International and local leaders in sustainable energy gathered Thursday at the Darden School of Business to discuss innovative and effective ways to foster sustainability in local communities. The event, titled “Sustainable Ways to Community Prosperity,” brought in speakers from The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), the embassies of Denmark and Germany, major international corporations, as well as many University representatives.
The first panel discussion focused on global efforts in sustainability, featuring TIME magazine’s Hero of the Environment 2008 Søren Hermansen and other notable energy leaders from Germany and Denmark. Hermansen shared the achievement of Denmark’s island of Samsø in becoming completely energy-efficient in less than a decade.
The discussion shifted from a global to local focus as Virginia representatives comprised the second panel, including distinguished University of Virginia Professor of Environmental Law, Jonathan Cannon. The panelists discussed existing sustainability initiatives and research taking place in the Charlottesville community such as Charlottesville’s Better Business Challenge and LEAP (Local Energy Alliance Program). The panel also featured Sandy Reisky de Dubnic (McIntire ’88), who is currently CEO of Apex Wind Energy, Inc. He has started five renewable energy businesses in the Charlottesville area. Two have been purchased by Fortune 500 companies and the other three employ over 176 people.
Vice Admiral and President of ACORE Dennis McGinn’s keynote address focused on the strong connection between energy and national security. He emphasized the United State’s “addiction to oil” and the golden opportunities for improvement. McGinn noted, “We will change, but it’s a matter of timing. The longer we wait, the further we fall behind.” When asked the greatest challenge he faces, McGinn was quick to point to the politicization of energy, urging the need for energy to be thought of less in a political framework, and more in a sense of individual duty.
The conference closed with a business panel led by Associate Dean and Executive Director of the Batten Institute Michael Lenox. Speakers included representatives from BMW and Volkswagen as they shared their corporations’ green projects ranging from development of electrical cars to carpooling systems for their employees. The third panelist, a representative from the world’s cleanest capitalism leader – Novo Nordisk – emphasized the need to integrate the economic, social, and environment responsibilities of a business.
The Darden School seeks to apply this unique opportunity and continue fostering sustainability and renewable energy efforts in both the University and the larger Charlottesville community.