Eclectic Perspectives on an Electric Industry
An Insider’s Guide to the 8th Annual HBS Energy Symposium
The Energy and Environment Club will host its eighth annual Energy Symposium, this year entitled “Dialogue for a Brighter Future,” on October 22nd. The flagship event, entirely student organized, is the first symposium on the HBS calendar and one of the most attended on campus. It is also the opportunity for club presidents Louis Beryl and Diogo Pinto de Castro Freire to shape their organization’s agenda for the coming year.
First and foremost, Diogo and Louis want the symposium to promote Harvard as a premier destination for energy and cleantech innovation in the professional and academic worlds. “The objective is to position HBS as the place to be if you’re interested or involved in the energy sector,” explains Louis. The co-presidents say they aim to supplement the relative lack of energy-related coursework offered by the EC curriculum and make students aware that “the energy industry offers a dynamic career path that many innovative alumni are engaged in,” says Louis.
Recent developments in the energy industry provide a meaningful framework for this year’s discussion, and the presidents are excited by the pivotal transformation the sector is currently experiencing. Diogo explains that “In the near future, we are going to need much more [energy]. At the same time, regulation is rapidly changing.” The symposium agenda is designed to highlight and elaborate upon these developments.
Because the sector engages such a wide range of academic disciplines, corporate players, and regulators, the symposium is structured quite differently than most others at HBS. Diogo and Louis are challenged with addressing an expansive topic using a variety of functional and geographical perspectives. They also must strike a balance between conventional and alternative energy sources, as well as developed and emerging markets. In addition to featuring panels on cleantech and entrepreneurship, the event will also address conventional energy sources and energy policy.
Diogo and Louis are especially excited about a few additions to this year’s lineup:
The day’s culminating event is new to the symposium offering. The Start-Up Showcase features select cleantech firms, at various stages in the capital-raising cycle, which will provide company information and interact with student and professional attendees. The HBS Energy Club teamed up with their MIT counterparts to find the best-in-class participants, some of which are highlighted here:
1) 1366 Technologies: With HBS’s own Prof. Joe Lassiter on its Board of Directors, this company aims to make the price of solar power competitive with that of coal. Last month 1366 was awarded a $150mm loan guarantee from the US Department of Energy. The company is also featured in a second semester RC case.
2) FloDesign: HBS alum Matt Commons is the CFO of FloDesign, which makes high efficiency shrouded wind turbines. The project is also backed by VC firm Kleiner Perkins and HBS Alum John Doerr, who is also a member of the board.
3) Ubiquitous Energy: UE transforms any surface into a solar power source. With HBS and MIT founders at the helm (including co-founder Bart Howe MBA ’11), it was the winner of the renewables prize at the Sloan Clean Energy Competition and a runner-up at the HBS Business Plan Contest.
The panel schedule engages a variety of perspectives from the private and public sectors. In addition to regulators and policymakers, individuals in supply-side, operations, and investing roles will weigh in on the discussions. All-star professors from HBS and the Kennedy School, including Profs Lassiter, Willy Shih, Rebecca Henderson, Shon Hiatt, Meghan O’Sullivan (HKS), Richard Vietor, and Julio Rotemberg, will lead the conversations as moderators.
Keynote speaker Dr. Zhengrong Shi is the founder and CEO of Suntech Power, the world’s largest solar panel producer. Dr. Shi represents the conference’s increased focus on emerging markets as drivers of alternative energy growth; Suntech operates in thirteen countries and won the Chinese government contract to install solar panels on the Bird’s Nest stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
All in all, October 22nd promises to be quite an interesting day for all levels of energy enthusiasts, from curious observers to career experts. The program is a must-see for those considering an internship or full-time position in the sector; in addition to the informational sessions, there will be plenty of time for networking. An investment in the $25 ticket ($15 for club members) is certainly a bright idea.
Kate Lewis is an RC who tries to remember to turn the lights off before she leaves a room. She will be first in line to buy her ticket to the Energy Symposium.