Thought Leaders: Talking climate, science and tech

Western New York Thought Leaders working on climate change issues.

BY  DAN MINER Republished from Buffalo Business First

Release date: February 28, 2020

Things are quickly changing at the vast intersection of climate science, energy technology and government laws and policies.

A recent roundtable discussion in Buffalo highlighted that evolution. The question is whether they’re changing fast enough.

“Whether it’s permafrost in the arctic or ocean acidification, the prioritization of making these technologies work and scale over the next decade is one of the most important things we can do,” said Ryan McPherson, the University at Buffalo’s chief sustainability officer.

McPherson’s job highlights that change. He is spearheading UB’s efforts to be climate neutral by 2030. By the end of this year, UB will have increased the amount of solar electricity generated on campus by 15 times its current levels, part of a bigger project with SUNY Buffalo State, SUNY Erie, the City of Buffalo and Erie County.

The panel was part of Business First’s Thought Leaders Discussion Series, hosted by Hodgson Russ LLP at its downtown headquarters. Other participants included Robert Anstey, CEO of Buffalo-based ultracapacitor startup Graphenix Development; Jon Williams, CEO of lithium-ion battery startup Viridi Parente; and Hodgson Russ attorneys Mila Buckner and Peter Ross.

Anstey said his ultracapacitor technology – which is manufactured at the Eastman Business Park in Rochester – proposes a high-efficiency energy source that could power entire fleets of municipal buses. But he said the complicated sales cycle and vast competition from heavily subsidized research in China makes his mission a heavily competitive one.

“I’m optimistic, but it’s going to be a lot of hard work and a lot of perseverance to get through there,” Anstey said.

Williams, whose company has developed battery-storage technology for different uses, said Viridi Parente was started because of demand by end-users of his other company, OSC Manufacturing and Equipment Services.

Contractors who have long worked with diesel equipment wanted everything from vehicles to industrial lighting powered by lithium-ion batteries. The solution – heavily-protected battery packs– can be used to replace everything from equipment drive trains to electricity storage at commercial buildings.

Williams said his core thesis about renewable technology is that it must be more financially competitive than fossil-fuel alternatives. That, he said, is what will drive widespread adoption throughout the world.

“If we fix this economically, if we come up with a better and more cost- effective solution, the fossil-fuel industry goes away,” Williams said. “We can bring about those changes through market solutions.”

Closer Look:

Thought Leaders is an ongoing series of discussions with Western New York business leaders and attorneys at Hodgson Russ LLP.

Throughout the year, leaders in diverse industries meet for a roundtable discussion moderated by Business First journalists. Excerpts from the conversation are published after the roundtable.

Discussions are held in the law firm’s Pearl Street offices in Buffalo.

global goals.

Sustainable Development Goals:

8. Decent work & economic growth: Promoting equitable and sustainable economic growth that offers dynamic and valuable jobs

13. Climate action: Taking steps to combat climate change and its impacts