, he says.

Inspiring the next generation

One of the aims of the South Pole Energy challenge is to inspire the next generation to team up and find innovative ways to deliver clean energy, while protecting our planet, which reflects the values and ambition of Shell Ideas360.

Many previous winning ideas illustrate the smart energy ideas that could change our future in the way that Shell’s biofuels changed the South Pole Energy Challenge. Last year’s winners, Team Smart Panels, inspired us with their idea for solar panels that could track the sun’s position, while we recently held a webinar with a finalist from 2016 whose bright idea for floating solar panels helped give him experience and confidence to help him to score a great job with Shell in Singapore.

We’re really excited to see the game changing ideas for the Shell Ideas360 programme this year that could power more epic journeys like the South Pole Energy Challenge in the future.

You can see progress videos from the South Pole Energy Challenge and a map of the ground covered online.

*IH2 is a trademark of Gas Technology Institute.


Reg to start your journey of inspiration and learning through the Shell Ideas360 programme