April 26, 2021

Fifth annual Energy Week at Duke focused on upheaval and resilience

Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

In April 2021, Duke University announced that the student organizers of the fifth annual Energy Week at Duke (Nov. 9-12, 2020) had won a university-wide 2020-2021 Sustainability Award for "Creativity During COVID." Energy Week's learning and networking opportunities—offered virtually for the first time—attracted total attendance of more than a thousand, including university students, energy professionals, and others interested in the future of energy. 

The 2020 Energy Week organizers included more than forty undergraduate and graduate students in degree programs at the Fuqua School of Business, Nicholas School of the Environment, Pratt School of Engineering, Sanford School of Public Policy, and Trinity College of Arts & Sciences. Student organizers were advised by the Duke University Energy Initiative and the EDGE Center at the Fuqua School of Business.

"Every year, it's so inspiring for us to witness and support the students' efforts, but this year they outdid themselves," reflected Energy Initiative director Dr. Brian Murray. "Faced with a global pandemic, these students collaborated virtually across multiple time zones to take the Energy Week experience online with a fantastic, engaging event lineup. It was a powerful demonstration of Duke students' determination, adaptability, and creativity, as well as a testament to Duke's vibrant interdisciplinary energy community."  

Upheaval and Resilience: The 2020 Energy Week Lineup

The theme for Energy Week at Duke 2020 was Upheaval and Resilience. "The energy sector is grappling with massive shifts right now, including climate change and its impacts, a global pandemic, disruptive technologies and business models, and increased awareness of equity and environmental justice issues," explained Duke student and Energy Week co-lead Panayiotis Koutsogeorgas (MEM/MBA '21). "We wanted to explore how individuals, companies, and communities are responding to these dynamics and building resilience for the future."

The week's signature event, the Duke University Energy Conference, highlighted industry experts' insights on upheaval and resilience in the energy and climate policy sphere, energy markets, cleantech entrepreneurship and investment, and sustainable development.

Featured experts included Duke University Trustee Carmichael Roberts T '90, PhD '95 (Co-founder and Managing Partner, Material Impact). Roberts leads the investment committee for Breakthrough Energy, launched by Bill Gates and other billionaires to accelerate progress toward net-zero emissions. In a keynote conversation (view video at right) with his Material Impact colleague Sidney McLaurin MEM/MBA '17, Roberts shared candid insights on the cleantech scene's evolution, what budding entrepreneurs need to know, his experience as an investor, entrepreneurship during the pandemic, diversity in cleantech, and more.

Other keynote speakers at the Conference were energy journalist Amy Harder (Axios) and investor Wes Edens (New Fortress Energy, Fortress Investment Group) in conversation with Duke alumnus Husein Cumber T '97 (Florida East Coast Industries). View the full Conference video playlist, including keynotes, quick talks, and panel discussions.

The Energy Week lineup also featured Climate Whistleblowers: A Live Podcast event (view event video or listen to podcast episode), presented in coordination with the Sanford School of Public Policy's Ways & Means podcast. Virtual networking events during the week included the Energy Innovation Showcase spotlighting novel energy technologies and programs; SPARK Career Event, connecting Duke students with 24 energy employers; and a Power Hour for interaction among the Duke community and special guests.

The Energy Research Poster Presentation, organized by the Pratt MEMP Energy Club, highlighted university students' energy research and awarded a total of $7,500 in prizes to competition winners: Akintonde Abbas, UNC Charlotte (first place); Sara Sultan, UT Knoxville (second place); Rahul Chakraborty, NC State (third place); and Vanessa Zambrano, UC Berkeley (best undergraduate poster). 

Meanwhile, more than 70 teams of graduate students across six countries vied for $15,000 in prizes in the 2020 Energy in Emerging Markets Case Competition. Organized by the MBA Energy Club and sponsored by the Energy Access Project at Duke, the annual competition encourages students to propose solutions for industry partners to tackle real energy challenges in the developing world. This year's winning teams hailed from the University of San Francisco (first place), Yale (second place), and the University of Michigan (third place). 

Save the Dates: Energy Week at Duke 2021

Planning is underway for the sixth annual Energy Week at DukeNovember 8-11 2021, with the Conference scheduled for Wed., Nov. 10, 2021). 

More About Energy Week

Energy Week at Duke was launched in 2016, when student energy clubs across campus teamed up to build on the success of the MBA Energy Club's Duke University Energy Conference (presented annually since 2009) and Energy in Emerging Markets Case Competition. While Energy Week's leadership and lineup varies each year, the series consistently attracts total attendance of more than a thousand to educational and networking opportunities focused on energy business, policy, and technology.

In 2020, these student organizers played key leadership roles, coordinating efforts by dozens of their peers from degree programs across Duke: 

  • Energy Week Co-Leads: Will Foster (MEM/MBA '22), Panayiotis Koutsogeorgas (MEM/MBA '21)
  • Energy Week Marketing Co-Leads: Nicole Lococo (MPP '21), Will Slap (MEM/MBA '22)  
  • Duke University Energy Conference Leads: Katie Davis (MEM/MBA '21) with MBA Energy Club co-presidents Davis Guebert (MEM/MBA '21) and Zoe Ripecky (MEM/MBA '21) 
  • Energy in Emerging Markets Case Competition Co-Leads: Zukhruf Amjad (MEM '21), Hassan Nadeem (MEM '21), Emily Perry (MEM/UNC MBA '22), and Keith Zukowski (MBA '21)
  • Climate Whistleblowers Co-Leads: Myra Parsonnet (MPP '21) and Raphael Wineburg (MPP '21)
  • SPARK Career Event Co-Leads: Akash Gulati (MEM/MBA '22), Leyi Ruan (MEM '21), and Sagar Shah (T '23)
  • Energy Innovation Showcase Co-Leads: Akshay Krishnan (MEM '21) and Ian Reichardt (MEM '21)
  • Research Poster Presentation Co-Leads: Alfred Indome (MEMP '20)
  • Energy Week Technology Co-Leads: Stefan Chen (MEM '23), Grace Fernandez (MEM/MBA '23), Yash Doshi (MEM '22), and Charlotte Navin-Weinstein (T '23)