Energy Days focuses on buildings, energy challenges

Grace Lifsted
June 14, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The third annual Energy Days took place on May 30 and 31 at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center on the University Park campus. The conference brings together leaders from across the energy field including industry, nonprofits, academia and government. The purpose is to identify and discuss energy challenges while building networks that can help solve them.

A key theme from Energy Days was the built environment. According to Tom Richard, director of the Institutes of Energy and the Environment, 40 percent of today’s global greenhouse gas emissions are associated with buildings.

The leadership of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) came to Penn State to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Penn State President Eric Barron at Energy Days. The MOU formalized an agreement between the University and the United Nations to collaborate on a Global Building Network to be headquartered at Penn State. The network aims to reduce the percentage of greenhouse gases dramatically.

According to Olga Algayerova, executive secretary of the UNECE, governments have a responsibility to provide sustainable energy for all. Algayerova believes that with the help of institutions like the U.N. and Penn State, a sustainable society is achievable.

“Standing on the shoulders of giants, we are able to see further,” Algayerova said. “We can use them to carry us into the future we want.”

Edward Mazria, founder and CEO of Architecture 2030, was a keynote speaker. He spoke about “Achieving Zero,” a framework for cities and governments to ensure carbon-neutral buildings by mid-century.

According to Mazria, the world population will increase by 2.75 billion by 2060, which translates to more than 1 million people added to the population per week. Most of this growth will occur in urban populations.

Along with an increase in population inevitably comes an increase in buildings, especially in urban environments. Mazria explained that there is a need to lower the net carbon emissions from these buildings. His plan involves phasing out all carbon emissions in the building sector by 2050.

“We have to get a zero net carbon building energy code so that all buildings are set to zero net carbon standards,” Mazria said.

Mazria said he believes that the Zero Code, a zero net carbon building energy code published by Architecture 2030, needs to be adopted and enforced. If adopted, the code will even create a guaranteed market for renewable energy.

In fact, low-cost, efficient energy can create a competitive advantage for the United States on a global scale, enabling increased productivity and efficiency across industries and locales. This was discussed in the “Leverage: Energy” breakout session, hosted by President Barron. It included members of the Council on Competitiveness, an organization of corporate CEOs, university presidents, and labor leaders committed to making the United States a global competitor. “Leverage: Energy” is the name of a study recently released by the council.

Deborah Wince-Smith, president and CEO of the Council on Competitiveness, was on the panel and stated that the U.S. needs innovation in the energy sector in order to remain competitive. She discussed the importance of innovation in talent, technology and storage.

Other members of the panel included Chris Gould, chief innovation and sustainability officer and senior vice president of corporate strategy of Exelon Corporation; Suresh Sunderrajan, associate laboratory director of Argonne National Laboratory’s Science and Technology Partnerships and Outreach Directorate; and Neil Sharkey, vice president for research at Penn State.

Following his appearance on the panel, Gould delivered a keynote speech on the future of the electric grid at lunchtime on Thursday. According to Gould, the future will demand a shift from the traditional pipeline business model to a platform business model, similar to that of companies like Uber and Amazon.

Gould has a customer-centric vision for the future. He believes that it will be important as an industry to put customers first, and that doing this will unlock value for everyone involved.

As for the future of Penn State, leadership sees the University integrating energy innovations throughout campus. Both President Barron and Sharkey discussed the importance of being a contributor in the global energy sector through research, educational programs and energy efficiency.

President Barron wants Penn State to be known as the Energy University. He believes the coming years will make this increasingly possible, particularly with the new Global Building Network partnership with the United Nations.

Richard delivered closing remarks on Thursday.

“We’re going to be moving forward to innovate, demonstrate and educate for the future of energy through every function of the university, including our own facilities and our living laboratories,” Richard said. “We are going to keep pressing forward to achieve our ambition to be the best energy university in the U.S., if not the world.”

Next year’s Energy Days conference is set for May 29 and 30, 2019, at The Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center.

  • Edward Mazria at Energy Days 2018

    Edward Mazria, founder and CEO of Architecture 2030, was a keynote speaker at Energy Days 2018. He discussed Zero Code, a zero net carbon building energy code published by Architecture 2030.

    IMAGE: Kevin Sliman

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Last Updated June 14, 2018