Student reflections from the Cornell Energy Connection

By: Katelyn Godoy
A group poses on the stage at the Cornell Energy Connection

This fall, the Cornell Energy Connection, an annual conference hosted by the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise, welcomed students, influencers, and practitioners from around the country to discuss the future of the energy industry. Held for the first time in New York City, this one-day conference featured panels on best practices and industry trends that included representatives from Citi, Chevron, Emerson, NYSERDA, and more. The event’s keynote was delivered by Katherine Hamilton ’83 (Arts & Sciences), chair of 38 North Solutions.

Standing-room only for a panel
Overhead shot of panelists on stage

A crowd of people seated in the audience
A man and woman sit on the panel
Attendees and panelists at the Cornell Energy Connection
Bottom right: Speaker Shreya Dave, co-founder and CEO of Via Separations answers a question

With more than 180 attendees, 17 expert speakers, and countless conversations about the future of clean energy, the event was a major success.

Below are some reflections from student attendees.

Renewable energy is here to stay

“The event was a watershed moment in that it crystallized for many of us the staying power of the renewable energy industry,” says Matt Volkov, MBA ’19.

“Panelists during the day’s second roundtable discussed the emergence of renewables as an asset class understood to be a steady, stable source of cash flow for pension funds, insurance companies, utilities, and other classes of especially risk-averse investors. The ongoing maturity of the industry is expected to help it attract more interest from a diverse selection of investors, which will contribute to ongoing growth,” he explains.

Panels on stage talking
Panel discussion: Where Is the Smart Money Going?
Left to right: Frank Nicklaus ’04, MBA ’12, of Greentech Capital Advisors, Lori Lybolt of ConEdison, Frank Palladino of CohnReznick Capital, and Andrew Diehl of Nuveen Private Markets

A complex industry

Russell Grandin, MBA ’20, appreciated the opportunity to learn about the growth of and changes to the fuel refinery process.

“A great visual takeaway of the conference came from Will Martin’s [MBA ’12] presentation on how complex the modern fuel refinery and energy production process has become,” Grandin says. “He first showed a graphic of the traditional oil to gasoline production process, and then walked the room through the timeline of additions made to that process, including the use of biofeedstocks, waste oils, renewable energy, etc. all now being used to create fuels, flex fuels, and electricity for gasoline, diesel, CNG, and electric vehicles.”

A man speaks at the podium with a detailed slide presenting a flowchart of processes
Will Martin, MBA ’12, renewable energy deal lead at Chevron titled, What Happens When Carbon Costs $180/MT? A View from California in 2018

Lessons learned

Students also discussed lessons learned from the keynote.

“One of my favorite parts of the conference was hearing from the keynote speaker Katherine Hamilton; not only a Cornell alumna but also a very active participant in the development of public policy for clean energy,” says Natalia Lujan Juncua, MBA ’19. “Most importantly, she talked about the huge challenge that this and future generations will have in shaping the industry and fighting climate change; moreover, she emphasized how important it is to engage local communities so they can help push the government to make this issue a priority and transition to a world with 100 percent clean energy.”

Daniel Titterington, MBA ’20, weighed in on the speech as well:

“Katherine Hamilton, of 38 North Solutions and ‘The Energy Gang,’ discussed the roles that energy management, distributed generation, and energy storage will play in reshaping the function of energy providers in the future,” he explains. “As a newcomer to the renewable energy industry, I found all of these insights to be invaluable.”

Mark and Katherine talk on stage
Mark Milstein, director of the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise (left), talking to keynote speaker Katherine Hamilton (right)

To find out information about next year’s Cornell Energy Connection and more events from the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise, visit the center’s events page.

—Written by Paul Russell, a student intern for the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise