Energy secretary, Steven Chu, and ARPA-E director, Arun Majumdar. Majumdar recently announced the next Energy Innovation Summit will be Feb. 27-29, 2012. Credit: ARPA-E

The lead story in today’s ARPA-E e-Newsletter is an announcement for the 2012 rendering of the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit. Among the keynote speakers is Bill Gates.

Really? What does Gates know about disruptive energy technology? Just because Gates sees himself as the go-to guy for public health, education and Other World Problems, what street cred does he really have beyond his big bucks?

My colleague, Peter Wray, points out that “[Gates] knows something about how to exploit an opportunity, which is actually a pretty rare business talent,” but that Gates tends to stick to a “conventional wisdom” position, which is diametrically opposed to ARPA-E’s mission.

All three keynote speakers have run successful, very large businesses, but not energy businesses and not even high tech (non-software) businesses. Are disruptive energy technologies mature enough to bring in the Big Business guys for their advice? I’m not convinced.

From the e-Newsletter:

ARPA-E’s Director, Dr. Arun Majumdar recently announced that the third annual ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit will be held from February 27 – 29, 2012 at the Gaylord Convention Center just outside Washington, D.C. Now in its third year, the Summit is designed to unite key players from all sectors of the nation’s energy innovation community to share ideas for developing and deploying the next generation of clean energy technologies. Last year’s annual ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit attracted more than 90 speakers and 2,000 attendees from 49 states and 20 countries.

Program highlights Include:

Keynote Addresses by:
• Dr. Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy
• Dr. Arun Majumdar, ARPA-E Director
• Mr. Bill Gates, Founder and Chairman of Microsoft
• Mr. Fred Smith, Chairman, President and CEO of FedEx
• Mr. Lee Scott, Chairman, BDT Capital; Former CEO, Wal-Mart

Expanded Technology Showcase featuring:
• More than 150 exhibits from ARPA-E-funded projects and applicants
• New ARPA-E programs of other energy technologies
• A wide range of other exciting new topics and areas

A unique opportunity for the entire energy ecosystem – researchers, entrepreneurs, investors, top corporate executives, and government officials – to build lasting partnerships.

Many more speakers will be added in the coming months. Check the Summit website for the latest news and to register.