Houston’s Competitive Advantages in Creating a Low-Carbon Energy Sector

Lara Cottingham

Chief Sustainability Officer, City of Houston

Lara Cottingham is the Chief of Staff of the Administration and Regulatory Affairs Department and the Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of Houston. In addition to leading the Mayor’s Sustainability Office, Lara is the public face of ARA in the media as well as before City Council, industry stakeholders and customers.


Prior to joining the City of Houston, Lara was a member of Hill+Knowlton Strategies’ Houston office, providing strategic counsel in sustainability and social responsibility issues for a broad range of clients across the energy sector. In Washington, DC, Lara served as Communications Director for the Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Vice Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, and Vice Chairman of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Caucus, as well as for congressional campaigns in Colorado, West Virginia, and Texas. She also produced a web-based reality show for CNN and served as a Government & Marketing Consultant for SXSW Interactive in Austin.


Lara attended the University of Texas in Austin where she graduated magna cum laude with degrees in History, Ancient History & Classical Civilizations, and Government. In 2013, she earned an MBA in Energy Finance and Public Affairs from the University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business, where she co-founded the UT Energy Savings Fund.

Bob Harvey

CEO, Greater Houston Partnership

Bob Harvey is President and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership. With a membership made up of the region's major for-profit businesses, financial and professional services firms, and non-profit institutions, the Partnership serves as Greater Houston's principal business organization. The Partnership focuses on attracting investment and trade to Houston, advocating for sound public policy, and convening a diverse set of Houstonians when major issues arise.

Prior to joining the Partnership, Harvey was active in the Houston business community, first as a management consultant in the Houston office of McKinsey & Company, Inc. for 17 years and then as Vice Chair/Executive Vice President with Reliant Energy.

He currently serves on the Community Foundation Council of the Greater Houston Community Foundation and the boards of St. John's School, the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Center for Houston's Future, the Alliance for I-69 and the Houston Technology Center.

He was raised in Houston, Texas, and attended Texas A&M University, graduating with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering in 1978. He obtained his MBA from Harvard Business School in 1982.

Chuck McConnell

Executive Director, UH Center for Carbon Management

Chuck McConnell joined the University of Houston Energy program in 2018 as the Executive Director for Carbon Management and Energy Sustainability. 

Prior to joining UH Energy, McConnell was the executive director of the Energy and Environment Initiative at Rice University. Chuck served as the Assistant Secretary of Energy in the US Department of Energy from 2011-13 and was responsible for the Office of Fossil Energy’s strategic policy leadership, budgets, project management, and research and development of the department's coal, oil and gas, and advanced technologies programs, as well as for the operations and management of the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve and the National Energy Technologies Laboratories.  

He currently serves on the US EPA Science Advisory Board, is a board member of the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) Foundation in North Dakota, is a member of the National Coal Council, has served on the Society of Petroleum Engineers and National Petroleum Council, and has held a number of board positions including chairmanships of the Gasification & Syngas Technologies Council and the Clean Carbon Technology Foundation of Texas.

He holds a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from Carnegie-Mellon University (1977) and an MBA in finance from Cleveland State University (1984).

Michael Skelly is a renewable energy entrepreneur and pioneer in the US wind industry.  He is a Senior Advisor at the investment bank Lazard where he advises companies and investors on renewable energy and sustainability.  Michael was the founder and president of Clean Line Energy, a company that developed interstate transmission lines and successfully permitted the largest transmission line in the United States in the last 50 years.

Prior to Clean Line, Skelly led the growth of Horizon Wind Energy, now one of the largest renewable energy companies in the world, from family ownership through acquisition by Goldman Sachs and ultimately ownership by EDP.

He applies his expertise in developing infrastructure projects to enhance transportation options and increase access to parks in his adopted hometown of Houston, Texas. In 2012, he led the “Parks By You” campaign, which resulted in the passage of a $150 million bond measure to fund 100 plus miles of trails along the city’s bayous, an effort in which Skelly remains deeply involved.  

In addition to the Board of Directors of LINK Houston, Skelly sits on the boards of the Houston Bike Share, the Houston Parks Board, TXRX Labs and the American Wind Energy Association. He is an active angel investor in the sustainability field, supporting innovating ventures in lithium production, shared electric scooters, energy storage, smart grids and ride share.

Skelly holds a B.A. in economics from the University of Notre Dame and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.

Michael Skelly

Senior Advisor, Lazard

Pat Wood is the Principal for Wood3 Resources and former Chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

His focus is on competitive power generation, independent power transmission and new power technologies. He comes to the position with a vast amount of experience from a lengthy career in developing energy infrastructure.

He began working with energy in 1995 when then Governor George W. Bush named Wood to head the Public Utility Commission of Texas. He went on to be Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, leading the responses to the 2000-2001 California energy crisis, the bankruptcy of Enron, and the 2003 Northeastern power blackout. Under his leadership, the FERC promoted the development of a cleaner, more competitive power generation fleet, natural gas infrastructure expansions, and a more robust power transmission grid – all in the context of well-ordered competitive energy markets.

Wood is a director of several public infrastructure companies. He holds a B.S. degree in civil engineering from Texas A&M University, and he received a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

Patrick Wood, III

Principal, Wood3 Resources