Stanford Global Energy Dialogues will examine COVID-19’s effects on the future of energy

Global thought leaders will examine the future of energy in the new Stanford Global Energy Dialogues series. Topics will include energy’s role in the economic recovery from COVID-19, decarbonization and energy access for all.

Stanford University’s Precourt Institute for Energy will launch a series of live interviews with global thought leaders on the future of energy every other Tuesday starting June 9.

Former U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz will be the Global Energy Dialogues’ first guest on June 9. (Image credit: Bryce Vickmark)

The first three guests will be Ernest Moniz on June 9, Steven Chu on June 23, and Charles “Chad” Holliday on July 7. Moniz, an emeritus professor of physics and engineering at MIT, was the 13th U.S. secretary of energy from 2013 to 2017. Chu, a professor of physics and of molecular and cellular physiology at Stanford, was the 12th U.S. secretary of energy from 2009 to 2013. Holliday is chair of the board of directors of Royal Dutch Shell, former chief executive officer of DuPont, as well as former chair of Bank of America Corp. and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

The Global Energy Dialogues will focus on how the energy sector can help the world recover from the economic crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Arun Majumdar and Sally Benson, co-directors of Stanford’s Precourt Institute for Energy. Benson and Majumdar will together interview Moniz and conduct many of the subsequent interviews.

“While the short-term health and economic challenges of COVID must be addressed immediately, it would be prudent to also tackle mid- to long-term issues that are likely to remain unchanged,” said Majumdar. “Energy’s environmental impacts must be reduced with fierce urgency to prevent their adverse impacts on human life and our global economy, not unlike COVID-19. Addressing this dual challenge of energy access and environmental impact is the defining issue of the 21st century.”

Many of the guests were scheduled to speak at Stanford’s Global Energy Forum in May, but that conference has been postponed due to the pandemic. The new series will be free and open to the public online. Registration is required.

The discussions will address recovering from the pandemic while making our energy systems sustainable, secure and affordable for everyone, said Benson.

“There seems to be a growing consensus that COVID-19 is such a shock to the world that we may well be entering a new and, as yet, undefined normal,” said Benson. “This may offer a rare opportunity to rethink our approach to the dual challenge of making modern energy accessible to everyone while greatly reducing energy’s environmental impact.”

Some of the questions the new series hopes to answer include: How can we recover from such an economic crisis and how long will it take? Since energy use is the foundation of all modern economies, can the energy sector play a role in this recovery process and, if so, how? What will the new normal be, and what steps should we take now to prepare ourselves for this new future? Are there lessons from history from past crises that can inform us now? Will some of the current changes, for example, the increased use of digital technology, become somewhat permanent, and if so, what effect will that have on the energy sector?

The live interviews, which will be webcast usually from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. PST, will also be recorded and posted online for future viewing. The interviews will be conducted by Stanford faculty, staff or a member of Precourt Institute’s advisory council. The interviews will also involve a discussion with Stanford students. Viewers can ask questions, but the questions will be filtered and managed by a team before they are put forward to the session moderator.

The Global Energy Dialogues are funded by the Stanford Global Energy Forum.