Yale business center hosts inaugural Clean Energy Conference

Joshua Baehring, Staff Photographer

The inaugural Yale Clean Energy Conference will bring together minds from various fields to take an interdisciplinary approach to discussions surrounding energy in the realms of justice, finance, technology, policy and careers. 

The Center for Business and Environment at Yale and Yale School of Management will debut Yale’s Clean Energy Conference in collaboration with students from Yale College, the Yale School of the Environment, Yale Law School and the Energy Sciences Institute. Taking place on April 1 and 2 this event will feature guest speakers, panels, small groups and alumni talks from a variety of companies, organizations and several distinguished Yale alumni. The first day of the conference will take place in person for Yale students, faculty and staff at O.C. Marsh Lecture Hall in Yale Science Building. Speakers will convene virtually to cover topics in several departments related to clean energy. Day two of the conference will be online. It will cover career-focused topics and be more tailored to attendees’ interests. 

“[Our goal is] to make this fully focused on clean energy because, you know, that’s something that YSE and Yale as a whole really values: transitioning sustainably and equitably to clean energy for the benefit of the world and the people and wildlife on it,” said Julia Nojeim ENV ’21, clean energy coordinator for the CBEY. “The inspiration was really to create a conference that was created by and for students, faculty and staff but also open to … the general public as well to make this accessible, to spread the news and hopefully inspire others around the world to transition to clean energy as well.” 

Students from across Yale College and the University’s professional schools are collaborating with Nojeim on the project. These organizations aided in hosting panels and coming up with discussion topics, as well as sourcing speakers.

Nojeim added that clean energy “is the way of the future” and that Yale is especially positioned to lead and enact change in the transition to cleaner energy sources.

“It’s really important to bring people together to talk about clean energy,” Nojeim said. “At Yale we have great minds and the next generation of clean energy leaders. … We just want to really inspire and engage people in being leaders in this clean energy transition so it’s equitable and sustainable — so we’re able to positively benefit the world.”

Christopher Wayland SOM ’22, co-leader of the SOM Energy Club, is helping organize two panels featured on the first day. These panels will focus on project finance and energy storage innovation.

Wayland acknowledged the stressful process of planning panels, having participated in the process this past year as well. One of the topics that Wayland is focusing on talks about power purchase agreements, which are significant for large-scale project building. Daniel Gross ’92 ENV ’98 SOM ’98, a lecturer at Yale Law School and the School of the Environment and director of Amazon’s Climate Pledge Funds, is leading this panel.

“He teaches this really great class called Global Energy Project Finance at SOM,” Wayland said. “It’s always overbooked. Students love it . . . and he’s fantastic at explaining very typical concepts so that it’s easy for anyone to understand.”

The conference will also feature opening and closing keynotes from guest speakers, including Shalanda Baker — the deputy director for Energy Justice at the Office of Economic Impact and Development within the U.S. Department of Energy —who will discuss the equity and sustainability of transitioning into clean energy. The featured moderator is Richard Kauffman SOM ’83, lecturer in the practice of business management at the School of Management and chairman of New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

Isabel Harrison ENV ’22, a member of the YSE Energy Student Interest Group, is helping plan a panel called “Grid of the Future: Infrastructure Modernization & Expansion of the U.S. Electricity System.” This panel features private sector leader Michael Terrell ENV ’01, Google’s director of energy, and Gladys Brown Dutrieuille, the chair of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

“Yale has an incredible reputation for our academic offerings focused on clean energy justice, finance, technology, and policy, and our students and alumni include many leaders in clean energy — a space that is growing tremendously as we face the threat of climate change,” Harrison wrote in an email to the News. “I see the conference as a space to bring together people from across the university and beyond to learn together and develop relationships that lead to future collaboration.”

CBEY and its co-sponsoring organizations have been working with representatives of campus health and safety to ensure that members of the Yale community can attend the event in person.. 

Other distinguished Yale alumni in attendance include Ben Bovarnick ENV ’18, Howard Chang ENV/SOM ’12, Ali Cooley ENV/SOM ’12, Katie Dykes ’99 LAW ’06 and Nicole Sitaraman ’00.

The Center for Business and Environment at Yale was co-created by the School of the Environment and School of Management in 2006.

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