McMaster Energy Conference



The McMaster Energy Conference is the culminating event of Energy Week, an annual exploration into Canada’s energy systems hosted by students from the McMaster Energy Association. The event combines perspectives from industry, academia, government, communities and students to help shape Canada’s sustainable energy future. It aims to focus on discussions about climate change while touching upon the social, economic and technical aspects of energy. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s event was cancelled. However, last year’s conference, which took place in March 2019, was a massive success. Activities included discussions and lectures about the role that climate change will play in progressing energy system technology and the move towards carbon neutrality, the financial advantages of renewable energy solutions and nuclear innovation and the road to small modular reactors. The event also included a tour of the McMaster Institute of Energy Studies’ thermal grid and two case competitions organized by Ernst & amp; Young and Nexus. Evidently, a very wide range of topics were explored! A particularly noteworthy subject that was discussed was the application of blockchain technology in energy systems. Blockchain is a decentralized and distributed ledger or ‘cheque book’ that records data and makes it available to all users. As was explored in the workshop hosted by Alectra, the energy sector is a topical area of application for blockchain right now because it adds transparency to transactions. One of the largest issues with the energy sector globally is that it is controlled by a relatively small number of corporations. This leads to raised prices and distrustful consumers. Society’s response has been prosumers, or the combination of consumer and producer, i.e. people who generate and consume their own electricity through renewables and sell any excess. Blockchain allows prosumers to be matched with other consumers looking to buy energy and facilitates transactions ‘publicly’ and therefore accountably. Another interesting application of blockchain is that if it were used by utilities, it could show consumers previous usage reports across any geography or time scale. This way, citizens wouldn’t have to trust a company’s estimates, increasing transparency and trust. During this workshop, Alectra showed students their version of the blockchain-based transactive energy model and how it works. A unique and compelling aspect of this conference is how well its organizers bring together a very broad range of perspectives. The speakers hosting each talk in 2019, and the ones that were poised for 2020, varied significantly in background, providing diverse opinions and expertise. The caliber of presenters is also significant and impressive. Some presenters are university professors or foundation researchers. Others are industry leaders working for consulting firms or energy companies. This conference is an amazing opportunity to hear from experts of numerous fields. And there’s another big plus: the networking event at the end of the conference, where students can mingle with these industry professionals, CEO’s and academics. Whether