Reactions to President Obama’s Energy Speech from Boston Technology Leaders

10/23/09Follow @wroush

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make it a reality. It’s certainly important, but now we’ve got to make it happen. And we’ve got to do it through smart policies, and create market constructs.

From EnerNOC’s perspective, we want demand to play a deeper and deeper role in energy markets. We are not asking for handouts, and we don’t take taxpayer dollars. What we are asking for is a level playing field.

If you were somehow to resurrect Alexander Graham Bell, he would not understand one thing about today’s telephone system. But if you brought back Thomas Edison, he would be able to run today’s electrical grid, as if nothing had changed. We are putting software in place to give people choices and to create a more efficient energy market. This is not rocket science—the technology exists. The problem is the market constructs and policies around market structure. Throwing money at the problem does not create market change. The most important thing we can do is create markets where there is more competition and choice. That’s what we want to see.

We are always dissatisfied with the pace of change, but we also recognize that we’ve got to work hard to help. We’re not just sitting here throwing stones. We have a solution and it’s delivering phenomenal value where we have market access—but we don’t have market access everywhere yet. We want utilities to have an incentive to deploy demand response technology. But right now they have an incentive to install more power plants—they don’t have an incentive to help you reduce your power bill.

It can only do good [for the President to speak about clean energy]. There is nothing negative that can come from him elevating the awareness for clean energy. I just wish, though, that the President would take more of an executive role, and create more of a call to arms—to call upon his own Administration and the federal departments to create change faster. Let’s move more quickly, and empower those decision makers at places like the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency to make decisions more quickly. Ultimately, that comes down to Congress learning how to play nice with each other. I think we could be in for a long fight on this energy bill—just as with the healthcare bill, it’s starting to founder a bit.

Forgan McIntosh, MBA student, MIT Sloan School of Management; co-president, MIT Energy Club

The President alluded to the steadfast opposition to change and the idea that clean energy and the carbon tax and a lot of the expensive technologies could potentially ruin the economy, and the outright pessimism about politics on Capitol Hill, as things that make people throw in the towel and not do the hard work. He encouraged the audience to defeat that pessimism. So he said some interesting things. I would say that overall, he was talking on an extremely high level. He was excited to be here at MIT and to see the labs. I didn’t sit there and say, ‘Oh my gosh, he’s done massive amounts of homework and he has positions on all of these issues.’ But you did hear him clearly acknowledge that being a leader in this space is a necessity both from a climate change perspective and also an economic perspective.

I think that having that back in the public discourse is what we need, and hearing him say that more and more is something that is of real value. I think he hit it home pretty well. He spoke for about 20 minutes total, so there wasn’t a ton of substance, granularity-wise.

[Having President Obama speak at MIT] gives the student body a tremendous sense of pride and injects even more energy into our work on the research and technology side as well as the startup, commercialization, and development side. It meant a lot to us to have a lot of the hard work we do validated by such an appearance. We feel like there’s a lot of work left to do, and we’re going to continue to work as hard as we can. And in the meantime it’s nice to have such a tremendous acknowledgement.

Furqan Nazeeri, co-founder, Viridus (cross-posted to Viridus’s blog)

Earlier today I was in the audience of students, faculty, local entrepreneurs and politicians at MIT when President Obama delivered a speech on clean energy. His talk was brief but made some notable points. The main point, I think, was him exhorting the country to “take a risk on ideas that might fail, but that could also change the world.” Obama cited as examples some research at MIT where scientists are using viruses to grow batteries instead of building them. Pretty cool.

Obama started by touting recent achievements in advancing clean energy research and development. Apparently there is $80 billion of the stimulus money earmarked for green projects. And Obama mentioned Governor Patrick’s tripling of investment in … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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