5 highlights from the the BERC Energy Summit

The BERC Energy Summit -- Berkeley's student energy club's flagship event -- took place last Thursday and Friday (October 16-17). In case you missed it, here are some highlights from the event:

  1. The first case competition in the history of the the Innovation Expo was quite a success. The case competition featured teams from across the University who designed commercialization strategies and pathways to market for a handful of technologies being developed at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. The event was a great complement to the poster session later on Thursday evening... and novelty checks make everyone happy.  
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  3. Jennifer Granholm's gave a fantastic opening keynote (below). The former Governor of Michigan touted the need for state and local policy innovations to spur clean energy development. With Congress failing to act to advance a clean energy powered economy, local governments have to step up to the plate to fill the void. Granholm highlighted Obama's "Race to the Top" education policy as a model for "policy disruption" that clean energy supporters can emulate.
  4. The panels throughout the Conference touched on many similar themes. For example, many speakers highlighted that the final story on hydraulic fracturing technologies and natural gas production is far from complete.The panel on fossil fuels highlighted that hydraulic fracturing techniques most commonly associated with natural gas extraction are also leading to a domestic oil production boom of potentially even greater importance, and such increased oil production -- not natural gas -- is what the rest of the world might rely on hydraulic fracturing for most heavily. In addition, the keynote plenary session also noted that natural gas might not be as beneficial a "bridge" fuel as has been advertised, as even small methane leaks in natural gas transportation and distribution can have large climate forcing effects that eliminate any advantages natural gas has over modern coal-fired power plants.
  5. The speakers throughout the day reminded the audience that we still have a long way to go to get to a decarbonized economy, and it would be great if Congress could step up to the plate and pass legislation supporting clean energy developments. The keynote plenary speakers stressed that there was still a lot of basic R&D required for clean energy technologies to proliferate. And it is a sad day when two of the keynote speakers say the first thing they would do as "king for a day" would be to put a price on carbon...
  6. And more than anything, I came away impressed with the community of energy enthusiasts at Berkeley. We had over 50 volunteers, 30 speakers, and 600 tickets sales for the 2014 Summit. Volunteers collectively spent thousands of hours working to make everything run as smoothly as it did, and everyone's hard work was truly on display for both events. It is very encouraging to see students, industry professionals, academics, and government officials all put forth the time and effort to make the Summit and the Berkeley energy community as rich as it is.