March Madness in Austin, Texas: Come for SXSW, stay for ETS!

ETS15Today, I stand at the precipice of SXSW, the annual music, film, and interactive festival that descends upon Austin, Texas every March. In a few weeks, we locals will be on the other side of SXSW, recovering from the three-week burst of good-timin’ madness and getting ready for the next event that’s always right around the corner.

Lucky for me, what comes next is the Energy Thought Summit! From March 24-26th, thought leaders and innovators from around the world will once again come to town, this time to discuss one of humanity’s most complex issues: energy.

Hosted by Zpryme, the Energy Thought Summit (ETS) seeks to be a different kind of conference: less stuffy, more collaborative. ETS “stands for more than thought leadership through energy — it’s about combining industry expertise, radical ideas, and the insatiably creative from all walks of the energy ecosystem and exploring how we connect.”

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From creatives, CEOs, analysts, and engineers, to the largest corporations and the smallest, crowd-sourced startups, the goal is to “bring great minds, doers, and institutions together to invest in real-world solutions that address infrastructure, social and ecological challenges facing our globe, communities, markets, technologies, and policies.”

This event will be essential for anyone in the energy sector. And, if  “energy” wasn’t a broad enough sector before, it’s now even bigger, encompassing smart home technologies that empower residents to conserve, buy, and sell energy.

This new era of “energy democratization” includes everyone because our use of electricity is more all-encompassing than ever before and growing. These impacts – from environmental pollution to strains on the electric grid – must be discussed in the public sphere, as we all play a role. I invite anyone curious about what the best and brightest are doing in this realm to join us.

Last year’s inaugural ETS featured none other than Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, aka “The Woz,” who entered the conference hall on a Segway led by a steampunk marching band. Need I say more?

This year the father of the lithium ion battery, Dr. John B. Goodenough, will take the stage in a fireside chat with Andrew Johnston, ETS president, on March 25th. Dr. Goodenough will share his views on the technological and scientific leaps of energy and the world’s need for a super-battery. The two days of sessions will also feature former FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff, as well as representatives from Tesla, Lowe’s, GM, IBM’s Watson project, Toyota, NRG, University of Texas, Texas State University, AT&T, and many others.

Following Dr. Goodenough, I will moderate a panel called The State and Future of Renewables. Here, I will lead a discussion exploring the current state of renewable energy — primarily wind and solar — and the increasing role they will play in the future of electricity. Joining me will be Glen Davis, CEO of RES Americas, David Brochu, COO of Recurrent Energy, and Danielle Murray, Manager of Solar Energy Services for Austin Energy. We will get to the heart of the most pressing issues in clean energy today: What policies and incentives are currently driving and hindering renewable energy development and what needs to happen to ensure their long-term success?

Meanwhile, EDF’s Associate VP for Clean Energy, Cheryl Roberto, will be on a panel entitled Smart Grid: Lessons Learned, focusing on where companies have found smart grid successes, what hyped technologies didn’t play out, and what these lessons mean for smart grid efforts in the next decade. Cheryl will be joined by moderator Becky Harrison, CEO of the GridWise Alliance, and speakers David DuCharme, VP of Utility & Smart Energy Services at Capgemini, and Patty Durand, Executive Director of the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative.

March is maybe the best time to be in Austin, so come on down to the Energy Thought Summit and be a part of one of the most important conversations of our time. (Also, BBQ.)

This post originally appeared on our Texas Clean Air Matters blog.

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