Monday, July 28, 2014

CMU Student Research on biofuels, Navajo Energy projects, and Rural Microgrids in Developing Countries

CMU doctoral student Dan Posen won the best PhD presentation award at the Technology, Management & Policy (TMP) consortium hosted by TPP in Lisbon last month.  The presentation was titled, "Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Benefits of Expanding U.S. Biofuel Incentives to Promote Biomass Use in Chemical Feedstocks." 

CMU doctoral student Len Necefer will speak at the Navajo Nation Energy Summit in Arizona this week.  This is an annual briefing of elected officials and also department heads on the issue of energy resource development on the Navajo Nation. 

He will also present a webinar this September for the Tribal Energy Program, in cooperation with the DOE Office of Indian Energy and Western Area Power Administration (WAPA).  The series is intended for tribal leaders and staff who are interested in developing facility- and community-scale energy projects, responding to utilities' requests for proposals, and learning more about the competitive power market"  Necefer's will discuss collaborative, stakeholder-driven modeling, how the models developed have been and could be used, and how specifically this process and resulting models might be utilized in Indian Country.

A new economic model for rural microgrid implementation is being explored as CMU grad student Nathan Williams conducts his doctoral research on enabling the financial feasibility of rural microgrids in developing countries. Microgrids are small-scale electrical generation and distribution systems that deliver power in a small region near the power sources. Microgrids stand in stark contrast to typical macrogrid infrastructures, which transmit electricity over high-voltage transmission networks that connect very large power plants to load centers that can be hundreds or even thousands of kilometers from the generators.  

Scott Institute releases new video on the rebound effect

The Scott Institute for Energy Innovation just released a new video discussing the rebound effect -- how people change their behavior in response to the introduction of new technology that improves energy efficiency, possibly offsetting the benefits of such measures.  In this video, Inês Azevedo explains and analyzes the impact of the rebound effect for each of the 50 states, and makes recommendations for policymakers in this new video.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Improving Climate Policy Decision-Making Through Analysis

The Obama administration increased fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles (requiring vehicles sold have higher miles per gallon) and encouraged production of alternative fueled vehicles like hybrid vehicles in 2012, but is it possible that the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards may actually increase air pollution emissions from the U.S. vehicle fleet?  

China built the world’s largest wind industry in a few short years by leveraging foreign investment, but has its innovation in this technology kept pace with its manufacturing productivity? 

The European Union (EU) recently backed off a plan to include foreign aviation in its greenhouse gas emissions trading law.  Is $2 per trans-Atlantic airplane ticket really too steep an offset for the flight’s carbon emissions?

These are just a few of the interesting issues discussed at this year’s Climate and Energy Decision Making Center (CEDM) annual meeting, held last month at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU).  Approximately 60 students, faculty, researchers, and advisors for the center from universities and organizations throughout North America gathered to share research and discuss a wide range of energy- and climate-related issues.

CEDM is an NSF-funded research consortium of a dozen institutions, led by the Department of Engineering and Public Policy at CMU, with the goal of developing methods and conducting research to help leaders make better-informed decisions in the climate and energy space.  CEDM researchers work on a broad variety of topics within this domain, and the annual meeting provides an opportunity to summarize the year’s work and to assess the center’s overall direction.

The bulk of the meeting consisted of short research presentations organized by topic.  Most focused on greenhouse gas mitigation, with sessions on energy efficiency and energy behavior, transportation, renewables, and natural gas.  Another session covered methods, such as robust decision making, to aid policy-makers facing tough decisions in these areas.  A final session explored the effects of energy development and climate change on ecosystems, including concerns about habitat fragmentation in the Marcellus shale gas fields and how ocean warming can harm coral. 

Participants also heard about research methods, like coupled ethical-epistemic analysis, which seeks to make scientists aware of the value-laden choices inherent in their research decisions, and expert elicitation, which is used to gain insight into questions with high uncertainty, for instance, the economic viability of small modular nuclear reactors.

If there is a common thread to the diverse research presented at the meeting, it is that policy design, based on quantitative and qualitative analysis, is a crucial element in meeting climate and energy goals, and each CEDM project informs the policymaking process. Granger Morgan, the center’s co-director, likes to say that the business of CEDM is “tending the garden,” meaning that its researchers work to “pull weeds”—addressing specific, hard problems in climate and energy by creating practical results and actionable policy advice rather than limiting questions to the realm of the abstract, big picture.  You can watch videos and read more about some of this “weed-pulling” at

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Department of Energy To Host Public Meeting at CMU July 21

The Energy Department’s Office of Energy Policy and Systems Analysis, led by Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, will host a public meeting at Carnegie Mellon beginning at 9 a.m. on Monday, July 21, to receive stakeholder input to the Quadrennial Energy Review (QER), an administration-wide effort to make recommendations regarding key infrastructure needed for transmission, storage and distribution of energy.

The meeting in the Hillman Center’s Rashid Auditorium will examine natural gas transmission, storage and distribution in the U.S. The meeting will include panel discussions on natural gas infrastructure, infrastructure development needed to maximize resource development and public-private partnerships for economic development. Following panel discussions, the public will have an opportunity to make statements.

The QER, officially launched by President Obama in January, is co-chaired by the White House Domestic Policy Council and Office of Science and Technology Policy, and includes representation from all relevant executive departments and agencies. The DOE is playing a key role in development of the QER by providing policy analysis and modeling, and coordinating stakeholder engagement.

Additional information, including the agenda and a full list of the speakers for each panel, 
will be posted online when it becomes available.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

CMU's Self-Driving Car drives members of Congress around DC

Carnegie Mellon University took its autonomous vehicle to Washington, D.C. to enable Congress to experience the technology up close and personal.  Following an exciting and successful demonstration of the Carnegie Mellon vehicle in September, which transported Bill Shuster, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, 33 miles to the Pittsburgh International Airport, CMU provided members of Congress the opportunity to ride the vehicle around Washington, D.C.

Scott Institute researchers Chris Hendrickson, Jeremy Michalek, Costa Samaras, and others are examining the energy implications of such cars.