Sunday, November 23, 2014

Ed Rubin on Coal Via the Post Gazette

In this op-ed for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Scott Institute Researcher and Engineering and Public Policy Professor Ed Rubin discusses the issue of coal, carbon capture, air pollution policy, and the role of innovation.  He concludes the op-ed with the following:

"So, will carbon cuts kill coal? Not likely.

Evidence suggests that technology innovations “pulled” by policy requirements and catalyzed by sustained investments in clean-energy technology can indeed allow domestic coal resources to be utilized economically while achieving long-term cuts in carbon emissions. U.S. leadership in this arena also would spur other nations to follow and open new markets for U.S. businesses.

Looking back decades from now, predictions of coal’s demise will again have been proven wrong."

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

CMU Student chose to discuss Data Center Energy Use

CMU Engineering & Public Policy Ph.D. student Nathaniel Horner was recently selected to present at the Young Researchers’ Conference on Energy Efficiency & Biomass to be held during the World Sustainable Energy Days events this February in Wels, Austria.  He will present his work on data center energy use and discuss why the current, industry standard performance metric might not necessarily lead to “green” facilities.  


Friday, November 14, 2014

Costa Samaras blogs on US-China Climate Deal via WBUR

Costa Samaras of the Scott Institute writes in a blog for WBUR's OnPoint that the "U.S.-China Climate Deal is an Important Step In Long Road Ahead."  You can see the blog here.   The blog follows up on a interview he did with OnPoint about the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Scott Institute Researcher Lee Branstetter delivers opening address at United Nations Climate Change Workshop

Lee Branstetter, Scott Institute researcher and professor of public policy and economics at Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz and Dietrich Colleges, has been invited to deliver the opening address at the United Nations Framework Climate Change Convention’s Technology Executive Committee (TEC)  workshop titled “Strengthening National Systems of Innovation in Developing Countries: Covering the Entire Technology Cycle for Climate Technology” on Oct. 13 in Bonn, Germany. Branstetter will set the scene with his talk, “What are national systems of innovation for climate technology?”

The workshop will support the TEC’s work on enhancing enabling environments for and addressing barriers to technology development and transfer, in accordance with its mandated functions. It will have three sessions:

  • Strengthening national systems of innovation
  • Issues related to knowledge transfer between national systems of innovation
  • Knowledge transfer mechanisms: enhancing collaboration.

 The workshop will be webcast. Audience members may pose questions for workshop participants on Twitter with the hashtag #climatetech.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Is Energy the New Steel?

Heinz College faculty member Karen Clay, associate professor of economics, program chair for the Master of Public Management program and an energy expert for CMU’s Scott Institute for Energy Innovation, was a distinguished panelist on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Energy Forum this past Tuesday. The panel discussed whether energy might be the 21st century equivalent of steel in the Pittsburgh's region economy. See video highlights of the forum at

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Scott Institute Team Authors Guide for Managing, Implementing Variable Energy Resources

Carnegie Mellon University's Jay Apt and Paulina Jaramillo led a team of 22 researchers in a review and analysis of the technical and policy options available for integrating variable energy resources — such as wind and solar power — into the existing power system. Their new book, "Variable Renewable Energy and the Electricity Grid," is part of the RenewElec project and addresses how the United States could increase the amount of electricity it produces from renewable energy sources.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Carnegie Mellon's Erica Fuchs Discusses How Global Redistribution of Manufacturing Is Changing Innovation

Sending U.S. products overseas to be manufactured may be cheaper, but it also may stifle innovation depending on the technology and the constraints facing firms, says Fuchs in her paper published this week in Science.

Learn more and watch the video: 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Scott Institute's Jay Apt To Testify at EPA Hearing on Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule

The Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule was issued June 2, 2014, and outlines ways in which states can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants that operate by combusting fossil fuels. It provides goals for each state to help the nation significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2020.

Apt's testimony, focusing on innovations and strategy for existing power plants, is scheduled to take place at 9:50 a.m., Thursday, July 31 at the William S. Moorhead Federal Building in Pittsburgh. 

