Executive Speaker Matt Rogers On the Future and Revolution of the Energy Industry

two men in suits sitting in chairs
Kyrsten Bean

The theme of Roger's talk was “The Future and Revolution of the Energy Industry.” Over 100 students, faculty and alumni showed up to hear what Rogers had to say about the current energy landscape.

Rogers currently oversees McKinsey Company's oil and gas practices in America and focuses on the role of technological innovation in restructuring the energy market. He has spent more than 25 years serving energy clients globally. Recently his focus is on unconventional resources, restructuring the U.S power market, and how technology is reshaping operational efficiency in oil, gas, and power.

In 2009-2010 Rogers served as the senior adviser to the U.S. Secretary of Energy, during the first term of the Obama administration, leading the recovery act implementation. In that role, he was responsible for managing the department of energy's $35 billion in recovery funds. The department funded more than 5,000 projects through the recovery act.

Matt Rogers published the book Resource Revolution, with co-author Stefan Heck, in April 2014. He and his co-author argue that the chance to meet soaring energy demand in a sustainable way—by transforming how companies and societies prosper—represents nothing less than the biggest business opportunity in one hundred years. They explain that the combination of information technology with industrial technology is changing the way we produce and use natural resources, restructuring energy, agriculture, transportation, and construction markets.

Rogers’ professional journey started in 1985, when he graduated from Princeton University. He did not know at the time what a management consultant or an investment bank was. "I had a really good roommate who explained to me before the interview what I was supposed to know," said Rogers. “I ended up working on Wall Street, in a summer analyst program where they taught me the basics of accounting. At the end of the program, they asked me what group I wanted to be a part of. They gave me two choices. I said technology and then energy. Everybody else in the group said technology and nobody else said energy. I became the energy guy," said Rogers.

"One of my first tasks was doing a sale lease, back on a nuclear power plant. We got started, and Chernobyl happened. How was I going to explain to investors that they wanted a nuclear power plant while Chernobyl is going?" said Rogers. He found energy fascinating from the beginning—an opportunity to learn about microeconomics and how it works—along with policy and regulations, which is what he has focused on since the beginning.

"One of the great things of today is the availability of low-cost energy," said Rogers. In his book, he asks the question, “How do we get the next billion middle class people into low-cost energy?” There are another two billion people who don't have access and need access. Rogers summarized the main takeaways from his book, including the principle of how industrial technology meets information technology and how that changes everything for the energy sector. In order to be successful in the energy sector, Rogers said you have to be prepared for rates of change that you weren't trained at when you started. He recommended graduate students surround themselves by people who know more than they do, especially millennials. “You used to be able to make a decision in the energy industry within two or three years of study on an issue. Unfortunately, this doesn't match the product cycle and how quickly it changes.”

He spoke about working in the Obama administration. “I didn’t make it into the top five of the smartest people in the room. I didn’t worry about that,” said Rogers. He learned to ask someone who knew the answer, rather than pretend he knew.

"Matt Rogers is a great example of the caliber of speakers who speak at our Executive Speakers Series. His insights on the trends and future of energy industries were invaluable for our students who are interested or have been working in the energy industries,” said Dean Zhan Li.

Hosted by the School of Economics and Business Administration (SEBA), the Executive Speaker Series brings CEOs, presidents, and other top corporate leaders from some of the nation’s most important companies, non-profits, and non-governmental organizations to share their views on topics of societal, academic, and professional importance.

The Executive Speaker Series strives to stimulate insightful, provocative conversation on current issues by providing a platform for high level executives to speak about cutting-edge issues, challenge conventional wisdom and tactics, elaborate on trends, share wisdom, and provide important career inspiration and advice for our students, faculty, alumni and larger Saint Mary’s community.