Energy Days conference to build partnerships, solve critical energy challenges

May 03, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The third annual Energy Days conference will be held this year on May 30 and 31 at The Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center. Energy Days was created in an effort to convene the energy expertise of Penn State and develop partnerships to help improve the affordability, sustainability and security of energy in the future. The conference is open to the public and is free for Penn State students, faculty and staff. Registration is now open.

This interdisciplinary event will bring together leaders from across the energy spectrum, including members of industry, government, non-profits and academia. Energy Days’ ultimate goal is to create new partnerships that provide results and innovative solutions to energy challenges.

“Such partnerships allow us to work together to solve our critical energy challenges, both today and in the future,” said Tom Richard, director of the Institutes of Energy and the Environment and professor of agricultural and biological engineering in the College of Agricultural Sciences. “Penn State’s ambition to be the Energy University can only happen through careful listening, collaborative problem solving, and leveraging expertise and resources from both the public and private sectors. Energy Days is our opportunity to do just that.”

Also at this year’s event, representatives from the United Nations will attend and participate in a presentation about the Global Building Network with Penn State President Eric Barron. The focus of the network will be on how to reduce the energy needs of buildings across the globe, which account for approximately 40 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Modern building efficiency innovations can drive these emissions to nearly zero, and simultaneously deliver better health and human performance, all at nearly the same first cost, noted Richard.

“The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe initiative is a concrete realization of Penn State’s Energy University in practice, meaning the land-grant responsibility of the University in translating research and development as well as academic science and engineering into practical societal impact activities,” said James Freihaut, technical director of Penn State at The Navy Yard in Philadelphia and professor of architectural engineering.

Energy Days will include lightning talks and a poster session, as well as opportunities to network. However, the conference’s main focus is on the breakout sessions.

Thursday’s schedule revolves around these in-depth breakout sessions, each of which were selected and organized around outcomes that are both ambitious and achievable, according to Richard. He notes that past conferences have resulted in new collaborations and led to significant breakthroughs on critical energy questions, including how to integrate distributed energy in the grid, the sustainability of biofuels, and the future of coal.

The breakout sessions cover a wide range of topics related to energy and its use, including biorefineries and biofuels; energy economics, law, and policy; microgrid and distributed energy; environmental factors of energy production; meeting future energy needs; energy as an economic development engine for Pennsylvania; and Penn State as a real-time, working laboratory for future energy systems.

“This kind of synergistic discussion helps meet the vision identified for land-grant universities: How do we solve real-world problems together?” said Lara Fowler, assistant director for outreach and engagement in the Institutes of Energy and the Environment and senior lecturer in Penn State Law. “This conference provides an important way for those working on critical energy issues — including businesses, non-governmental organizations, regulators, academics and beyond — to meet and talk together about solving our energy challenges.”

Edward Mazria, founder and CEO of Architecture 2030, will be the keynote speaker at dinner on Wednesday, May 30. He is an internationally recognized architect, author, researcher and educator. On Thursday, May 31, the lunch keynote speaker will be Steven Winberg, the assistant secretary for fossil energy (FE), which is part of the U.S. Department of Energy. He is responsible for the management and oversight of FE’s research and development program, encompassing coal, oil and natural gas, as well as the Office of Petroleum Reserves.

Other featured guests at the conference include Olga Algayerova and Scott Foster, both of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). Algayerova is the executive secretary of the UNECE, while Foster serves as the director of the UNECE’s Sustainable Energy Division. Deborah Wince-Smith, president and chief executive officer of the Council on Competitiveness, will be joined by Christopher Gould, senior vice president and chief innovation and sustainability officer of Exelon; Suresh Sunderrajan, associate laboratory director for Argonne National Laboratory; Penn State President Eric Barron; and Vice President for Research Neil Sharkey to release the Council’s “Leverage: Energy” study on energy and manufacturing.

The conference will also feature a poster session highlighting breakthrough research occurring at the University. Poster submissions are welcome until Friday, May 25.

For more information on the conference or to register, please visit

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Last Updated December 03, 2020