Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Americas President Paul Mitchell speaks at CMU Energy Week. Image courtesy of CMU.

Pittsburgh and Puerto Rico will meet at the latest Energy Week conference at Carnegie Mellon University.

From April 4-6, the three-day symposium will welcome more than 60 leaders from the industry, government, academia and nonprofit sectors to discuss tackling real-world energy challenges. It will feature six keynote speakers and nine panels focusing on topics such as energy-efficient technologies and building performance, enhanced battery technologies, entrepreneurship in energy, and food, energy and water infrastructure.

Some events will also be presented as part of CMU’s Sustainability Weekend and the City of Pittsburgh’s Inclusive Innovation Week, both of which are taking place around the same time.

Anna Siefken, event organizer and associate director for Innovation and Strategic Partnerships at CMU’s Scott Institute, points out that while this year’s event is shorter compared to previous Energy Weeks, it covers a wider variety of fields and interests.

“We’ve always had a strong policy and government focus, and that continues,” says Siefken. “But we’ve added on an overlay for corporate and industrial interest.”

How can cities build power grid resilience?

The highlight of the symposium is a special “fireside chat” between Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and San Juan, Puerto Rico Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz. Cruz, a CMU alum who earned a Master of Science degree in public management and policy at the Heinz College, made headlines when she called out President Donald Trump for his inaction in assisting Puerto Rico after the island, which is an unincorporated U.S. territory, was devastated by Hurricane Maria last year. As of now, much of Puerto Rico still lacks access to electric power, as well as other basic services.

The chat will cover power grid resilience and how smart cities are preparing for the future.

“Public-private partnerships like Pittsburgh’s work with Carnegie Mellon University are key to solving issues like climate change,” Peduto said in an official statement. “Since we’ve joined 100 Resilient Cities, we’ve taken over 300 actions with our partners that are already underway — making Pittsburgh more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century. The future is near and we’re excited to share our resilience journey at CMU Energy Week 2018.”

Siefken says the City of Pittsburgh and CMU, in particular, have maintained a close relationship with Puerto Rico. For example, in October 2017, CMU student and Puerto Rican native Rosana Guernica chartered three separate planes to the island to evacuate people in need of medical attention and deliver thousands of pounds of supplies.

What role can entrepreneurs and startups play?

Besides looking at ways to drive sustainable energy policy, the event will explore marketable ideas and technologies, startups, entrepreneurship and investment. As part of this, CMU will launch its Energy + Cleantech Investor Forum, which welcomes cleantech researchers and entrepreneurs from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, and Washington, DC to meet with investors.

For students, there’s the Energy Industry Career Fair and the Cleantech University Prize Competition, where 12 teams from a five-state region will compete for more than $60,000.

Last year, the ag robotics company, RoBotany, won $50,000 in the Cleantech University Prize competition. (Read more about them in our 17 Pittsburgh tech companies to watch in 2017 feature.)

Energy Week will also showcase CMU’s growing efforts to advance clean, sustainable energy during a reception for Scott Hall’s LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. In addition, the Scott Institute will launch a number of initiatives, including the unveiling of The Center for Sustainable, Equitable, Efficient Energy Services and the new Carnegie Mellon Green Design Institute, as well as a fellows program promoting and rewarding CMU’s outstanding energy faculty.

Siefken believes efforts at CMU and events like Energy Week demonstrate Pittsburgh’s ability to position itself as an energy innovator.

“As we look to the future of the city and region and beyond, energy is going to become more and more important as resources are transitioned,” says Siefken. “For us, the idea of bringing thought leadership together and having important conversations can be catalytic for the region, and that is our hope.”

CMU Energy Week 2018 takes place from April 4-6 at CMU’s Scott Institute. The event is free and open to the public. Registration is required.

Amanda Waltz

Amanda Waltz is a freelance journalist and film critic whose work has appeared locally in numerous publications. She writes for The Film Stage and is the founder and editor of Steel Cinema, a blog dedicated...