Panel Discussions

2014 Panel Topics

Economic Ramifications of the Coal to Gas Transition

Wednesday, February 19, 10:45 a.m.

Federal regulation from the Environmental Protection Agency is expediting the transition from coal to natural gas. What kind of grid capacity constraints could surface as a result of the mandates for coal-fired facilities? What will be the impact on U.S. power prices – and the consequent toll on the U.S. economy – from the increased exposure to natural gas pricing? How will the economics of both fuels be affected? What is the financial viability of this transition, and what project financing strategies exist to support it? Along what time horizon should this transition occur, and what would be the impact of EPA regulations being finalized in 2015? 

Richard K. Morse, Managing Partner at SuperCritical Capital, LLC, and Affiliated Researcher at the Stanford Program on Energy and Sustainable Development (through 2012)
Davis Thames, Senior Vice President at Cheniere Energy
Anthony Yuen, Strategist at Citigroup – Global Commodities Research
Sugandha D. Tuladhar, Senior Consultant, NERA Economic Consulting

Energy Storage

Wednesday, February 19, 12:30 p.m.

Diffusion of renewable energy has recently become a top priority for many countries around the world as concern over climate change obligates cleaner forms of power generation. In light of this, the matter of energy storage has risen in importance. Because many renewable sources are intermittent, harnessing their production at times of low demand in order to increase capacity during peak hours is key to their successful and widespread implementation. This panel will address many questions regardingtheissueofenergystorageintoday’ssociety. Whatarethemost promising distributed storage applications on the market right now? What types of technological developments are currently in development, and how will this affect the storage market in 5 years? What are the factors limiting more widespread deployment of storage? How are utilities participating in the demonstration and commercialization of these technologies?

Fred Beach, Research Associate at the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy (CIEEP), The University of Texas at Austin
Oliver Fritz, Deputy Director for Policy, Office of the Secretary of Defense
Eugene Gholtz, Associate Professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, The University of Texas at Austin
Darrell Thornley, Director of Energy Technologies, Shaw Environmental & Infrastructure

Wednesday, February 19, 1:30 p.m.

Unlike other tech startups, energy-focused startups face uniquely high capital costs and a particularly well-ingrained status quo. While venture capital (VC) is more difficult for these companies to secure, both traditional energy and clean-tech private equity (PE) investments have remained above historic averages since a dramatic rise in 2006. How will fossil energy and clean tech investments fare as a share of the national VC industry in the next 5 years? What can we glean about the long-term trajectory of the energy industry from the investments being made by energy PE and VC firms? How has government policy — such as increasingly stringent carbon regulations, the Department of Energy’s ARPA-E division, the DOE loan guarantee program and various incentives — influenced the energy VC space? What kinds of strategic investments are major oil and gas companies making, given what they perceive as being the trajectory of the energy industry’s evolution?

Jose Beceiro,  Director of Clean Energy and Economic Development, Austin Chamber of Commerce
Michael BettersworthAssociate Vice Chancellor and Senior Advisor to the Chancellor, Texas State Technical College
Gürcan Gulen, Research Associate at the Bureau of Economic Geology, The University of Texas at Austin
Doug Lewin, Executive Director, South-central Partnership for Energy Efficiency as a Resource (SPEER)

Advanced Geothermal Systems

Friday, February 22, 9:45 a.m.
Recent breakthroughs offer renewed promise for harnessing heat from the Earth’s crust to generate electricity. Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS), which exploit high temperatures within dry and impermeable rock, may bring geothermal power production to much broader geography.  Systems can also leverage the vast network of existing oil and gas wells to generate power.  Other developments, such as hydraulic fracturing and liquid carbon dioxide utilization, are also rapidly altering the viability and economics of advanced geothermal energy. EGS alone has an estimated capacity of 20,000 times 2005 U.S. primary energy use.  The facilities compare favorably to fossil fuels and nuclear in terms of capital costs, environmental factors, and consistency.  This panel’s purpose is to explore the technical and financial challenges associated with this energy source.

Doug Hollett, Program Manager for Geothermal Technologies, U.S. Department of Energy
Doug Blankenship, Manager of Geothermal Research, Sandia National Laboratories
Brian J. Anderson, GE Plastics Endowed Professor of Chemical Engineering, West Virginia University
Andrés Ruzo, Geophysics Ph.D. Candidate, Southern Methodist University
Robert Hunt, Chief Technology Officer at RenewableOne


Boom Towns: Evaluating the Economic and Social Challenges of Rapid Development in Rural America

Friday, February 22, 9:45 a.m.
As the natural gas industry in the United States expands production, many small and rural towns have undergone rapid development to sustain drilling activity and booming population growth brought about by increased oil and gas production. While these “boom towns” benefit in many ways from industrial development, they also face a number of economic and social challenges associated with their abrupt expansion.  This panel discusses how booming oil and gas development affects small-town American communities. How can local governments plan for economic growth to maximize benefit and minimize harm? How do traditional small-town communities cope with sudden population growth and the resulting transformation of their community? What is the role of the oil and gas industry in confronting these challenges? What is the role of the state and federal government?

John McChesney,
Outgoing Director of the Rural West Initiative at the Bill Lane Center for the American West, Stanford University
Thomas Tunstall, Research Director of the Institute for Economic Development, The University of Texas at San Antonio
Mark Boling, President of V+ Development Solutions, Southwestern Energy Company
Leodoro Martinez Jr., Executive Director, Middle Rio Grande Development Council


Financial Innovation in Renewable Energy

Friday, February 22, 1:30 p.m.
This panel will examine the future of financial markets for renewable projects. How will new financial instruments, especially ones that tap public capital markets, spur investment in renewable assets? Can these instruments overcome the boom and bust cycle of incentive uncertainty? Has policy uncertainty and the expiration of tax credits changed how developers finance projects? What can developers, policy makers, and investors do to continue the maturation and expansion of renewable asset financing?

Monty Humble, Adjunct Professor at the Center for Global Energy, International Arbitration, and Environmental Law, The University of Texas at Austin
Parag Patel, Director at Prudential Capital Group
Puon Penn, Head of Cleantech Group, Wells Fargo
Ken Alston, Special Assistant for Finance, U.S. Department of Energy
Radu Tutos, Director of Finance, EDP Renewables North America
Michael R. Meyers, Co-Head of the Energy & Infrastructure Group, Orrick

Managing the Demand Side of Natural Gas Resource Abundance

Friday, February 22, 1:30 p.m.
The supply of natural gas from shale exploration has flooded the U.S. market and pushed prices, at times in 2012, below $2 per mmbtu. Stabilizing the market in a way that will continue to incentivize production will require new strategies to increase the demand for natural gas across the U.S. industrial, manufacturing, and refining sectors. This panel will explore how companies are responding to the prospects of sustained natural gas resource abundance and altering their investment strategies to capitalize on this trend. It will also discuss what policies and regulations can help provide macroeconomic stability.

Jorge Piñon, Co-Director of the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy (CIEEP), The University of Texas at Austin
Rob Jones, Executive in Residence at the McCombs School of Business and former Co-Head of Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Commodities
Don McClure, Vice President of Government and Stakeholder Relations and Legal, Encana Oil and Gas
Seth Roberts, Director of Energy and Climate Change Policy, The Dow Chemical Company