Energy Conference to Focus on Water Woes

When a group of Berkeley MBA students started brainstorming solutions to the world’s water needs that have the most potential for global good and earning power, they came up with this answer: saltwater desalination. To delve more deeply into the topic they made it the theme of this week’s Resources Roundtable conference on Dec. 2 and Dec. 3.

The conference, titled "Innovation in Desalination: An Answer to Our Water Woes?," is organized by the Berkeley Energy Resources Collaborative (BERC), a student-run, multidisciplinary campus organization. It will start with a screening of the film "Flow" on Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive, 2625 Durant Ave., Berkeley, followed by a post-movie BERC social mixer from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. at Henry’s, 2600 Durant Ave., Berkeley.

The conference will resume Friday, Dec. 3, at 1:30 p.m. for speakers and panel discussions at Banatao Auditorium in Sutardja Hall on the Berkeley campus.

Speakers and panelists at the conference Friday will include :

  • UC Berkeley professor Dan Kammen, who is also the World Bank chief technical specialist for renewable energy and energy efficiency
  • Amol Desphpande, a venture capital partner with Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers
  • Jared Huffman, California State Assembly chair of the Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife
  • Heather Cooley, senior research associate at the Pacific Institute

The student organizers pooled together their collective resources, networked with students from other departments at UC Berkeley, and collaborated with their counterparts in the Berkeley Energy and Resources Collaborative to organize their annual Resources Roundtable conference.

Nitin Agrawal, MBA 12, one of the organizers, acknowledges that desalination–a process by which the salt is removed from saltwater–has generated a debate between those who want to better manage the world’s freshwater resources and those who want to create new water supplies.

But “there’s a lot of business opportunity there,’’ Agrawal adds. Although historically energy- and capital-intensive, desalination also represents a $5 billion to $10 billion market that is poised to grow at 10 percent a year, based on industry experts, Agrawal points out.

The desalination conference is free. To register , visit

BERC also plans to organize another conference in the spring.