Learn more:

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Quadrennial Energy Review Pittsburgh Public Hearing Statements and Video

On July 21, the U.S. Department of Energy held a public hearing as part of its Quadrennial Energy Review (QER) focused on "Natural Gas:  Transmission, Storage, and Distribution."  The agenda and statements made at the meeting are now available as well as video of the event.

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.

Scott Institute paper quantify economic goal for energy storage

In a paper in Energy Policy, Scott Institute researchers quantify how cheap energy storage must be in order for it to be economical to use devices such as batteries and compressed-air-energy-storage (CAES) at remote wind farms.  "By adding energy storage such as batteries or CAES, the farm could store electricity when transmission is constrained, and sell it later when transmission frees up," said Julian Lamy, a Ph.D. candidate in the Engineering and Public Policy (EPP) Department who co-authored the paper with EPP faculty members Inês Azevedo and Paulina Jaramillo.

Allen Robinson becomes member of Health Effects Institute Special Committee on Unconventional Oil and Gas Development

Scott Institute researcher and Head of CMU's Mechanical Engineering Department Allen Robinson is a member of the recently-formed Special Committee on Unconventional Oil and Gas Development—a committee formed by the Health Effects Institute research institute funded jointly by government and industry.  

The mission of this committee is to develop a strategic plan to guide future research on potential health and environmental impacts of unconventional oil and gas development in the Appalachian Basin.

Jay Whitacre's Aquion Energy Named to the 2014 Sustainia100

Aquion Energy, a company founded by Scott Institute researcher and CMU Faculty member Jay Whitacre, was named to the 2014 Sustainia100 for its saltwater battery technology.  

The Sustainia100 is an annual publication highlighting 100 innovative environmentally sustainable solutions and strategies from around the world to educate investors, policy makers and other leaders on the promising innovations that exist in the field.  The battery is made from inexpensive, repurposed manufacturing equipment and uses simple, non-toxic materials such as saltwater, carbon and manganese to make renewable, off-grid power generation economically and environmentally affordable.

Scott Institute researcher Inês Azevedo selected as World Economic Forum New Champion

Scott Institute researcher and CMU faculty member Inês Azevedo has been selected to attend the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of the New Champions.  Each year, the World Economic Forum selects 40 extraordinary scientists under the age of 40 to participate alongside business and political leaders in the Annual Meeting of the New Champions in China. 
These scientists are selected from all regions of the world and from a wide range of disciplines to bring value to the Meeting by contributing their scientific perspective and delivering the most up-to-date trends from various fields of science.  
The Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2014 will take place on 10-12 September in Tianjin, People’s Republic of China. The eighth Annual Meeting of the New Champions, the foremost global gathering on innovation, entrepreneurship, science and technology, will address this challenge under the theme “Creating Value through Innovation”. It will gather 1,500 industry leaders, chief executives of top-ranked multinationals, heads of state/government and ministers, as well as leaders from media, academia and civil society to explore the influence of new business models, industries and technologies in the context of sustainable and inclusive growth.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Granger Morgan on decarbonizing our electricity system via Forbes and the Peterson Institute

Granger Morgan, Scott Institute co-director, discussed the importance of starting early to decarbonize our electricity system at a Peterson Institute event on "China, the West, and the Alternative Energy Innovation Challenge."  You can watch the video of the event and read a summary of the article in Forbes.

Friday, June 20, 2014

CMU Student wins Green Chemistry Poster Compeititon

Carnegie Mellon Engineering and Public Policy PhD student Daniel Posen just won the Poster Competition @  ACS Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference.  His poster focused on “Greenhouse gas mitigation benefits of expanding U.S. biofuel incentives to promote biomass use in chemical feedstocks.”

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Why Congress Should Fund Social Science Research

This op-ed I wrote for The Hill (a Capitol Hill newspaper) discusses why Congress should fund social science research.  Technology is not enough to respond to our energy challenges, behavior is a key element as well and the social sciences can help us better understand how to encourage the implementation of energy technologies.  You can see the op-ed at:

Monday, June 9, 2014

Public Perceptions of Global Warming: Understanding differences between different surveys

by Kelly Klima, Carnegie Mellon University

The vast majority of scientists and researchers agree that manmade emissions are likely exacerbating climate change; since 2007 no scientific body has disagreed with this position.   However, it is clear from the wake of August 2015’s Clean Power Plan that Americans remain divided on whether anthropogenic climate change exists. As this makes many forms of climate change legislation nearly impossible to achieve a bipartisan consensus, this begs further study into how and why respondents answer, “Is global warming happening?”

