With climate change and energy generation becoming increasingly important issues affecting the planet, I was fortunate to attend a one day conference in San Diego that sought to bring the latest creative ideas and scientific innovation to the table.
Driving Technology, Business & Policy Innovation
The 2009 edition of the California Clean Innovation Conference, held at Price Center on the UCSD campus, was the third annual collaboration between the Rady School of Management at UCSD and the Anderson School of Management at UCLA. For this year’s conference the chosen themes were Energy, Transportation, and Water.
Featuring a diverse series of intense panel discussions and keynote speakers, Executive Director Marc Potash and school leads (Kathy Lin, Joe Pulido, Preston Schultz and Dr. Siddharth Dasqupta) spent the past year ensuring the day’s success. I’ve chosen a few key topics to highlight.
Keynote Speech – Dr. Amit Kumar – President & CEO of CombiMatrix
In addition to his current professional duties as CEO of CombiMatrix, Amit sits on the board of two other public compnaies and is an active member of several advisory boards in the energy field.
His keynote was entitled Understanding the Scope and Scale of Our Energy Challenge, and while Amit laid out the many reasons we should be worried about our current energy situation, and admitted that the scope and scale of the problem is still not well understood from a global perspective, he also said that much good will occur in the coming years as we discover and implement new technology.
According to Amit, industrial scale companies will be built in a variety of energy related markets, and that dynamic will provide tremendous wealth opportunities for those who create solutions to the world’s insatiable energy needs. He did warn, however, that we should expect to see bubbles and corrections along the way, in similar fashion to how internet technology evolved.
But the most important message in his speech was a call for being analytical in our approach, in studying the best data that science and economics had to offer before making any policy decisions. And there will be no magic bullet, no single answer that will solve all our problems. Instead, the solution will be multifaceted: fossil fuels, biofuels, nuclear, solar, wind, hydro and geothermal.
Energy Storage Panel
“What are the most promising energy storage solutions for clean energy development?”
Due to fluctuations in the level of energy generation inherent with both wind and solar, the issue of energy storage looms large on the landscape of alternative energy production. At the present time, less than 3% of our energy is stored on the grid. A stellar group of panelists spoke on the issue, from both the perspective of creating new technologies, to the challenges in implementing solutions:
- Haresh Kamath: Senior Project Manager, Electric Power Research Institute
- Jim Corlett: Senior Technology Development Advisor, SDG&E
- David Hawkins: Lead Renewables Power Engineer, California Independent System Operator
- Paul Morenz: President, Morenz Development Corporation
- Brendan Andrews: Director of Sales and Marketing, Maxwell Technologies
Energy storage technologies are key to enabling more efficient use of fossil fuels and wider deployment of renewable energy. Utilities, large energy users, policy makers, and investors will have to make important decisions about which technologies are most appropriate for a given application. This panel will improve participants’ understanding of the market for energy storage solutions that enable clean energy development.
The beauty of energy storage is that it allows increased utilization of the transmission grid by moving energy created at opportunistic times (the sun is shining or wind is blowing) to other hours of the day. And while these technologies are either expensive to implement, or have yet to enter commercial development, there was much optimism that we are getting close to turning the corner and making large scale storage part of the grid.
Energy storage technologies which are available, or in various stages of commercialization:
- Compressed Air
- Pumped Hydro
- Ultra Capacitors (pictured above)
It would appear that giant batteries, air being pumped into underground reservoirs, massive spinning flywheels, water being pumped into man-made lakes and grids of ultra capacitors will be part of our energy landscape in the coming decades.
Fast Pitch Competition
Fast Pitch Competition provides early stage clean technology companies a platform to show case their business to a panel of Venture Capital judges and wide array of conference attendees. All participants will receive valuable, interactive feedback and potential interest from industry leaders and professional investors.
Finalists for the 2009 Fast Pitch Competition were:
Witnessing a pitch competition is quite an experience, with each presentation lasting 5 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of Q&A from the judges. How do you explain a bleeding edge technology and go-to-market strategy in a matter of minutes? It’s not easy, yet each presentation was packed with information and told a compelling story of how their innovative idea could be commercialized. I will be most curious to see how these ideas do in the marketplace.
The takeaway from this amazing day was the knowledge that so many of this country’s best and brightest students, educators and entrepreneurs are working diligently to solve the vast energy problems that affect everyone on this planet. Based on the most recent scientific data related to climate change, these innovations can’t come too soon, as changing habits and infrastructure are both significant challenges to society.
Another reassuring note was that at no point were nationality or politics a prime concern in discussing problems and solutions. Rather, the thoughts, words and actions of all in attendance were directed at working as a team, in true Global Patriot fashion!