NU energy conference highlights industry advances


Nick Swindell

Northeastern held its fourth annual Energy Conference on Sept. 28 which focused on the future of sustainability and clean energy. The conference offered panel discussions ran by industry experts and academics, as well as keynote speeches from Northeastern alums who are leaders in the energy sector.

George P. Sakellaris, a keynote speaker and the president and CEO of Ameresco, Inc., discussed how his company reduced 233 million pounds of carbon in the last decade through new efficiencies like LED street and area lighting.

“Regardless of the headwinds or tailwinds, the clean energy economy has accelerated and continues to evolve and transform the status quo,” said Sakellaris, whose company is dedicated to providing energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions for facilities in North America and the U.K.

Sakellaris also discussed his own company’s role in the energy economy along with general gains made by the entire sector.

“Energy services like Ameresco have become the key vehicles to the energy efficiency projects,” he said. “Looking forward, I think our greatest potential is not yet realized.”

While not a main focus of the event, Northeastern’s role with its own energy systems was discussed by Sakellaris during a Q&A session after his speech.

“We have lots of great energy education programs,”said Jennie C. Stephens, professor of sustainability science. She said she was curious as to what we could be doing on our own campus.

The conference also included eight panel discussions on energy technology and business policy. Each panel had three to four current experts in the field, ranging from researchers to founders of energy storage companies.

One panel, which included local academia and government leaders Laurence Delina, Dr. Kelly Gallagher, Dan Burgess and Dr. Jacquline Ashmore, discussed the intended and unintended consequences of pulling out of the Paris agreement regarding the protection of ‘dirty’ jobs.

Some Northeastern students, like second-year engineering graduate student Sai Krishna Anne, attended the event in hopes to receive insight on what cutting edge technology is being introduced in the industry.

“I wanted to see what’s the latest innovation going on,” Anne said, “what’s the latest technology to learn, what’s new and how else can we expand it.”

Anne also reflected optimism about clean energy in the future.  

“I think there will be a lot of solar fields in the country, wind farms all over the country,” Anne said. “I think maybe in the next 10 years most will be renewable energy; There are new technologies coming up which make it cheaper and easier to set up everything.”