Figure 1 shows America’s response to Stanford University, Yale University/ George Mason, the Pew Research Center, the University of Michigan (previously Brookings), and Gallup polls asking basically the same question: “Is global warming happening?”  While the differences between polls likely occur due to question wording, one stark realization stands out.  Since 2006, a majority (50-85%) of Americans have agreed that global warming is happening, but there is also variance among those numbers.  This variance is likely sufficient to influence policymakers actions, particularly when broken out on a state, regional, or congressional district level. 

Figure 1: Percent of total American public answering “Yes” to the question “Is global warming happening?” Since the questions vary, where possible, we interpret as: “Temperatures have been increasing; this is at least partially caused by man”. The vertical bars give the polling error indicated by the survey authors.  Select sources: Yale, U Michigan/ Brookings, Stanford, Gallup, and Pew.

Acknowledgements:  This entry has been updated by previous works from the author, including a Scott Institute/ Energy Collective Blog, an AGU blog, and an upcoming book chapter.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

CMU Students Do Well in Energy Competitions

  • DOE Better Buildings Competition:   CMU team members  Matineh Eybpoosh, a doctoral student in Civil and Environmental Engineering; Rubén Morón, a master’s student in the School of Architecture; Matthew Plunkett, an MBA student in the Tepper School of Business; Vedran Lešić, a visiting Fulbright scholar in engineering and public policy; and Casey Canfield, Julian Lamy, and Nathaniel Horner, doctoral students in engineering and public policy (EPP) did well in the DOE Better Buildings Case Competition.

The team took the Best Proposal award in the Picking up PACE: Taking Commercial PACE Financing to Scale Case Study competition. The case focused on designing a state-level program and business plan for Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing, a means of connecting loans to a building rather than an individual. The team’s solution emphasized using a diffusion model to slowly scale up the program over time and marketing the non-energy saving benefits of energy efficiency projects, such as productivity improvements and health benefits.

Their second Best Proposal award was in the A Side of Savings: Energy Efficiency in the Restaurant Franchise Model Case Study competition. Students were challenged to develop a strategy that involved incentivizing franchise fast-food restaurants to invest in energy efficiency to meet a corporate goal. The team recommended an opt-in competition that used social norms and a cash prize to encourage energy efficiency via both technology investment and behavior change.

Abstract: Incandescent bulbs release up to 95 percent of input energy as heat, impacting the overall building energy consumption: replacing them increases demands for heating service that needs to be provided by the heating systems and decreases demands for cooling service that needs to be provided by the cooling systems. This work investigates the net energy consumption, CO2e emissions, and savings in energy bills for single-family detached houses across the U.S. as one moves towards more efficient lighting systems. In some regions, these heating and cooling effects from more efficient lighting can undermine up to 40 percent of originally intended primary energy savings, erode anticipated carbon savings completely, or lead to 30 percent less household monetary savings than intended. The size of the effect depends on regional factors such as climate, technologies used for heating and cooling, electricity fuel mix, emissions factors, and electricity prices. However, we also find that for moderate lighting efficiency interventions, the overall effect is small in magnitude, corresponding at most to 1 percent of either total emissions or of energy consumption by a house.

Pike Powers Energy Research Fellowship Competition: CMU Student Brock Glasgo and Visiting FellowVedran Lescic were awarded the 2nd and 3rd place in the Pike Powers Energy Research Fellowship competition. Brock will be receiving an cash prize of $2500, and Vedran will be receiving $1500.  The competition was decided based on the votes of the Pecan Street Research Institute Data Advisory Board and the Industry Board after a review of their papers and watching a presentation on their work.

Vedran's topic was "Understanding customers’ (mis)perceptions of home energy use," (with Inês Azevedo and Tamar Krishnamurti), and Brock's topic was "Understanding the potential for electricity savings and assessing feasibility of a transition towards DC-powered buildings (with Inês Azevedo and Chris Hendrickson).

Congrats to all the students!