Energy in Transition
By Paul Feinberg
"It's a transitory situation," said BearingPoint Managing Director Denis Florin ('88), regarding the world's energy situation. "I think we're living in an energy transition and the transition is fascinating."
"We used to have a dominant energy source, wood. Then, there was coal and then oil. And each time we all changed gears. Now, we are learning to live with a diversity of energy sources, because (we) are so energy hungry, that we don't have one (energy) solution."
Florin's remarks followed his presentation at the most recent UCLA Anderson Alumni Weekend, where he celebrated his 20th reunion. During the weekend, Florin and UCLA Anderson Professor Charles Corbett, Joseph Jacobs Term Chair in Entrepreneurial Studies, presented a joint talk on the viability of green energy supply chains. As a consultant with BearingPoint's Paris office, Florin is an expert in energy solutions, his primary responsibility is to lead or coordinate energy engagements for BearingPoint clients - mostly, but not exclusively Fortune 500 companies. Put simply, Florin helps his clients define their energy strategies.
Florin's interest in energy goes all the way back to the Oil Shock of 1973. He was a college student then and he realized that the ebbs and flow of energy availability and costs had a profound impact on our lives. He began working in the field, developing contacts and building a network while honing his expertise. Of course, this was long before "being green" was fashionable.
"There were two things going on then," Florin recalls. "There was energy in terms of energy production and for long time energy production was limited to finding more oil, then finding more oil and more gas. The fortunate component of the 1973 oil shock was ‘saving energy,' but the ‘being green' was for freaks and tree huggers. It is only recently that green energies have turned into viable business proposals and it is in the last two or three years that we have engagements focused on green energies, on carbon footprints and on alternative energies." Florin points out that while green business has become fashionable only recently, the Japanese realized 10 years ago the "green value" in producing silicium chips for solar panels, while the Danes implemented subsidies for companies harvesting wind for electricity.
The transition Florin speaks of, from a world in which coal, oil and gas are the dominant energy sources to a diverse world that includes solar, wind and other alternative energies, won't be easy. Florin recognizes the human element - that there are thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on coal mining and oil drilling. But, Florin is practical. "I'll sound like a horrible capitalist, but capitalism is a creative, destructive process where people have to sometimes stop doing one thing to do something else. Gradually, we have to drill less oil and produce more solar panels."
Today, Florin says he's grateful for his UCLA Anderson experience. He cites Professor Jose De La Torre and his negotiations course and Professor Bill Cockrum as a particular inspiration for his many aphorisms (including "the road to hell is paved with volume.") He also values the global emphasis of his Anderson experience, in particular his exposure to fellow Asian American students and students from Asia.