First-Time Conference Could Represent the Future of Energy

Author: David McMillin       

Photo by Blake Chorley

The inaugural edition of Energy Disruptors Unite in Calgary joined together leaders in oil and gas with the brightest minds in the renewable-energy industry. The initial success indicates that this event could be a driving force in solving the world’s biggest energy issues.

What will power the future? No, I’m not talking about trends in engagement or emerging technologies. I’m referring to the actual power sources of tomorrow. As cities like Chicago invest in electric transportation and major names like SoftBank commit billions of dollars to solar power development, it’s clear that disruption is driving a realignment in the energy economy. Oil and gas companies aren’t the only ones working to find their footing in a changing world, though. Communities with roots in traditional energy are also making big adjustments to prepare for the future.

All those changes inspired Graeme Edge, one of the founders of Calgary-based energy executive search firm McLaren Dion Edge, to do something he had never done before: Organize a conference. Edge worked with his wife Michelle and business partner Rachel Maxwell to develop Energy Disruptors Unite, a two-day conference on May 15 and 16 at the Big Four building in Calgary’s Stampede Park. They hired e=mc²events to create, manage, and produce the entire experience.

“What we know as Calgarians — our whole leadership team is from Calgary and grew up amongst oil and gas — is how changes to energy and the oil and gas industry have impacted us, our families, and our businesses,” Keri Miller, CSEP, partner and chief creative strategist at e=mc²events, told PCMA. “Energy Disruptors Unite was created alongside a massive provincial recession. While it seemed bold to some, to us locally, it seemed crazy and exciting. As innovators, we were very excited to be a part of this global movement, to create and produce something that will actually change the world.”

Rather than fearing disruption, the conference aimed to give the oil and gas professionals who call Calgary home a chance to connect with the brains behind the ideas that threaten traditional models. “At the heart of this, we’re trying to find some common ground between these different groups,” Edge told The Star in advance of the conference. “It’s the oil and gas community. It’s the renewable energy and clean-tech crowd. It’s the larger technology companies and the policy-makers as well.”

“We knew this would be thought-provoking content, and at the same time, we were all aware that the disruption we were asking attendees to be a part of would be uncomfortable,” Miller said. “We saw this as an opportunity to create an environment that spoke to human ingenuity and technology and placed a focus on the diverse delegate experience during the two days.”

Photo by Blake Chorley

That environment embraced fun and creativity with some elements that oil and gas industry executives most likely hadn’t enjoyed since their childhood days: teeter-totters and bean bag chairs. “There is a vulnerability and a sense of discomfort at laying down at a conference that we felt was important,” Miller said. “We wanted to avoid delivering the content to attendees in a plain, corporate approach. If we wanted to ignite change and encourage a movement, we needed to provide an experience that was creative and different.”

High-Level Conversations About a Low-Carbon Future

With a diverse speaker lineup that featured Sir Richard Branson, Suncor Energy President and CEO Steve Williams, Electric Vehicles Outlook Founder Roger Atkins, and a range of other perspectives, the program managed to present the energy industry in a new light.

“Energy Disruptors Unite did exactly what a conference should do: Challenge assumptions and create an environment where attendees can feel excited about the future,” Dave Sclanders, executive director at Meetings + Conventions Calgary, told PCMA. “As the world looks ahead to new energy sources, our community is helping lead the way forward.”

Energy Disruptors Unite won’t be the only event that brings the energy sector together in Calgary. In 2018, the city’s packed calendar includes the Global Petroleum Show, the International Pipeline Conference, Canadian Wind Energy Association, and Solar Canada. As attendees from around the world arrive in Alberta, they’ll encounter Calgary’s greatest natural resource: its citizens. “We’ve got a lot of talented people,” Edge said, “and always at the heart of any change is people.” (Click here to discover what sets Calgarians apart.)

e=mc²events will be partnering with the team from McLaren Dion Edge again in 2019 to produce the second year of Energy Disruptors Unite. The conference will be held Sept. 18–19, once again at the Big Four building in Stampede Park. More information and tickets can be found at energydisruptors.com/.

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