Pathway towards a Net-zero Economy: Challenges and opportunities.

This year I am honoured to lead the organisation of Cambridge University Energy Network (CUEN) Conference, along with the Energy & Environment Special Interest Group (SIG) from Cambridge Judge Business School. The conference is one of the most prominent energy events across the entire Cambridge ecosystem. We bring together leading energy professionals, key influencers, faculty, and students from different universities across the world, who are passionate about the energy sector, to discuss the progress that the industry and key stakeholders have made towards transitioning to a low carbon economy and the actions that are required to progress further.

It has been an incredible journey and quite a personally rewarding project. I have had the pleasure to work along with my friends and colleagues, Alessandra Kortenhorst and Venkatesh Hemadribhotla, from the Cambridge MBA programme Class of 2020/21, and Mike Lau from MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development programme; who have all been accompanying me working hard to make this event possible. Our conference target was quite ambitious: 30 speakers divided into a 3-day event. With the pandemic it has not been easy and we have not had the opportunity to talk face to face with potential speakers; nevertheless, this situation also allowed us to invite energy professionals from much further across the globe. At the same time, with the virtual format, our reach will be even bigger, having attendees from all corners of the planet. 

Before coming to Cambridge, I worked for six years in the energy sector in México from a finance perspective. Working in Private Equity, Project Finance, and Consulting, I structured end-to-end energy projects providing over ~US$1bn in equity and debt. I was very lucky to be part of the explosion of wind and solar technologies in the Mexican energy sector, after ending more than 70 years of a state-monopoly. During this period, I witnessed first-hand both the social and financial benefits of renewable energy technologies, which, by the way, led to lower power prices than those from fossil-fuel electric plants.

One of my professional motivations is to become a leader in providing capital to develop renewable energy assets in developing economies. I firmly believe that access to clean and affordable energy could help to reduce the breach of opportunities in under-served communities, along with reducing carbon emissions. This entails several challenges including allocating the capital where it is most needed and the intermittency in generation due to weather constraints. Hence, the participation of private capital institutions, governments, and entrepreneurs is required to develop clean assets and disruptive technologies, such as energy storage, smart grids, and distributed energy systems to fully substitute fossil fuels. 

Manuel Garza Betancourt – Programme Manager/Conference Lead – CUEN 2021

I hope the CUEN conference continues in the coming years as a platform to share ideas and bring together entrepreneurs that want to build a resilient world against climate change for future generations.

For more CUEN conference details and to register to take part, 8 – 10 June online – please visit: