San Diego’s Place in the Sun: Getting Smarter About Energy, Starting June 8

Today is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day in the United States, an occasion that is now observed by just about every country on the planet. Within the past four decades, we have witnessed the price of crude oil careen from about $3 a barrel in the early 1970s to almost $148 a barrel in the summer of 2008. Yeah, prices have fallen since then. But the experience of paying more than $4 for each gallon of gasoline had a widespread and galvanizing effect on all of us. We all know which way this trend is headed, regardless of political wrangling over the science underlying projections of global warming.

That’s why I am excited to announce our next Xconomy event in San Diego, an afternoon forum on “smart energy” set for Tuesday, June 8. What is smart energy? It begins, in the broadest and most pragmatic sense, with the realization that we can be smarter—we must be smarter—in the way we use energy. For us at Xconomy, smart energy is especially about technology innovation, and we have pulled together a group of energy visionaries, industry veterans, startup CEOs, and other experts to help explain the innovations that are already underway—and also will be needed—in every sector of our energy economy.

Along with incisive keynote talks and case studies, we have organized a discussion focused on the future power grid. That will include Terry Mohn, the chief innovation officer at Balance Energy, a micro grid energy business started in San Diego by the British aerospace contractor BAE Systems; Jan Kleissl, assistant professor of environmental engineering at UCSD; and Michael Zeller, the CEO and co-founder of San Diego-based Zementis, a startup developing software analytics for the grid. Brian Kremer, the cleantech and energy analyst at Roth Capital Partners, will moderate.

The stage for this afternoon session is the 200-seat auditorium in Atkinson Hall, home of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, or Calit2, where we held our successful forum on biotech innovation in December. Calit2, which is an event co-sponsor, also has graciously lent us its founding director, Internet pioneer (and San Diego Xconomist) Larry Smarr, to serve as a keynote speaker. Among other things, Smarr is a co-principal investigator of the National Science Foundation’s GreenLight project, which is intended to develop new green energy strategies for an IT industry that is estimated to consume as much energy as the airline industry.

As it turns out, many of the technological advances that are needed to make us smarter about using energy—including new capabilities in our IT infrastructure, sensors, wireless communications, data warehousing, and software analytics—represent new market opportunities for many of San Diego’s renowned innovation clusters.

So, to round out the agenda, we have scheduled case study presentations about local companies and the compelling technologies they have developed. Leading our case study lineup is Ron Pitt, a solar energy industry veteran and the founding CEO of EcoDog, a Vista, CA, company that has developed an energy-tracking “watchdog” device for homeowners. Our case study presentations also include CEO Joaquin Silva of On-Ramp Wireless, which has developed a low-power wireless sensor and communication system for industrial-scale monitoring, and CEO David Johnson of Achates Power, a semi-stealthy local company that has largely refrained from talking publicly about the radically innovative engine design it has under development—until now.

We also have organized 4-minute presentations from executives at some of San Diego’s most-exciting energy startups in a series of “burst” presentations that have proved highly popular at other Xconomy events. They’re intended to provide a rapid overview of the range of technology innovation underway in our region, and our lineup includes PowerGenix, Pyron Solar, and 5th Generation Solar.

Please join us for an inspiring and informative afternoon on smart energy. Registration begins at 1 p.m., and our program will run from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., and includes plenty of time for networking. You can see details on how to register online by clicking here.

Immediately following our forum, Calit2 is organizing a reception and networking event that’s intended to showcase U.C. San Diego research projects in smart grids and sustainability. It will be a catalog of insights and information about smart energy, and we look forward to seeing you on June 8.

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Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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