Dr Matthew Hannon
Chancellor’s Fellow, Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship, University of Strathclyde,
BIEE 2018 Conference Committee Member
Every two years the BIEE holds its research conference at the University of Oxford. This year’s conference takes place on September 18-19th 2018 and the conference theme is Consumers at the Heart of the Energy System? ( the question mark is deliberate). It considers how consumers’ relationship with energy is changing, how this might evolve in the future, and what can be learnt from the experiences of other countries and market sectors. It will assess what consumers stand to gain or lose from playing a more active role in the energy system, and how far they will actually engage.
Firstly BIEE conferences have long been acknowledged for the high quality of speakers. For instance, in 2016 we had Edward Davey, former Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change, delivering an highly entertaining and informative after-dinner speech in the Great Hall of St John’s College, Oxford. This year we have confirmed speakers such as Dermot Nolan CEO OFGEM, Lawrence Orsini, Founder LO3 Energy, Basil Scarsella, CEO UK Power Networks, and Jenni Saunders ex NEA with many more to come.
The conference also offers a friendly but challenging environment to discuss pressing energy issues and meet like-minded stakeholders from energy industry, finance, academia and government. In the words of Prof. Matthew Leach 2016 chair the conference offers a unique opportunity for this broad coalition of stakeholders to ‘learn from each other, spark off each other and build new networks to help drive the energy sector forward’.
I firmly believe the conference strikes the perfect balance in terms of size: large enough to ensure the right people are there but intimate enough that you can easily connect with influential people over a coffee or a drink. As an academic, BIEE has afforded me the opportunity to discuss my research with former energy ministers, CEOs of energy utilities and senior civil servants, in turn opening up new opportunities for collaboration. You simply don’t get these opportunities every day and as such BIEE is always the first conference in my diary.
This year’s two day conference programme includes three plenary sessions with high profile guest speakers, eight paper sessions showcasing the latest research, policy and industry analysis and at least four ‘dialogue’ sessions for discussion and debate of specific topic areas, (a popular format introduced in 2016). In addition there will be a dedicated session for student contributions. New for 2018, we will be hosting a ‘Women in Energy’ session where leading women from the energy sector will discuss their experiences. The conference is also moving from its old home at St. John’s College to the brand-new Blavatnik School of Government, with the traditional three-course dinner being hosted by St Anne’s College.
The BIEE have recently announced their Call for Papers to academics, professionals and practitioners in the policy, industry, financial, analyst, consulting and media communities to submit their proposals for an opportunity to speak in the conference parallel sessions and are inviting submissions for paper presentations dialogue sessions and student ‘pitches’. The deadline for submissions is March 1st 2018. If you are successful you will be invited to submit a full paper and deliver a 20 minute presentation, followed by Q&A.
If you are a PhD or MSc student then you may wish to submit a proposal to BIEE’s ‘Student Pitches’, where students will provide a short presentation of their research topic. At the end of students’ pitches a themed discussion will follow between both students and established academics. This is an excellent platform to share your research, get expert feedback and meet other like-minded researchers at a similar stage of their career. I first attended BIEE in 2010 as a PhD and I am still in close contact with the people I met then almost 10 year later.
Following on from the great success of last year BIEE is also welcoming submissions for Dialogue Sessions. Essentially these offer a less formal platform to stimulate more organic discussions around broader energy economic and policy issues than the paper sessions. They are typically centred around a provocative or pressing question, such as ‘Can gas provide a bridge to a low carbon future?’. They last approximately 90 minutes and in involve 3 to 5 panellists each providing a five-minute commentary on that question (without slides). Discussion is then invited from the floor and the sessions end with a brief summing up from each of the panellists (10 mins total).
In 2016 I submitted a proposal titled ‘Government policy to stimulate sustainable energy innovation’. This session brought together experts from academia, government and industry to discuss how government policy could best facilitate technology and business model innovation capable of supplying sustainable, low-cost and secure energy to UK consumers. I also attended other dialogue sessions that examined issues such as ‘Does it matters who owns the energy system?’, ‘What lessons could the rest of the UK learn from energy innovations in Scotland’ and ‘How many mathematical models do we need to inform energy decision making?’. All sessions were highly thought-provoking and the format offered an exciting new dimension to BIEE conferences in previous years, which has been retained for 2018.
Proposals for these sessions should expand upon the dialogue theme, highlighting its relevance to the overall conference theme and its relevance to ongoing energy policy debates, emphasising why the subject is likely to spark interesting debate. The proposals should also identify which panel members are expected to contribute, highlighting the blend of viewpoints and expertise they will offer. Panel member suggestions are not binding but the proposer should have some confidence they are willing and able to participate.
On behalf of the conference committee I hope you are able to take part in what will undoubtedly be another exciting BIEE conference this year and help inform the energy policy debate both in the UK and beyond. Remember the deadline is 1st March for any submissions and should you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact us on Conference@biee.org and follow us on Twitter @BIEE10 for ongoing updates. I hope to see you there.