Energizing the energy agenda

While climate change and carbon emissions are very much in today’s headlines, what is less often discussed is the need to provide technological societies with the economic imperative to make changes in our global energy system.

We certainly must identify the best technologies that can help us achieve sustainable growth, emissions reduction and job creation. However, we must also incorporate critical technology and policy levers, as well as relevant business models, into a meaningful strategy that can support the transformation from a high-carbon, low-efficiency system to a low-carbon, high-efficiency system.

This was the message from the technology leaders speaking at our third annual A. Richard Newton Global Technology Leaders Conference, sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation and attended by more than 200 alumni, students and friends. There, representatives of our nation’s utilities, venture-funded enterprises, private industry R&D and the federal government advanced new ideas for real technologies, real companies and real business propositions that can work together to generate income and stand on their own without subsidies.

Our topic, “Energy Innovation for a Greener Economy,” inspired compelling talks and lively debate. Keynote speaker James Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy, rightly identified Berkeley as an “epicenter of technological development” with the power to drive the green economy and pull us out of the global recession.

Other keynote speakers, ARPA-E founding director Arun Majumdar and US Venture Partners’ Arati Prabhakar, described carbon and geothermal capture, compact nuclear reactors, demand-response grids, electrofuels, metal-air batteries and other technologies that could be instrumental in the transition to an energy future that is both economically and environmentally sustainable.

The speakers were later joined for a panel discussion by OpenLink Financial founder and chairman Coleman Fung, C3 CEO and Siebel Systems cofounder Pat House, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner emeritus E. Floyd Kvamme. In his remarks, Kvamme laid out a compelling blueprint for sustainable growth, building on his experience as a venture capitalist and technology advisor to President George W. Bush. 

From the meeting of these great minds it is clear that our best technologies must be aligned with new strategies, policies and a comprehensive systems education of the young Berkeley Engineering and other minds that will implement the agenda of sustainable growth.

I welcome your thoughts and ideas.

S. Shankar Sastry
Dean and Roy W. Carlson Professor of Engineering
Director, Blum Center for Developing Economies
Email Dean Sastry