Prof. Jonas Puck on the highlights of 10 years MBA Energy Management
This year, the WU Executive Academy's MBA Energy Management celebrates its 10th anniversary. Many students from all over the world have graduated from this MBA program built around the specific needs and requirements of the energy industry. In the course of their training, they have learned a lot: about energy markets, renewable energies, analyses and business strategies with a bright future.
Frequently, it's not the facts and figures that stay in our minds but the personal, unexpected and emotional moments we experience. The academic director of the program, Prof. Jonas Puck, recalls the 10 greatest moments that the MBA Energy Management's study trips, known as international residencies, held in store.
Succeeding in getting Adnan Shihab-Eldin on board as a member of the MBA Energy Management’s advisory board ten years ago, was a great privilege. Adnan Shihab-Eldin had previously served as the secretary-general of OPEC. Attending class and being able to personally interact with, and learn from, one of the world's most influential people was a special experience for program participants. Adnan is an impressive personality and always treats students as equal partners when he exchanges views and opinions with them. 10 years on, he still belongs to the faculty of the MBA Energy Management.
As part of our international residencies in the USA, we always go to the universities Berkeley and Stanford as well as to start-ups in Silicon Valley. What is particularly exciting is to see the contrasts and contradictions that exist between these three outstanding innovation hotspots: At Stanford, everything is clean and organized with utmost perfection and clarity. In Berkley, by contrast, you have homeless people hanging around in the vicinity of the campus, and things are generally a bit freaky and shabby, with roads in bad repair wherever you look. Nevertheless, the quality of the researchers working there is extremely high. And in Silicon Valley, we traveled to state-of-the-art building complexes and garages alike to meet young, innovative minds from all over the world and compare notes with them. It is great to learn so directly that there are so many different ways, environments and varieties of innovation.
Sitting on the beach of Ipanema with Ivan Sandrea, who, as the CEO of start-up company Sierra Oil & Gas, received one billion US dollars (!) in venture capital, and listening to him as he shared his vision of the future of the global energy market with program participants while sipping at his coconut was a very special moment indeed.
One of our trips abroad took us to Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, which was to become the biggest CO2-neutral ecocity. Its water supply system, for instance, had been designed to be based on solar-powered desalination plants. Masdar City was home to 47,500 people and 1,500 organizations, including the International Renewable Energy Agency. Eventually, funding problems resulted in the postponement of further construction work for the time being. But we were equally surprised and impressed by the sheer scope and vision of this project in an area dominated by oil production.
We also got behind the scenes of a wind turbine in Bruck an der Leitha in Lower Austria, 40 km from Vienna. Climbing up the spiral staircase of the turbine made us literally “reach new heights”. Some 100 meters above the ground, we then enjoyed the magnificent view to Vienna.
A real highlight was when Bill Arnold, the former energy adviser of U.S. President George Bush Sr., invited us to a football match of the Houston Rice Owls. At Rice Stadium, John F. Kennedy delivered his famous 1962 speech in which he talked about his vision of sending a man to the moon by the end of the decade. Bill is an open person who takes photos of rugby games and enjoys showing them to others. He organized everything for us, including free tickets.
With a group of 30 students, we once traveled to Silicon Valley to visit Bidgley, a startup that uses algorithms to accurately predict the electricity consumption of households. There were seven employees working on their projects in cramped conditions - plus our 30 students. But you hardly noticed the crowdedness because the euphoria, the enthusiasm and the culture of innovation were simply overwhelming.
Once, a field trip to a U.S. firm in Houston was canceled at short notice. We asked the members of our advisory board if they had an idea what company to visit instead. Tim Duncan, CEO of Talos Energy, invited us to his corporate headquarters high up in a skyscraper and talked very personally about his life as a CEO and his business strategy. Although Tim has an extremely busy schedule, he spent an hour with us, which was an extremely enriching experience.
The MBA Energy Management will next start in October 2019. Classes will take place on a part-time basis in Vienna at the WU Executive Academy as well as in the USA at Rice University, the University of California and in Silicon Valley. To learn more, please click here.
With guest lecturer Christophe de Margerie, at the time CEO of Total S.A., an oil company employing some 100,000 people, program participants discussed the impact of renewable energies on existing business models. They asked him how he dealt with the fact that his company was very likely to lose its core business over the next few years. He said that, in principle, there was no shortage of natural resources - the core business area of Total, according to him. All that needed to be done, in his opinion, was to adapt existing business models, placing greater emphasis on solar and wind power. It was very exciting to see how radically different changing realities can be interpreted.
Our field trip to the Itaipu hydroelectric power plant on the Paraná River on the border between Brazil and Paraguay was very exciting as well: This incredible beauty of nature at the edge of the jungle and the surrounding waterfalls were amazing. Itaipu is the world's most powerful hydroelectric power plant. In 2016, it produced 103.1 million MWh - that would be enough to provide the city of Vienna with electricity for more than 3 months.