by Dan Vermeer, Executive Director of EDGE
One of the more frustrating aspects of working the sustainability field is that every problem is mind-bogglingly complex, and can be framed at multiple levels. Take, for example, the heated debates and accusations about the causes and consequences of the Macondo well explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.
Some commentators argue that the explosion was the result of shoddy engineering, reckless decisions, or mismanagement from multiple contractors involved with the well’s operations. They stress that operating deep sea wells are generally safe, and that the Macondo disaster was an anomaly that should have been avoided, and can be fixed.
Others point out that the lack of proper regulation and/or effective enforcement allowed the for breakdowns and shortcuts that ultimately resulted in an accident. This diagnosis suggests a deeper, systemic problem, and calls mostly for regulatory reform.
Another strand of the conversation points to the fact that we are moving into an era of “extreme energy,” where conventional and easy-to-reach energy sources are largely depleted, forcing exploitation of inherently riskier sources. Indeed, our energy system is being transformed by our increasing reliance on deep sea drilling for oil, hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, and a host of other unconventional sources – and these will inevitably make accidents like Macondo more likely. Continue reading
Over 125 students participated in the EIF workshop on Sept. 1-2, 2011.
On Sept. 1 and 2, more than 125 Duke graduate students joined the Center for Energy, Development, and the Global Environment (EDGE) and the Duke MBA Energy Club for a workshop on Energy Industry Fundamentals (EIF) at Fuqua School of Business. Participants—who included students from Fuqua’s Daytime MBA, Cross-Continent MBA, MEM/MBA, and MMS programs—received an immersive introduction to the science, policy, technology, and behavioral aspects of energy. They heard from thought leaders from among Duke’s energy faculty, including—among others—Fuqua core professor Rick Larrick, visiting instructor and author of Solar Revolution Travis Bradford, and Richard Newell, Director of the Duke University Energy Initiative and a former member of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors. As part of the event, Roberta Bowman, Chief Sustainability Officer of Duke Energy Corporation, gave an inspiring call to action to those interested in working in the energy sector.
Roberta Bowman, Chief Sustainability Officer of Duke Energy, addressed students at a networking reception at the Energy Hub.
“Through the EIF, I got a deep dive and as well as a broad view of the industry. It also allowed me to understand the unlimited opportunities that Fuqua and Duke’s community offers” said Sebastian Vergara, a member of the Daytime MBA Class of 2013. Paul Klenk, from the CCMBA Class of 2011, agreed. “The Energy Industry Fundamentals was a well-thought-out overview of the energy industry, concentrating on the specific needs of MBA students. As a Cross Continent MBA student, it was particularly useful because it provided me with the opportunity to meet professors and students from across Duke’s campus working on energy issues.”
The full agenda from the 2011 EIF can be viewed on the EDGE website at: www.fuqua.duke.edu/edge/news_and_events/eif_agenda/.
This essay by student Kent Truckor, MEM/MBA Class of 2013, was selected to represent Fuqua School of Business in the TIME/Fortune 2011 “Energy for Tomorrow” competition. As the winner of Fuqua’s essay competition, Kent earned the opportunity to join EDGE, Pop!Tech, and Reuters for an upcoming invitation-only energy salon in NYC. Read Kent’s essay below.
“Finance and Market mechanisms that can liberate the intrinsic value of energy efficiency to global markets will drive the transformation to a sustainable urban environment.”
by Kent Truckor, Candidate for MEM/MBA Class of 2013, Duke University
The success of the sustainable urban environment we seek to create will be determined by what we do with our current urban environment that we live in today: the aging building stocks, transit systems and urban infrastructure that stand before us. Therefore, the sustainable urban environment of tomorrow, by and large, will be a direct descendant of the actions we take with what we currently have and how efficient these environments utilize energy. Energy efficiency or the displacement of demand for energy, in our current urban environment provides a feasible pathway to a sustainable urban environment. End use energy efficiency provides the greatest opportunity to reduce energy demand and subsequent energy generation supply needs due to the inherent inefficiencies of our energy infrastructure. Amory Lovins illustrated that the reduction of one unit of energy consumed downstream can save on the order of ten units of primary energy input upstream in our current electricity infrastructure.
