Boston University Expert to speak at ICASL National Conference

Wednesday, 13 October 2010 23:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

In an attempt to thrust business leaders and professionals to seize the opportunities and challenges in new Sri Lanka, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Sri Lanka will hold its 31st National Conference, on 28-30 October 2010 at Waters Edge, Battaramulla.

The conference will bring together the knowledge and expertise of six, high profile local and foreign speakers, and nearly 20 panellists who will shed light into ‘The World Sees Opportunity in Sri Lanka,’ the theme for this year’s conference.

The institute is honoured to have Prof. Nalin Kulatilaka, Wing Tat Lee Family Professor of Management and a Professor of Finance at the School of Management of Boston, who will enlighten the participants on ‘Opportunities and Challenges in the Green Economy’.

Prof. Kulatilaka, who serves as Co-Director of the Boston University’s Clean Energy and Environmental Sustainability Initiative (CEESI) and Research Director of Institute for Global Work (IGW), will emphasise why any successful economic growth strategy, including Sri Lanka’s post conflict development plans must include a vibrant and sustainable energy sector as one of its cornerstones.

Prof. Kulatilaka’s presentation will be followed by a discussion with an eminent panel including Ravi Fernando – CEO, the Sri Lanka Institute of Nano Technology; Uchitha De Zoysa – Chairman, Global Sustainability Solutions (GLOSS); and Hiran Cooray - Chairman – Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) and Chairman - Jetwing Hotels Ltd. During his address, Prof. Kulatilaka will focus on the pivotal necessity for countries to focus on energy strategies which will cover a broader spectrum including generating capacity, an intelligent distribution infrastructure, markets, and regulatory policies and the importance of a public-private partnership which will be vital in harnessing the future growth potential.  

He will first focus on the applicable lessons learned from successful implementations of the first Green Revolution in agriculture that averted a global food crisis.  He will also speak on how the smart grid can be viewed as a business platform that can spawn innovations in green technologies, accelerate their adoption, induce prudent behavior in energy use, and lead to a second Green Revolution.

In the middle of the 20th Century countries around the world were grappling with the challenges of feeding their rapidly growing populations.   Conventional wisdom was that, given the limited supply of arable land, mass starvation would result unless population growth was brought under control.

However, the Green Revolution debunked this notion.  The poster boys of this transformation were the new seed technologies leading to higher yielding, drought tolerant and pest resistant crops and widespread use of fertiliser. 

However, the real success stories needed much more than raising productivity of farmland.  They required equally dramatic changes to the transportation, infrastructure and storage systems that moved food from farms to population centres; development of markets where farmers could not only get a fair price for their crops but also provided access to financing; and policies that reduced red tape and created appropriate incentives.

Thereby, success was brought on by the creation of a business platform that connected the consumers with producers and the network of stakeholders in the wider complementary system.   The challenge for the 21st Century is finding a future with the use of sustainable energy because energy is crucial to growth.  But, the negative environmental externalities resulting from dominant energy sources suggest that simply harnessing more energy sources will not provide a long-term solution. 

Therefore what will be addressed by Prof. Kulatilaka will be that a wider complementary system for “green energy” that includes not only renewable energy sources must be looked into. As well as a more efficient way to transport, store, and use energy.  This, Prof. Kulatilaka claims, will lead us to a second Green Revolution.  

In his paper, Prof. Kulatilaka will argue that a Smart Electric Grid will be an essential backbone for a sustainable energy future.  A smart gird is more or less like the folk story of the elephant and the six blind men, the impact of the smart grid depends on your vantage point.  Technologically speaking, the smart grid is a cyber-physical system that overlays modern information and communication systems on the physical electricity network.  Similar to the first Green Revolution, however, realising the full potential of the smart grid is more than technology as it calls for parallel changes to markets, business models, and public policy.   It is only then that the smart grid will provide the requisite power quality for the digital economy, better economics through efficient operation, anticipate and respond to system disturbances, spawn new products, services, and markets, be resilient against attack and natural disasters, enable active participation by consumers, and accommodate environmentally friendly generation and storage options.    

Professor Kulatilaka has published over 75 papers in scholarly journals, and is the author of the widely acclaimed book Real Options: Managing Strategic Investment in an Uncertain World (HBS Press).  His honors include the John Russell Award for excellence in executive teaching (1998); Graham and Dodd Award for the best paper in Financial Analysts Journal (1994); Bertil Danielsson Professorship at the Stockholm School of Economics; and Tamkang Chair at Tamkang University.  He has co-founded two companies and serves on the boards of several technology startups.   Kulatilaka was educated at Imperial College (BSc), Harvard University (SM), and MIT (Ph.D).