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Renewable energy advisor shares his thoughts on UH and the future of energy education

09/26/2017 | By Claire Andersen

David Ramm, leader and contributor in the renewable energy industry, is one of the 21 industry executives who serve on President Khator’s Energy Advisory Board (EAB). Having been both an active member and chairman during his time on the board, Ramm is familiar with the president's energy goals and equipped to guide the university to new heights.

Ramm is the CEO of BrightSource Energy Inc., a leading provider of concentrating solar thermal technology, as well as the managing partner of Dymar Development LLC, a Houston-based energy development and consulting company. Ramm holds a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point, a M.S. in management from MIT and an MBA from Long Island University.

UH Energy: What are your goals for the Energy Advisory Board? 

David Ramm: We want to make UH synonymous with energy education, research and thought leadership. In doing so, we want to make sure that the university doesn’t put itself in a corner where it wishes it had been more open to how the energy world might look – we want it to have clear view of the past, have a strong current focus and be actively thinking about the future. Ramanan assumed the campus energy leadership position during the time I was chairman and we were a really good team for reshaping and making the EAB an effective committee that can define and carry out Chancellor Khator’s vision of the energy university.

UHE: What do you think is UH’s potential in the energy world?

DR: I think there’s no reason for it not to grab the leadership role. We have all the advantages of being in Houston. Just like a lot of other things that have happened over the last five to seven years at UH, I think the potential is being realized. But it can’t happen overnight. As the university gains stature and as it pushes its energy platform, there’s no reason why it can’t be the No. 1 energy university.

UHE: What more can UH do to propel itself forward in the energy realm?

DR: You’ll hear me focus on the ‘consistency’- a lot of people think that’s another word for mediocrity, but it’s not. In order to be effective we have to be consistent. Some of the things that have been started need time to mature so that they get to a wider audience and are more and more respected. So, time will cure some things; time with consistent themes that get broadly communicated.

UHE: For those who aren’t part of the energy world, why is energy important?

DR: I think there’s more visibility now, but I think most people don’t fundamentally understand the energy equation. As long as the electricity is running to their houses, as long as there’s gasoline to fill up their cars, people don’t think too much about it. That speaks volumes to the reliability and the investment in our energy infrastructure in this country. But first we have to take a more global view because energy is not a given in most places in the world. If we created a world of equal energy, a lot of the problems we have today would go away. The second thing is that energy as we know it has fundamentally been at a 100-year standstill, but the world is changing now. We’re in this age when people want more energy but also want cleaner energy production and the industry is changing to accommodate those goals. There is no way to make wholesale changes overnight – but no doubt we are entering a new age of energy.

UHE: What responsibilities do young professionals have in ensuring a positive future for the energy industry?

DR: When people say they’re joining the energy industry, there are so many ways they can join it. The world demands energy, and the current best way to deliver that energy is through sources that we’ve long known, long relied on and will need for the foreseeable future. There is plenty of room for interested young and talented professionals. I would say that people who are trying to make a difference by participating in the new should gravitate towards clean energy production technologies, energy storage, energy efficiency and electric vehicles. Those are all paths of change with rapid growth potential and a chance to help shape the future of the industry.