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Energy Elevated

Navigating the Energy Evolution

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Join us November 8th for the Inaugural Western Energy Forum: Energy Elevated, Navigating the Energy Evolution

Cross-sector collaboration is essential to a successful energy evolution that effectively supports the quality of life and related products society demands and depends on while solving for critical issues such as affordability, accessibility, climate, sustainability, poverty, justice, and energy security.

Western’s first ever Energy Elevated Forum seeks to bring together students, faculty, government, communities, and the energy industry for an informed dialogue on the realities of our complex and ever-evolving energy landscape. With a solutions-oriented focus on the future, panelists and speakers will discuss challenges and opportunities in achieving reliable, affordable, accessible, clean energy for all.

Download the event flyer here.

Tune into the event webinar here.

Register Here

Sustainable Solutions

The Inaugural Western Energy Forum focuses on highlighting cross-disciplinary solutions to growing energy demands locally, nationally and globally.


Wednesday, November 8th, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the University Center Theatre

Time Event and Speaker(s)
9:00 a.m. Welcome Breakfast and Event Kickoff

9:30 a.m. Keynote Address: The Energy Landscape

  • Kayla Dolan, Director of Policy and Strategy, Adamantine Energy

This keynote will set the foundation for the day’s discussions, including defining our current energy resource mix, discussing current policy goals, laying out the path to current decarbonization policy goals. Kayla Dolan will discuss future energy scenarios in light of current policy goals, highlighting the importance of reliable, affordable, accessible clean energy for all. Kayla will hit on important topics such as balancing increasing global energy demand, energy poverty, developing economies, ensuring just transitions, and sustainability along the way. The keynote presentation will introduce broader challenges & opportunities in the decarbonization of energy, encouraging cross-sector and interdisciplinary collaboration to achieve these important societal goals.

10:30 a.m. Break
10:45 a.m. Sustainability in the Energy Evolution

  • Gillian Bauer, Director, Global Sustainability Track and Executive Assistant to the Clark School of Environment and Sustainability, WCU (moderator)
  • Sarah Sandberg, Head of Sustainability and External Affairs, PDC Energy Inc.
  • John Messner, Commissioner, Colorado Energy & Carbon Management Commission
  • Diego Plata, Mayor, City of Gunnison and Corporate Sustainability Analyst, Stantec

This panel will discuss sustainability in the energy evolution from the corporate, state government, and community perspectives, with a focus on stakeholder management and translating concept into action for the energy industry and communities. Panelists will collaboratively explore multiple perspectives on sustainability, demonstrating the complexities and nuances of stakeholder management, the importance of defined measurement tools and metrics, and practical, effective ways of ensuring sustainability in the energy evolution. Panelists will highlight key sustainability successes for their organization and challenges and opportunities for the future.

11:45 a.m. Ensuring Just Transitions

  • Emily Artale, Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering, WCU-CU Partnership Program (moderator)
  • Annie Beall, Climate-Ready Buildings Lead Building Decarbonization Team, Colorado Energy Office
  • Luke Ilderton, Deputy Director, Energy Outreach Colorado
  • Derrick Watchman, MBA,President, Sagebrush Hill Group LLC

This panel will address just transitions and related issues in the energy evolution, exploring a variety of perspectives from individuals, organizations, and communities that are actively working towards protecting people and ensuring ensuring that the production and consumption of energy is fair and just for all. This panel will highlight the importance, complexities, and nuances of ensuring just transitions across a variety of communities through multiple perspectives and will openly discuss problems of the past, present and future with a solutions-oriented look towards the future.

1:00 p.m. Lunch (held in University Center Ballroom)

Optional tour of the Rady Building Geothermal Energy System

1:30 p.m. Utilities: Delivering Reliable, Accessible, Affordable, Clean Energy Across our Delicate System

  • Gary Scott Steffens,  Adjunct Lecturer in Energy Management, WCU (moderator)
  • Kent Singer, Executive Director, Colorado Rural Electric Association
  • Jessica Kelleher, Manager of Commercialization, Xcel Energy
  • Drew Bolin, Director of Strategic Communications, Colorado Public Utilities Commission

This panel will discuss the challenges and opportunities in delivering reliable, accessible, affordable, clean energy across our delicate energy infrastructure to all from a variety of perspectives including the public utility, rural co-op, and consumer standpoints. Panelists will shed light on the complexities of competing stakeholder needs and evolving resource portfolios, highlighting the challenges and opportunities for adding renewable energy capacity to existing resource portfolios.

