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HBS Conference Focuses on Energy

By Nikita Kansra, Contributing Writer

A Harvard Business School conference over the weekend brought together a variety of clean technology industry officials, sustainable development researchers, and business school students to foster dialogue about the changing relationship between the environment and business—a conversation that led to a ringing endorsement about the importance of alternative energy.

“Clean technologies are on the road to disrupting multibillion dollar markets. We’re underestimating the impact that technology will have on the energy industry. We are in the early stages of a technology revolution that will fundamentally change energy economics,” said keynote speaker Tommy Iglesby, who is a principal at McKinsey & Company’s energy practice.

Iglesby said that there is a need to develop clean energy sources while also revitalizing existing forms of energy such as hydrocarbons. He characterized clean technology as a disruptive force that could revolutionize energy economics because it would affect every aspect of consumers’ lives, including, for example, the way people drive.

“This is dropping a rock in a very large pond and watching the ripples affect an entire industry,” he said, referring to the launch of clean technology efforts. “It isn’t about one technology over another—it’s about all of them.”

The conference, which is the largest energy-related forum at the Harvard Business School, featured over 30 speakers from small start-ups to large corporations in both conventional and alternative energy fields. Panelists included professors in urban development, clean energy entrepreneurs such as Jim Matheson of Flagship Ventures, and officials such as S. Vijay Iyer, the director of the sustainable energy department at the World Bank.

Panel topics ranged from the role of entrepreneurship in clean technology to the development of global energy policy. Each panel included a moderator and question-and-answer format for participants.

“The private sector can only go so far,” said conference participant Omar C. Mitchell, a student at the MIT Sloan School of Management. “In my personal opinion, it’s about the usage of our current resources and the way the government regulates the industry.”

Mitchell, who said that he plans to pursue a career in energy-efficient construction, said he chose to attend the conference in order to gain knowledge about the intersection between business and energy.

“I need to understand the broader context of energy,” he said.

The conference also included for the first time a start-up showcase, which highlighted over 20 budding business ventures in the clean technology industry. Co-hosted by the MIT Energy club, the showcase provided companies, such as Harvest Power, an organic materials management company, and 360Chestnut, a business that promotes energy efficiency, a chance to present their ideas to the conference participants.

The conference was hosted by the Harvard Business School’s Energy and Environment Club.

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