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!