Team Pennsylvania partnered with Penn State University and Shell USA to organize a statewide energy summit in State College, convening key stakeholders to highlight the efforts to advance Pennsylvania’s commitment to significant decarbonization by 2050.

The following article is reprinted courtesy of PSU.EDU

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — To answer former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s call for an 80% cut to carbon emissions in the commonwealth by 2050, more than 100 stakeholders from across academia, government, industry and nonprofit sectors convened at Penn State on Oct. 10. The all-day summit, dubbed SPARK 2050, focused on building and communicating an inclusive, cohesive vision for the Pennsylvania energy community.

In opening remarks, Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi spoke to the collaboration underpinning the efforts to drive energy transformation to benefit the commonwealth and why Penn State is positioned well to serve as a partner and host.

“This is work that Penn State is committed to — even within our operations — from the success of our Sustainable Labs Program in making our research more sustainable and energy efficient, to our commitment to decarbonization and achieving 100% greenhouse gas emissions reductions by 2035,” Bendapudi said. “The humility of a land-grant university like Penn State is that we never think we can go it alone. We work alongside you, alongside our partners. This is our strength.”

The audience included participants in the Pennsylvania Energy Horizons Cross-Sector Collaborative, a partnership of more than 50 organizations focused on reducing greenhouse emissions while also accelerating economic growth. The Team Pennsylvania Foundation (Team PA), a public-private partnership co-chaired by the sitting governor — currently Gov. Josh Shapiro — and a private sector leader that convenes cross-sector consortiums aiming to advance transformative economic opportunities, coordinates the collaborative. Abby Smith, President & CEO of Team PA, gave the keynote address.

“Accelerating economic growth through public-private partnership demands that we bring a lot of different voices into the room and determine a North Star to guide our efforts,” Smith said. “Today is about creating that North Star in energy.”

Following the keynote, Andrey Shuvalov, vice president of energy transition at Shell, provided comments on the work and its connection to Penn State. He pointed to this year’s homecoming theme of “Illuminate the Lion Within” to illustrate individual commitment to the larger effort.

“What can we do to illuminate our lions within and make a difference for energy transformation?” Shuvalov asked. “I really hope today that you can channel your inner lion and contribute to great discussions that will have impact for years to come.”

Following a viewing of “Reaching Across the Climate Aisle,” a short film produced by Rational Middle Media Group and Shell to showcase and encourage further bipartisan cooperation to reach net-zero carbon emissions, Rational Media founder Gregory Kallenberg moderated a plenary session titled “Plenary Session: Challenges and Opportunities for PA’s Energy Transformation.” Panelists included Lara Fowler, Penn State’s chief sustainability officer; Hilary Mercer, senior vice president for Shell Polymers Monaca; and John Walliser, senior vice president for legal and government affairs for the Pennsylvania Environmental Council.

“It’s really about the connections and thinking about how we can create that future … right here in Pennsylvania,” Kallenberg said when introducing the film. “This is the place where the energy transformation starts, where it evolves and, hopefully, where it becomes a bellwether for the rest of the country and the world.”

A running theme of the panel was that energy transformation is not a new enterprise, but the acceleration of both the rate at which technology is evolving and the rate at which innovative solutions are needed is a unique challenge. According to Fowler, who also is a teaching professor of law and director of Penn State Sustainability, one of the issues is that while significant funding is available from various sponsors to support projects, there is little focus on the process of how those projects work together to advance the common goal.

“I’ve worked in this research space for 30 years, and I’ve never seen this amount of funding,” Fowler said during the panel. “Thinking from our role as a University and in partnership with the state, how do we track as much of that money as possible and find the traction to work with the multiple governments at every level? … We aren’t just bringing research to the people but working with people to apply the research … to support healthy and robust communities.”

Summit attendees broke into sessions to discuss five pillars — mapping, enabling, financing, building and incentivizing — designed to support the vision for Pennsylvania’s energy future. The work continued into the afternoon and was followed by a panel titled “The Path Forward: Scenarios, Signposts and Roadmaps.” The panel featured Bruce Logan, director of the Penn State Institute of Energy and the Environment; Rebecca Schulz, head of the U.S. energy transition portfolio for Shell USA; Martin Williams, the national coordinator of state legislative affairs for the Brotherhood of Boilermakers; and Stu Bresler, senior vice president of market services for PJM Interconnection.

After a fireside chat with Smith and Rick Siger, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, the event concluded with a recap of the day’s progress and a nod to future plans. These include laying the groundwork for Energy Scenarios 2.0 — the second iteration of modeling how Pennsylvania’s energy system may evolve in the coming decades and how various decisions may impact residents. The work is planned to begin in early 2024.

“Penn State faculty, staff and students have expertise in many facets of energy — and are ready [and] willing to engage in challenging conversations,” Fowler said. “We have convened conversations such as this one before, and welcome the chance to really work through the hard questions.”