2:30 p.m. GCEA: Powering Possibilities

  • Mike McBride, Chief Executive Officer, Gunnison County Electric Association

Mike McBride will introduce Gunnison County’s local electricity cooperative, discussing GCEA’s unique structure, service territory, and stakeholder base. Mike will hit on GCEA’s most recent strategic plan and provide important insight on key points relating to GCEA’s challenges and opportunities in achieving strategic plan goals.

2:45 p.m. The Role of Critical Materials in the Energy Evolution

  • Roderick G. Eggert, Viola Vestal Coulter Foundation Chair in Mineral Economics, Colorado School of Mines and Deputy Director, Critical Materials Institute

Rod Eggert will introduce the role of critical materials in the energy evolution, discussing why critical minerals and materials are needed in energy transitions, what critical minerals and materials are needed in our ever-evolving energy landscape, and where critical minerals and materials are located. Rod will discuss current trends in mineral production and manufacturing, noting models and scenarios for the future. This speaker will highlight both the challenges & opportunities for critical materials in meeting current policy goals.

3:30 p.m. Success Story: Leveraging Synergies

  • Dr. Brad Burton, Rady Chair in Petroleum Geology, WCU (facilitator)
  • Jake Jones, Executive Director, Crested Butte Land Trust

Jake Jones will share the story of the molybdenum mine owned by Freeport McMoran on Red Lady Mountain (Mt Emmons) in Crested Butte. Jake will explain how a local conservation organization, the federal government, and a publicly traded, global mining company recently came to a creative agreement to transact land title rights in an unprecedented, multi-party transaction that protects stakeholders and valuable land resources. In this cross-sector collaboration success story, seemingly competing interests worked together to find points of alignment and consolidate acreage ownership in a way that protects our natural resources while addressing industry needs.

3:50 p.m. Break
4:00 p.m. Technology as a Driver of Change

  • Dr. Elizabeth Petrie, Moncrief Chair in Petroleum Geology, WCU (moderator)
  • Sarah Derdowski, Wells Fargo Innovation and Incubator (IN2) Program Manager, National Renewable Energy Lab
  • Malcolm Ross, Strategic Advisor, Eavor Technologies Black Swan Detector and Adjunct Faculty and Lecturer, Rice University
  • Kenneth (Xerxes) Steirer, Research Associate Professor, Colorado School of Mines, Sustainability Board Chair, City of Edgewater, and Owner, Just Heat Pumps LLC

This panel will discuss the importance of technology as a driver of change in the energy evolution. Panelists will discuss the role their various sector(s) play in technology investment, research, development, commercialization, and deployment. Panelists will discuss some of the current projects within their sectors, recent successes and failures, and the real limitations, challenges, and opportunities for both new and existing technologies. Panelists will provide an exciting glimpse into the invaluable projects that various key sectors are working on to realize current policy goals.

5:00 p.m. Event Wrap-Up

Get Involved

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Energy Elevated Student Infographic Challenge

Create a one-page infographic that captures the key elements of our energy evolution. The infographic should highlight the complexity of our energy evolution while identifying the key players or concepts involved in achieving those goals. This should display your recommended goals for the energy future, for example “clean energy for all” “carbon-free” or “reliable, affordable, clean energy for all.”

Your infographic should identify the key sectors, industries, or tools that you deem as essential to achieving those goals, such as: government, industry, communities, consumers, academia, science, technology, policy, regulation, financial investment, etc.

This challenge should be solutions-oriented with a look to the future. Submissions may be made by an individual or a team. You may use any platform you wish to create the infographic.

Submission judging will be anonymous. Individuals and teams should not display their name(s) anywhere on the infographic. Email submissions as an attachment using a .png or .pdf file type to energymangement@western.edu by 10/13/23.

Winner & finalists will receive a cash prize and their submissions will be displayed at Western’s 2023 Energy Elevated Forum on 11/8/23.

Learn More

Have questions about the Inaugural Western Energy Forum? Contact the Director of the Energy Management Program at Western, Jessica Laramie, for more information jlaramie@western.edu.

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