Life of Electrons at F&ES
At F&ES, students dive deep in their diverse passions and focus outside classrooms through a unique way – Student Interest Groups (SIG). As one of the fastest growing SIGs, Energy SIG (NRG) focuses on increasing opportunities and knowledge within the energy sector at Yale and providing a rigorous learning community for students interested in the nexus between energy, business, and the environment. NRG organizes diverse activities, including hosting guest speakers, running workshops, organizing field trips, and providing networking opportunities. The members of the SIG are known as electrons. Here we featured the experience of three electrons attending energy-focused conferences in New York, Boston, and Palo Alto in November.
1. Cornell Energy Connection 2018
By Lucy (Myung Eun) Shim, MESc ’20
My name is Lucy Shim, and I’m a first year MESc student focusing on energy economics and policy. I’m interested in clean energy, smart grid, and electricity market design. I’m passionate about using economic analysis to understand energy consumption and help businesses and people make more sustainable decisions.
Prior to joining Yale’s MESc program, I researched at Berkeley Economic Advising and Research and University of California Berkeley’s Department of Agricultural Resource Economics.
In early September, I found out about the Cornell Energy Connection conference through an Energy Student Interest Group (eSIG) newsletter. The conference agenda and speaker list seemed highly relevant to what I wanted to learn more during my time here at FES.
Cornell Energy Connection, held in City Bank Headquarters in New York City, convened many stakeholders of the energy industry as well as current students to discuss the future of the energy sector. Several FES students, including me, had a great pleasure of listening to speakers and panelists, and ask questions at the end of their sessions. Speakers mainly included finance and investment professionals, utility representatives, and energy developers.
I was particularly interested in the presentations on digital transformation by Claudio Macedo (Marketing Manager at Emerson) and low-carbon fuel standards by Will Martin (Renewable Energy Deal Lead at Chevron). These presentations helped me better understand how private companies are approaching energy issues and endeavoring to improve efficiency and reduce their environmental impacts.
Throughout the conference, there were many networking opportunities as well. Networking breaks were scheduled in between panels and presentations to help conference participants engage with the speakers and panelists. I had an interesting conversation with Claudio Macedo during one of these networking breaks, who answered my questions on the challenges and costs associated with digital transformation and automation processes. I also talked with Cornell students and other participants, most of whom were representing their respective energy companies or environmental organizations.
It was an exciting day to learn and share ideas with thought leaders and future changemakers in the energy sector. I would recommend everyone at FES to take advantage of such opportunities during their time here.
2. Stanford Global Energy Forum 2018
Minshu Deng, MEM’20
My name is Minshu Deng, and I’m a first-year MEM candidate focused on energy and development. I hope my work during and after F&ES will help illuminate energy pathways that will both limit our global emissions and enable the continued economic development required for poor nations to achieve their desired standards of living.
In November I had the privilege of attending the Stanford Global Energy Forum (GEF) in California. Not only did the conference offer an incredible speaker line-up including Bill Gates, Condoleezza Rice, and various other U.S. and international leaders, but I was able to network with other attendees including students from other schools who are also preparing to become leaders in energy.
GEF enhanced my systems view of global energy as I listened to presentations on a variety of topics spanning the oil and gas industry, electric utilities, technological innovation, and digital automation, international perspectives (from China, India, and Saudi Arabia), and financial opportunities. Representatives from the oil and gas industry comprised a sizable portion of the group of panelists (which is certainly representative of reality). Unfortunately, the GEF gave minimal focus to climate change – panelists only briefly mentioned the 13-year timeline to reach 1.5 degrees of warming, rather than pushing the conversation to the forefront of conversations to challenge industry interests.
Bill Gates’ global and humanitarian perspective near the end of the conference really tied everything together for me. Some main takeaways from his talk included the need for more R&D to achieve effective climate action, a greater consideration for nuclear power, and the right of poor nations to take whatever action necessary to first address malnutrition and starvation. I’m looking forward to bringing some of the ideas I encountered during GEF back into my conversations at F&ES.
Minshu with other conference attendees including former U.S. Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu.
3. Competing For Energy Capital
2018 Energy & Environment Symposium at Harvard Business School
David Paolella, MEM’20
Prior to arriving at F&ES, I spent two years working on air pollution and environmental justice research at the University of Washington in Seattle. Here at F&ES, I am focusing my studies on strategies for decarbonizing energy systems and advancing carbon removal solutions.
A few weeks ago, I carpooled up to Boston with some fellow students to attend Harvard Business School’s annual Energy & Environment Symposium. This year’s symposium focused on competition among new and existing technologies to shape the future of the energy industry in the face of urgent environmental threats and rapidly decreasing costs of renewables.
The symposium featured keynote addresses from executives of multinational energy companies and a global investment firm. Following the keynotes were six panel discussions on topics including battery advancements to support grid flexibility, virtual power plants, strategies for domestic and international renewable energy investment, and more. I was most interested in the panel titled, “Role of the End User Towards a Greener Future.” The discussion featured panelists from Dow Chemical Company, Enel X (formerly EnerNOC), National Grid, and Harvard Business School. One of the core ideas presented was Energy-as-a-Service (EaaS). EaaS represents a shift away from the traditional utility business model—characterized by centralized generation, minimal customer choice, and simple payment per kilowatt-hour—and toward integration and optimization of distributed generation and comprehensive management of energy-efficiency, storage, and demand response services. Regulatory and business model changes in the electricity industry have the potential to better align the incentives of utilities and customers and accelerate the transition to a cleaner grid.
The afternoon continued with a student startup competition judged by experienced venture capital investors. I am interested in exploring entrepreneurship opportunities while at Yale, so this event was a valuable experience to better understand what a compelling and successful startup pitch looks like. The symposium closed with an energy happy hour where we had the opportunity to network with students, industry experts, and investors.
The trip was a great opportunity to supplement coursework with real-world insights from business leaders and energy investors. I look forward to attending future conferences throughout my time at F&ES.
Through featuring different SIGs, we hope to showcase the vibrant student life at F&ES. If you are interested in highlighting your involvement in SIGs, please contact Aaron Feng via email.