Friday, May 30, 2014

A Pushback on Green Power Via The New York Times

Jay Apt, director of CMU's Electricity Industry Center, comments on renewable portfolio standards in the U.S. in the New York Times.

Non-Market Factor Analysis and Emerging Technologies

A recent Forbes article provides information on how a CMU invention, Surtrac (Scalable Urban Traffic Control), has reduced travel time by 25 percent and vehicular emissions by 21 percent in its current deployment area in Pittsburgh.  This technology reduces energy consumption as well as congestion plays a role in how much energy we use for transportation.  As worthy as this technology is, however, it faces challenges in entering the marketplace...and opportunities as well.

At a recent class I taught this Spring, two CMU students developed a non-market strategic analysis that provide both opportunities and challenges for Surtrac to enter the marketplace.  You can see this report and others at:

What is a non-market factor?  And why does a strategic plan need to be developed for them for emerging technologies?  Entrepreneurs and innovators interested in commercializing technology in the biomedical, energy, transportation, information technology, robotics, aerospace, food, healthcare, and other industries require more than knowing whether a technology works and the potential market.

Non-market factors such as regulations, standards, and grants influence product, price, location, research, development, and testing, and other decisions.  As a result, public policies provide both opportunities and challenges for the commercialization of an invention.  Only by recognizing these opportunities or overcoming these challenges can an invention become a commercialized innovation.

Examples of opportunities include identifying the need for a new product or process as a result of a government-encouraged technological goal or regulation as well as the potential for Federal, state, or local governments to provide needed startup funds or as a possible early market for a new innovation.  Challenges include the need to address product-related issues such as environmental, health, and safety concerns; field testing; and manufacturing.  In some cases, an agency must approve a product before it can enter the marketplace.  Issues such as standards, patents, trademarks, copyright, open standard, open source, and reimbursement policies provide both opportunities and challenges to the entrepreneur or innovator and a non-market strategy is needed to address them.

Throughout this process, innovators may need to interface with policymakers to obtain the optimal benefit.  In sum, moving a new technology from invention from discovery to launch requires an innovation public policy strategy.

This summer, I'm planning to write an article about emerging technology non-market challenges and opportunities.  If you have any thoughts on the topic, I'd appreciate hearing from you.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Jared Cohon Co-Chairs New Commission looking at the effectiveness of DOE National Laboratories

Incoming Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Scott Institute of Energy Innovation director and CMU President Emeritus Jared Cohon will co-chair with T.J. Glauthier a new commission looking at the effectiveness of U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Laboratories.  More information is available in an article in Science and the DOE.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A new age for carbon capture technology?

When I was on the Pan-Prairie Canadian tour in March, it was interesting to better understand the wide variety of energy sources available in Canada – not unlike the United Staes.  While in Alberta the tour discussion revolved around oil, in Saskatchewan the focus is coal and nuclear energy, and at our last stop, Manitoba, the focus was on hydropower. 

One of the most interesting stops was at the Boundary Dam coal power plant that was in the final stages of installing carbon capture technology.  When operation of this technology begins this summer, it will be the first large-scale commercial deployment of such technology in the world.  According the utility SaskPower, among the the benefits are a 1 million tonne reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The diagram below shows how such technology works:
Source: SaskPower at
The biggest challenge facing this technology has been cost.  The board of directors of SaskPower, however, believe that due to the partnership of this technology with enhanced oil recovery, will at least break even.  Carbon dioxide (CO2) captured will go to either southern Saskatchewan oil fields for use in enhanced oil recover or stored deep underground in a brine and sandstone water formation in Aquistore, an independent research and development project in southeastern Saskatchewan managed by the Petroleum Technology Research Centre.  

Carnegie Mellon University researchers have done a great deal of work on the topic of carbon capture and sequestration including the CCSreg project that examined state regulations regarding carbon capture and which developed draft legislation.  This work resulted in a book entitled Carbon Capture and Sequestration: Removing the Legal and Regulatory Barriers by Scott Institute Director Granger Morgan, Sean McCoy, and others.   Another Scott Institute expert on coal plants and CCS is Edward Rubin whose thoughts on both the Canadian facility and an upcoming U.S. facility that uses a different CCS technology are available in articles in the April 2014 issue of National Geographic and the Los Angeles Times

Energy forecasting via the Harvard Gazette

Granger Morgan  of the Scott Institute has spent his career investigating climate change and the energy system. During a recent lecture summarized in the Harvard Gazette, he explained that uncertainty in forecasting energy prices is due to the difficulty in predicting which direction many variables will take, such as policy decisions, new technologies and consumer choices.

Carbon Capture via National Geographic and the Los Angeles Times

Ed Rubin comments on the potential impact that carbon capture provides as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in National Geographic and the Los Angeles Times.

Apple's carbon emissions via the Upstart Business Journal

H. Scott Matthews of CMU's Scott Institute comments on Apple's carbon footprint and the company's efforts to measure it accurately in the Upstart Business Journal.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Energy Storage Feasibility via the New York Times

 Jay Apt of Carnegie Mellon University's Scott Institute commented in The New York Times on the feasibility of storage efforts aimed at transforming the electric grid towards a cleaner, more sustainable, low-emissions model.