A panel discussion at Penn State Energy Days focused on the challenges and innovations of the future of energy.
“Energy Days is an annual conference that brings together leaders from across the energy realm, including members of industry, government, nonprofits and academia,” according to the conference website. “The purpose is to identify and discuss the regional, national and global energy challenges facing society in a way that helps inform the issues as a whole and identify areas where Penn State can be a strong partner.”
The two-day conference, held at The Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center, wrapped up with a panel discussion titled “Future State of Energy.”
The panelists were Cheri Faso Olf, who leads workforce strategy for Tesla; Scott Foster, director of United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s Sustainable Energy Division; Thomas Foust, National Bioenergy Center and National Renewable Energy Laboratory director; and Hari Osofsky, incoming dean of Penn State Law and the School of International Affairs.
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The clean tech industry as a whole has a talent shortage, Olf said. One of the things her company is facing, she said, is a massive retirement of engineers, or a “silver tsunami.”
Osofsky pointed out three trends in energy: the transformative impact of technology on the energy system, changing business models and a simultaneous scaling up and scaling down of the energy system.
“We’re in a rapidly changing technological landscape,” she said.
Among the questions from the conference attendees include one about a current problem the industry is trying to solve.
The current use of energy is inefficient, Foust said. The problem that needs to be solved is moving toward a more sustainable society.
The panelists also discussed how universities such as Penn State play a role.
Universities can provide a marketplace for ideas, Osofsky said. The richness of Penn State comes from having people with different viewpoints doing different work.