History supports the potential of energy efficiency. Since 1970, energy efficiency (and energy productivity) gains have met 75% of new energy service demands in the U.S. through 2008, while new energy supplies will have contributed only 25% of all new energy service demands. Despite energy efficiency’s impressive historical performance and tremendous potential, society and markets have yet to fully embrace end use energy efficiency due to market failures. Therefore, the most effective energy innovations to facilitate the transformation to a sustainable urban environment will be market and financial mechanisms that can overcome these market failures liberating markets to demand and capitalize the enormous value energy efficiency holds. Continue reading
Current and incoming Duke graduate students are invited to join the Center for Energy, Development, and the Global Environment (EDGE) and the Duke MBA Energy Club for a 2-day workshop on Energy Industry Fundamentals (EIF) on Sept. 1-2, 2011. The EIF is aimed at students who have little or no previous work experience in the energy industry, but are looking to transition into an energy industry career. Open to incoming first-year MBAs as well as students in other Duke graduate programs, the EIF will offer a fast-paced, immersive introduction to key energy issues, terms and trends. The EIF will be led by key Duke faculty and experts in energy economics, policy, business, and technology, and will include presentations, discussions, and a networking dinner. Click here for details and registration.
Among the findings of June 2011 Duke University/CFO Magazine Global Business Outlook survey of chief financial officers (CFOs): eighty percent of CFOs in the U.S. say the high price of oil is negatively affecting their firms, with 61 percent describing the effects as “significant.”
“We’re seeing more companies embrace ‘green’ initiatives and position themselves to become less reliant on oil in the future,” says business professor John Graham.
Read the full press release
In Thomas Homer-Dixon’s book The Ingenuity Gap, he describes a growing chasm between the world’s knotty problems and its lagging ability to develop robust and integrated solutions. An “ingenuity gap” emerges when a society’s ability to solve problems is outpaced by the scale, complexity, speed of change, and unpredictability of new challenges.
In the next half-century, as the world population surges to nine billion, we are entering a new reality. Securing the resources to feed, clothe, shelter, and transport human populations is placing unprecedented stress on our societies and ecosystems. Finding creative solutions to the problems of energy, climate change, economic development, water sustainability, and food security will require massive ingenuity, both technological and social – are we up to the task?
There is no doubt that the complexity and urgency of the challenge is growing fast. For example, in the last month, officials battling the raging floods of the Mississippi River have had to make tough choices about whether to preserve farms or cities, power plants or infrastructure. Multi-dimensional emergencies are taxing not only our physical systems, but also the planning and decision-making processes we rely on to operate our systems.
One promising recent trend is the growing discussion of the “Energy /Water /Agriculture nexus.” The nexus refers to the insight that energy, water, and agriculture systems are deeply inter-connected in the real world, but are often isolated in our public policies and business strategies. Our culture of specialization has led us to develop piecemeal approaches to problems that often fail to deliver lasting improvements. This siloed mentality leads us to optimize solutions in one dimension while sometimes creating a cascade of negative consequences in another. Continue reading
EDGE executive director Dan Vermeer spoke about energy efficiency as a business opportunity at last week’s ABB Automation & Power World 2011. You can read the recap at:
“The real impact of energy efficiency on the bottom line” – ABB website, Apr. 20, 2011
“Finally, Energy Efficiency’s Day in the Sun: Discussing Existing and Future Opportunities in Energy Efficiency” – ControlGlobal.com, Apr. 20, 2011
Congratulations to the $50,000 grand prize winners of the 11th Annual Duke Start-Up Challenge: Will Fadrhonc (MEM/MBA), Tripp Hyde (MEM/MEMP), and Matt Kaufmann (MEM/MBA)!.
Their venture, HyTower Energy Storage, would convert out-of-service water towers into energy storage systems. The team was selected from a record 110 competitors. Read more in The Chronicle: “Energy storage project wins $50K grand prize in Start-Up Challenge.”
The 3rd Annual Alliance for Research on Corporate Sustainability (ARCS) Conference will take place on May 9-11, 2011 at Wharton. Presenters from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business include professors Kira Fabrizio, Aaron Chatterji, and Will Mitchell, along with PhD students Olga Hawn and Nilanjana Dutt.