Clean energy is winning, says Extravaganza keynote speaker

Miriam AczelBy MIRIAM ACZEL

On February 23rd Leaders in Energy held its 4th Annual Clean Energy and Sustainability Extravaganza at the University of Maryland.

The three-part event was a great forum for attendees to learn about exciting new developments and key challenges in clean energy and sustainability. The Extravaganza kicked off with a luncheon panel for the Council on Women in Energy and Environmental Leadership (CWEEL) on Career Perspectives in Cleantech from Women Leaders. The event continued with an all-day exposition and cleantech exhibits, as well as a University of Maryland Showcase and a Business Showcase. The final part of the jam-packed day was an evening reception, generously sponsored by Lockheed Martin. Find out more here.

Displays from multiple exhibitors provided information on cleantech programs and business solutions:

  • University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy, which provides a range of degrees and programs in sustainability and environmental policy
  • University of Maryland Energy Research Center, which seeks to provide commercially viable energy solutions that promote the university staff and faculty, and help increase jobs in Maryland
  • Advanced Biofuels USA
  • Water Management Inc.
  • Clean Energy Business Network
  • Recurrent Energy, which aims to use clean energy sources and sophisticated building energy efficiency analytics to design sustainable buildings. Recurrent Energy shared how they are now exploring the use of next-generation transparent solar cells that can be integrated seamlessly on transparent surfaces in buildings, increasing clean power generating surfaces.

The reception provided a great opportunity for Leaders in Energy members, representing a diverse range of sectors, as well as career experiences and interests, to network with students and new and future leaders in energy. Leaders in Energy Executive Director, Janine Finnell, said that the student center was the perfect venue to explore ways to tackle the complex challenges of developing a clean energy future. With the wealth of resources and expertise, both from the University of Maryland, the Leaders in Energy members and supporters, and the exhibits and sponsors, the event promoted cross-pollination of ideas and solutions. Finnell also highlighted the need to prepare students for world readiness, and not just workforce readiness.

Representing Nissan LEAF, Cynthia Naves discussed the exciting developments with the company’s fully electric vehicle. In addition to being economical, the new LEAF is designed as a semi-autonomous vehicle, with the new ProPilot Assist function. Sustainability is being taken to the life cycle of the battery iself. The company is currently conducting research to enable use of old LEAF batteries for local (i.e. residential) energy storage units. Event attendees even had the opportunity explore the 2018 model of the fully electric vehicle parked outside the venue.

The keynote speaker was kicked off by Janine Finnell, who thanked the various speakers, sponsors, volunteers, and attendees who made the day an enormous success. She also announced the upcoming 5th annual Green Jobs event in August, and the 5th annual Four Generations of Clean Energy and Sustainable Solutions event in November.

Evening reception co-organizer John Lord, President of Association of Energy Engineers (AEE)’s National Capital Chapter, announced exciting upcoming events, including a tour of the American Geophysical Union’s Platinum LEED-certified building, as well a visit to the Potomac Watershed, among others. He also announced that the AEE’s 15th Student Chapter, the University of Maryland AEE was chartered on that day.

UMD-AEE Vice President Ronak Shah expressed his excitement at being able to celebrate the chapter’s official initiation at the Extravaganza and his appreciation for “honoring us and having confidence in us.” He explained that the Chapter’s goals are to encourage all students to spread awareness about developments in energy and especially clean energy transitions. They are currently looking into a project called “Solar DJ”, a DJ/music system that is fully run on solar energy for holding “sustainable parties.” Chapter President Aldrich Reuelraj explained that they wanted to start an AEE chapter in order to facilitate student participation in sustainable and innovative projects, as well as provide opportunities for career development.

Dr. Nandini Mouli spoke next, explaining that she was wearing two hats, speaking both as President of eSai LLC (which seeks to provide customers comprehensive energy and carbon-footprint solutions) in addition to representing the Baltimore Chapter of AEE. She announced exciting upcoming events in the Baltimore area, including brewery tours every fourth Thursday of the month.

The keynote speaker was Dr. Eric Wachsman, Director of the Maryland Innovation Institute. The goal of the Maryland Innovation Institute is to drive energy innovation throughout the state, develop new energy technologies and companies, and increase employment opportunities in clean energy.

Dr. Wachsman discussed the current political landscape, where the U.S. administration is considering subsidizing coal, while clean energy is not promoted enough. This, however, is a good sign. “It shows that cleaner energy is actually winning,” he explained. It means that coal now needs subsidies in order to make investment sense, while clean energy is now being viewed as “good enough” to be competitive in the energy market.

Christin Sun, representing the reception sponsor, Lockheed Martin, discussed her work with Pepco and shared the exciting news that Pepco’s Delmarva Energy Savings Program has just entered its fourth cycle. The program aims to reduce energy consumption by 20% by the year 2020. It includes a subsidy scheme to promote energy efficiency and help residential and commercial customers adopt more efficient and clean energy solutions.

The Extravaganza concluded with the drawing of raffle prizes, including gift certificates to popular restaurants, and a solar-powered lantern and a phone charger, developed by a member of the Clean Energy Business Network. The event was a great success, and the perfect example of the synthesis that comes from building diverse, cross-disciplinary networks and complementary partnerships across industry and education.

We are already looking forward to the fifth Clean Energy and Sustainability Extravaganza!

Miriam Aczel is a President’s Scholar PhD Candidate at Imperial College London’s Centre for Environmental Policy. She researches international energy science and policy, with a focus on mitigation of environmental and health impacts of shale gas. She is based between London, Paris, and Washington DC.

Photos courtesy of Miriam Aczel.

Leaders in Energy is building a community of engaged leaders to create a sustainable energy system, economy, and world. The three main areas of action are the green economy, sustainable communities, and multigenerational leadership. With operations in Metro Washington DC, we’ve built a base that spans most major metropolitan areas and over 100 countries. More information is available at https://www.leadersinenergy.org and in the Leaders in Energy Research, Communication, Policies & Analysis (LERCPA) LinkedIn group

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