Information, Innovation, and Collaboration at the Vail Global Energy Forum

The past several weeks, we have posted blogs written by the student scholarship winners to the Vail Global Energy Forum. The Vail Centre decided to support three students because the connection between young leaders and the future of energy is so strong and critical. As we learned at the forum, Canada, Mexico, and the United States are looking to the future while continuing their hard work in providing safe, reliable, and sustainable energy. Thought leadership from the next generation, which has been brought up with the ideas of environmental justice, sustainable choices, and the “triple bottom line” of people-planet-profit, will provide important solutions in the years to come. It was heartening to see so many other bright and committed students in the audience from institutions all around the country! The three Vail Centre students told me that the student networking event on Saturday evening was one of the highlights of their time at the Energy Forum.

Thinking back on the Energy Forum and also considering what the students shared, several key themes emerge. The first is that understanding and knowledge form the basis of important changes in the energy sector. Talks from experts across all sectors of the industry, researchers from Stanford University Precourt Institute for Energy, and government officials at all levels helped the audience learn the facts about how the industry really works. We heard experts talk about what happens when oil goes to $40 a barrel, how instantaneous monitoring equipment has changed field operations, and how governments are responding to the needs of consumers. These talks provided a baseline of understanding and information about how the industry works, from government policy to the pipeline to our electric outlets.

Working Together Towards a New Energy Future

The next overarching theme was that of innovation. We heard about innovation across all aspects of the energy sector, from cyber-security to the electricity grid to natural gas extraction to driverless cars. It was clear that research and innovation at this scale requires many great minds coming together to build solutions for the future. What made the forum even more interesting was to see some of these minds come together over lunch and in the social hours, where perhaps new and important conversations could unfold. New approaches to law and policy were also heavily discussed as necessities for sweeping change, such as the recent major policy overhauls in Mexico, changes at the US Department of Energy, and updates to state and local policies that support research and development.

Perhaps most importantly, the third main theme of Vail Global Energy Forum was that of collaboration. We heard it between industry staff, we heard it across academic research topics, and we heard it across international boundaries. The timing of the forum – after the Paris Climate Agreement and before the mid-February North American climate talks in Winnipeg – provided a thoughtful interlude to discuss what the nations and industry are doing to move away from traditional sources of energy and towards more reliance on renewable energy sources.

Several speakers emphasized that energy independence for North America is critical so that we may be buffered from global geopolitical chaos that affects energy supply and stability. So too is the need to continue to listen to each other and work together on new technologies and policies to support a new energy future.

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