Carnegie Mellon University

Energy Week Recap

March 25, 2024

Eighth CMU Energy Week Explores Decarbonizing Transportation

By Cody Januszko

From March 19-21, 2024, The Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation hosted its eighth annual Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Energy Week. The event brought leaders and learners from a variety of academic, industry, government and nonprofit sectors together for important conversations about the opportunities and obstacles to decarbonizing transportation around the globe.   

“We all got here in different ways today. Some of us drove here, some of us used rideshare, some of us took the bus, some of us walked or rode bikes in. Every second of every day, people and freight are moving from one place to another. Our vision for today is to have productive discussions about how we can re-imagine the ways in which we are moving people, moving things, and moving equitably in an increasingly decarbonized energy future. Our goal from these discussions is to catalyze new ideas into new collaborations to drive action toward decarbonizing the transportation sector.​” - Daniel Tkacik, Executive Director of the Scott Institute, during his welcoming remarks. 

CMU Energy Week 2024 by the Numbers

  • Over 500 registered attendees from over 120 organizations 
  • Over 25 speakers from academic, government, industry and nonprofit backgrounds 
  • 10 sponsors 
  • 13 investors and 19 startups at the CMU Energy + Cleantech Investor Forum & Startup Pitch Showcase 
  • Dozens of faculty and students sharing their research in the student poster competition the Research Exhibition 

Day 1 

CMU Energy Week 2024 began with Energy Career Day. Employers filled Rangos Ballroom to speak with students about careers in the energy industry. The event was followed by a happy hour for students to continue networking with employers. 


Day 2 

CMU Energy Week officially kicked off on Wednesday, March 20 with a welcome from Executive Director Daniel Tkacik and a morning keynote from Deputy Director of the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation Rachael Nealer  

“We know that we need a lot of differing solutions to meet this challenge across the transportation sector,” Nealer said during her keynote. “But we also need to serve the needs of the country and ensure that everyone can get where they want to go reliably, safely, and affordably.”  
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The first panel of the day, “Moving People: Decarbonizing Community Transportation” discussed challenges and opportunities for transporting people in a variety of environments ranging from densely-packed urban spaces to widely-dispersed rural settings. Panelists included Sean Qian (CMU), Lauren Harper (LA Cleantech Incubator), Alan Jenn (UC-Davis), Amy Silbermann (Pittsburgh Regional Transit) and Erin Russell-Story (NETL) and the panel was moderated by Karen Lightman (Metro21, CMU).  


The second panel, “Moving Things: Decarbonizing Freight Transportation,” featured Corey Harper (CMU), Craig Philip (Vanderbilt University), Michael Fetsko (Wabtec Corporation) and Carly Dobbins-Bucklad (Ford Motor Company) and was moderated by Chris Hendrickson (Traffic 21, CMU). The panel explored the state of decarbonization in the freight transportation space and potential future developments.  


After Vice President of Corporate Strategy at Duquesne Light Company Brian Guzek gave a few remarks about the company’s commitment to driving decarbonization in the Pittsburgh region, CMU Energy Week took a brief lunch break. As part of this break, student research was highlighted in the Student Energy Research Poster Competition, where 20 students presented their projects to a panel of judges. Taking first place was Matthew Melfi whose poster was titled “Mitigating Hydrogen Embrittlement of Structural Alloys: Tracking H-dynamics on defects.” 


The final panel, “Moving Equitably: Decarbonizing While Ensuring Equity and Access,” investigated how we can move towards decarbonization solutions while prioritizing equitable access to technological and policy advancements.  Moderated by Destenie Nock (CMU), the panel featured Kim Lucas (City of Pittsburgh), Chris Sandvig (Mobilify Southwestern PA), Joylette Portlock (Sustainable Pittsburgh), Ngani Ndimbie (PennDOT) and Vincent Valdes (Southwestern PA Commission).   


The afternoon concluded with a keynote from Sara Innamorato, County Executive of Allegheny County, in which she detailed her plans for decarbonization in the Pittsburgh region. County Executive Innamorato has been hailed as “the most powerful person in Southwestern Pennsylvania when it comes to public transit.” Following this keynote, Costa Samaras, Director of the Scott Institute, shared insight into what needs to happen with federal climate policy to get the United States to net-zero emissions.  

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To wrap up the programming, Valerie Karplus, Associate Director of the Scott Institute, moderated a fireside chat with Chelsea Sexton, ATVM Loan Program Officer of the Department of Energy Loan Programs Office. Sexton shared her perspectives on the biggest challenges and opportunities in decarbonizing transportation and how the Loan Programs Office strategizing its investments to seize those opportunities.

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Day 2 of CMU Energy Week wrapped up with an evening reception on campus. At the reception, Ken Schoeneck, VP of Engineering and Technology at Trane Technologies, gave remarks about the company’s climate and sustainability goals, and how its new partnership with the Scott Institute aims to address some of the biggest challenges in energy and sustainability related to heating and cooling the residential sector.

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Day 3 

The final day of CMU Energy Week 2024 was all about emerging innovations in the energy space. The day began with a keynote from Christina Chang, Partner at Lowercarbon Capital.  

“The real solutions to the carbon nightmare will win because they’re cheaper, better, faster, stroonger, simpler, and just plain cooler than what’s available today,” Chang said during her keynote.  


Following the keynote, Reed McManigle, Senior Manager in Business Development & Licensing at the Scott Institute, moderated an investor panel: “The Climate for ClimateTech Investment.” The panel featured Christina Chang, Nii Dodoo-Amoo (Osage University Partners), Batchimeg Ganbaatar (Nomadic Venture Partners), Kyle Teamey (RACM) and Jason Blumberg (Earth Foundry).  


Before we took a break for lunch, we heard from Justine Russo, Director of Sustainability and Business Intelligence at PITT OHIO about the company’s climate and sustainability goals.  

19 startups from Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania took the main stage after lunch to pitch their energy technology innovations to a panel of investors and a public audience. After the pitches, companies and investors met one-on-one to discuss opportunities. We hosted over 50 one-on-one meetings during the event, with an additional 12 connections to new investors after the event concluded.  

While investors and startups were meeting, the inaugural CMU Energy Research Summit began. Between the Power Talks, 10-minute overviews of energy research from the main stage, and the Research Exhibition, a more intimate session to talk to researchers about projects, faculty at CMU shared the breadth of energy innovation taking place on campus. 

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CMU Energy Week 2024 concluded with a cocktail reception co-hosted by the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship at the Tepper School of Business. The reception was a chance for students, faculty, entrepreneurs and anyone interested in the energy space to come together and talk through big ideas explored throughout the week. 

We would like to extend a special “thank you” to this year’s sponsors: Trane Technologies, Duquesne Light Company, PITT OHIO, Peoples, Cordia, Safety21, United States Steel, RETI Consortion, Wabtec and Westinghouse. 

CMU Energy Week Photography by Rebecca Devereaux and Kevin Lorenzi

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