Energy giants advise research
UH President Renu Khator’s proposed Energy Initiative Plan promotes UH’s goal to become the top energy university.
Khator selected a 10-member advisory board for her proposed Energy Initiative research plan and park.
‘We need support from the community and industry,’ Khator said in an e-mail. ‘The advisory board members have a big-picture understanding of the global energy industry: discovery, development, delivery, conservation, research and the future outlook for the industry.’
The advisory board, led by Houston energy industries such as Greater Houston Partnership, Citizens for Affordable Energy, Exxon Mobil and Shell, will meet quarterly to discuss strategic directions for the progression of the research program.
‘Each member of the board brings unique skills and knowledge,’ Greater Houston Partnership Energy CEO John Hofmeister said. ‘We (assembled) a diverse and well-positioned group to lend expertise to President Khator’s leadership.’
Construction of the UH Research Park began in April 2009, and is currently being used by Schlumberger offices. UH plans to open wind and solar energy institutes for research.
There is not much space for this endeavor, but Khator believes the school must grow so UH can become the top energy university.
With more than 36,000 students enrolled in 2008, Khator has applied for help from the American Recovery and Reinvestments plan signed by President Barack Obama.
Khator hopes to receive an estimated $44 million in stimulus funds and $25 million for a National Offshore Wind Energy Center to aid development of the research park.
‘We want to engage even more students in the coming years, both in the classroom and in the laboratory,’ Khator said. ‘We also are working to build up the energy research enterprise. A lot goes into keeping the world powered, and UH has diverse expertise.’
With the energy research park located one mile from campus off the Gulf Freeway, many believe the close proximity to downtown will advance the initiative process.
‘The University is located in the energy capital of the world,’ Khator said. ‘We are uniquely positioned to strengthen and expand on our many meaningful partnerships with major players in the energy industry.’
Tim Cejka, president of Exxon Mobil Exploration Company, said he believes the strong relationship with energy companies in Houston will help in the advancement of Khator’s plan.
‘Houston is the energy capital of the world,’ Cejka said. ‘There are tremendous synergies that can be gained from our close proximity.’
Despite the University’s location to the leading energy capital, Jon Soderstrom, managing director of the office of cooperative research at Yale University, said he doesn’t see the initiative’s appeal in a recent Bloomberg Press article.
Soderstrom also said UH will need more than a good location to become an energy powerhouse.
‘Most energy research is dominated by national laboratories run by the Department of Energy.’ Soderstrom said in the Bloomberg article. They are billions of dollars. With a university, what can they bring to the party?’
Hofmeister said UH has a long way to go, but he does not agree with Soderstrom’s opinion.
‘We all start somewhere. However, nothing stands in our way,’ Hofmeister said. ‘There are no obstacles for UH to become world-renowned.’
An advisory board meeting is planned for October 28, but Hofmeister said there is no planned agenda at the moment.
Khator said the next step in UH’s growth is taking action.
‘We are very pleased the board has committed to help us achieve our goals,’ Khator said. ‘We will work at the state, federal and local levels toward broadening our use of existing resources, new energy sources, shaping business practices and public policy to be the energy university that leads Houston to a better, brighter and greener future.’