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Kellogg Energy Conference highlights innovation and disruptive technologies in the energy industry

March 2014 | by sustainNU
Kellogg Energy ConferenceNearly 200 students and professionals attended Kellogg School of Management’s second annual Energy Conference titled, “Powering Innovation in a Dynamic Market.” This year the conference highlighted disruptive technologies, focusing on how fossil fuels and data-driven energy management are impacting the energy industry.

Content was divided into the utilities industry and the oil and gas industry with a panel and keynote for each section. The panels featured the Vice President of Development and Acquisition at SoCore Energy, Greg Buzzell and Emma Berndt, the Midwest Senior Manager of Market Development and Regulatory Affairs at Opower. Chief Operating Officer and President of business supply for American Electric Power (AEP), James Petersen, also served as a panelist and discussed using energy efficiency services as a differentiating factor in the deregulated markets.

Keynote speakers Stephen Trauber, head of Global Energy Investment Banking at Citigroup Inc., and Jonathan Thayer, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Exelon Corporation, both cited cheap and abundant liquefied natural gas, harvested from fracking, as disruptive to their industries. Cheap natural gas makes coal plants less competitive, but also makes it more difficult for renewable energies to compete. Fracking continues to be highly controversial, many scientists and environmentalists suggest that more research is necessary to understand the impacts of fracking, such as groundwater contamination and the release of greenhouse gases. Nonetheless, large energy companies see fracking natural gas as a game changer over the next five to ten years. “The United States is still in the early innings of reaching its energy potential,” Trauber stated.

Notable in its absence was a discussion of renewable energy, such as solar and wind power. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) renewable energy is commonly accepted as critical to solving the challenge of increasing global energy demand while addressing greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. “Frankly I’m a little surprised that a school which brands itself with the phrase ‘Think Bravely’ would host an energy conference that was focused on the oil and gas industries,” said NU’s Director of Sustainability, Rob Whittier.

Learn more about the conference, including speaker’s biographies.