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About 500 people attended UT Energy Week 2018, an annual exploration of topical energy issues facing society sponsored by the University of Texas at Austin.

The conference, now in its fourth year, brought together experts from industry, academia, government and regulatory agencies, and non-profit organizations to explore the latest trends, new technologies, and pressing challenges in the world of energy.

The event, held Jan. 29 – Feb 2, 2018 on the UT Austin campus, was hosted by the Energy Institute, the KBH Center for Energy, Law & Business, and two student-run organizations – the Longhorn Energy Club and the Texas Journal of Oil, Gas, and Energy Law – along with support from schools and colleges across the UT Austin campus engaged in energy-related research.

UT Energy Week 2018 featured a variety of presentations and panel discussions on topics ranging from large-scale utility storage and the electric grid of the future to energy geopolitics and innovative changes in the transportation sector. For more, view the conference program and a list of speakers and presentations.

The event provides an opportunity for experts representing varying perspectives to share their insights in an informal setting, said Energy Institute Director Thomas F. Edgar.

“The program for this year’s conference covered a wide range of energy sources, reflecting the need to have a balanced energy portfolio,” Edgar noted.

John Adamo, president of the Longhorn Energy Club, said UT Energy Week gives students an opportunity to learn first-hand from the real-world experiences of energy experts.

“The conference also allows students to showcase their research and obtain valuable feedback on their work,” Adamo added.

On Tuesday, Jan. 30, a panel of experts examined challenges facing the integration of ridesharing services, self-driving cars and electric vehicles; another panel discussed the market dynamics behind a tipping point for mass adoption of electric cars.

Rob Spillar, Director of the City of Austin’s Transportation Department, discussed formation of a “Smart Mobility Roadmap” the City has undertaken with the Capital Transportation Authority.

The multi-phase plan envisions an integration of converging technologies and services, including electric and autonomous vehicles and ridesharing services. The goal is to reduce congestion on area roadways, lower greenhouse gasses, and decrease overall energy consumption.

“Our whole study is to make people better consumers of mobility,” Spillar said.

Younger residents are particularly good targets for initiatives aimed at advancing usage of shared vehicles, he said, noting that many Millennials see car ownership “as a burden, more than a benefit.”

On Wednesday, Jan. 31, panelists examined natural gas’ future as a global commodity, innovation in the oil and gas industry, and evolving energy geopolitics.

The day began with a keynote address from Tom Schuessler, president of ExxonMobil’s Upstream Research Company.

Schuessler, a UT Austin alum, discussed what he described as the corporation’s “grand challenge” of providing energy to meet the world’s needs in an environmentally responsible manner that reduces air pollution and the effects of climate change. The company has invested $8 billion in technologies designed to lower carbon emissions, Schuessler noted, including projects exploring next-generation biofuels, carbon capture and sequestration, and carbonate fuel cells.

ExxonMobil has formed relationships with several top universities, including UT Austin, to advance cutting-edge scientific research. One piece of advice Schuessler had for students in the audience was to travel as much as possible.

“Those who understand the broader world have an advantage over those who don’t,” he said.

UT Energy Week also featured a student research poster contest and several affiliated events, including two competitions aimed at young energy entrepreneurs hosted by Energy Olympiad.