Carnegie Mellon University
February 12, 2016

EST&P held Fourth Annual Energy Careers Symposium

EST&P held Fourth Annual Energy Careers Symposium

EST&P's Fourth Annual Energy Careers Symposium was held on Friday, February 12, 2016 at Carnegie Mellon University in the Cohon Unoveristy Center- Rangos Ballrooms.

This event was organized by master's students in the College of Engineering's Energy Science, Technology and Policy (EST&P) program and jointly supported by Carnegie Mellon’s Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.

For the 300+ photos from the Symposium; see the EST&P Shutterfly page.
For the live recording of the Symposium (minus panel 1); see the Scott Institute's YouTube page.
For event and speaker deatils; see the Symposium website.

More than 120 attendees across the Carnegie Mellon community participated in the year's symposium. This included experts and CEO's in the energy industry, CMU facluty and staff, alumni, undergrads, grads, and PhD students from the College of Engineering, Tepper School of Business, College of Fine Arts, Heinz College, and Mellon College of Science, etc.

The event began with Uroš Simović, Symposium Chair, addressing the audience, and welcoming the CIT Dean, Dr. Jim Garrett to kick off the event with his opening address. Dean Garrett spoke about the history of energy in southwestern Pennsylvania. 

Next, Dr. Jared L Cohon gave the keynote speech and talked about the culture at Carnegie Mellon and the value it brings to the industry by its “Systems approach for problem solving”. He continued on to explain the Scott Institute for Energy Innovation which is to invest and foster research in the energy field across disciplines including modelling of consumer behavior, energy cyber physical systems, smart grids and materials for energy; to build a curriculum around energy and continue to spread the message about skill development for energy jobs and finally to procuring seed funding for research faculty and connecting them to policy makers and the industry.

Then, Simović introduced the first panel: Novel Technologies in Energy with their panel moderator, Prof. Costa Samaras. The discussion began with the panelists illuminating the challenges that their companies face in dealing in the energy industry with currently low energy costs. The discussion was then directed to Dr. Jay Zhao who shed light on the difference between CFL & LED, the different applications that LED’s can be used for, the trend of cost normalization and customizability of LED’s working in its favor. Then, panel was then directed to talk about how the utility of the future would look like. The general sentiment was that innovation in policy and technology coupled with disruptive business models will pave the way. Discussions of distributed resources which followed were inconclusive but there was a general consensus on the notion that an answer is needed quickly in order to decide the shape of energy landscape for the future. On the question of cyber security for the energy infrastructure, all the panelist agreed on its need but there was also the additional emphasis on physical security of energy systems by Paul DeCotis. When asked about the stay order of the Clean Power plan, most panelists were in agreement that progressive states would exceed the requirements as delineated in the power plan and will not be affected by the stay order. In general the feeling that the states showing dissention will eventually learn from the ones that adopt low carbon technologies. The discussion redirected to the future of the energy industry. Both Ed Minasian & Paul DeCotis concurred on the point that massive investments were needed to transform the industry and the cost of those cannot be passed on to the customers. 

The panel and audience then broke for a  long lunch and networking session.

After the networking lunch, Simović, introduced the second panel: Entrepreneurship in Energy with their moderator, Prof. Yoosuf Picard. The theme of the second panel was All of the panelists where either startup founders or working within a startup. Picard began the discussion with asking each of the panel members for their career paths and startup stories and the challenges they faced along the way. 

Matt Maroon spoke about the challenges he faced in the energy industry while working for two energy storage startups, General electric and finally ending up at Aquion Energy. Batteries have evolved over years to support multitudes of applications today and that is changing how the industry views storage – was Matt’s view on the topic of storage. The panel then pivoted to discussing energy efficiency. The biggest challenge, Dan Hochman, said was convincing the customers of their energy savings and went on to talk about innovations in business model that Sealed has brought in to tackle this behavioral aspect of efficiency.  In terms of raising capital for a startup, Troy Geanopulos felt that having domain expertise and a very sound business plan was key. The focus of the efficiency network was buildings, cities and distributed generation. Leveraging partnerships and customers for sustaining the business is crucial Troy recounted from his experience.  Greg Puschnigg focused on marketing, outreach and customer education as key aspect for stabilizing startup business. He also spoke about upcoming trends of distributed and intelligent control of energy systems.  When the topic shifted to the possibility of grid level energy storage, the strong opinion was that the economics does not support it and that we should expect a trend for distributed storage instead.  When finally asked about what kind of candidates the panel members are looking to offer jobs to, the general sentiment was the need for systems thinking, business acumen and their ability to work in teams. This concluded the second panel. For both panels, much of the latter discussions were initiated by questions that were collected from the audience on cards and passed on to the panel moderators.

Special guest Matthew Stanton had a short presentation about his startup SolePower and its product Insoles which fit in your shoes and allow you to generate power while walking. He spoke about the technology behind it, the potential benefits it can have and what his startup is doing to foster consumer and investor interests.

After the presentation, Raafe Khan, Marketing Coordinator for the symposium addressed the audience thanked the panelists and guests.

Finally, the closing remarks were given by Prof. Dave Landis, Executive Director, EST&P, where he spoke about the EST&P program and the Scott institute for Energy Innovation.

The event concluded with a 90 minute networking session with hors d'oeuvres.  The participants were able to get face time with the panelists and their recruiters to better understand their business and seek possible internship or job opportunities with their companies.