Seminar Archive Summaries
Mark Jacobsen, professor, University of California, San Diego, research associate, National Bureau of Economic Research
Monday, November 17, 2014 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All
The U.S. corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards place requirements on the efficiency of new vehicles sold and are a cornerstone of U.S. efforts to reduce gasoline use. They are currently slated for a sharp increase in stringency, nearly doubling the average fuel economy of new vehicles by 2025. I will present results from a set of three projects examining the economics behind these rules: First, I measure the overall costs of CAFE policy using detailed data on demand for new vehicles and a model of producer behavior. Second, I address the intertwined questions of vehicle size and accident safety in the context of CAFE. Finally, I will present results from a current working paper that measures the effects of CAFE on used vehicle scrappage.
Renewable Realities: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly in Renewable Energy's Rise
Dan Arvizu, director, National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Moderated by Jeffrey Ball, scholar-in-residence, Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance
Monday, November 10, 2014 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All
Dan E. Arvizu became the eighth Director of the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) on January 15, 2005. NREL is the Department of Energy's primary laboratory for energy efficiency and renewable energy research and development. NREL is operated for DOE by Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC (Alliance). Dr. Arvizu is President of Alliance and also is an Executive Vice President with the MRIGlobal, headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri. Prior to joining NREL, Dr. Arvizu was the chief technology officer with CH2M HILL Companies, Ltd. Before joining CH2M he was an executive with Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He started his career and spent four years at the AT&T Bell Telephone Laboratories. In 2011, Dr. Arvizu was appointed by President Obama to a second six-year term on the National Science Board, the governing board of the National Science Foundation and the national science policy advisory body to the President and the Congress. He is presently serving as Chairman. Dr. Arvizu serves on a number of boards, panels and advisory committees including the American Council on Renewable Energy Advisory Board, the Singapore International Advisory Panel on Energy, the Colorado Renewable Energy Authority Board of Directors, and the Stanford Precourt Institute for Energy Advisory Council. He is Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration and was recently elected to the National Academy of Engineering. He has a Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering from New Mexico State University and a Master of Science and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University.
Jeffrey Ball, a writer on energy and the environment, is scholar-in-residence at Stanford University’s Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance. At Stanford’s Steyer-Taylor Center, a joint initiative of the university’s law and business schools, Ball heads a project exploring how China and the U.S. might deploy clean-energy capital more efficiently if each one played more strategically to its economic strengths. The project focuses on the solar-energy industry, the subject of a law-school public-policy practicum that Ball has co-taught. In 2013, he conceived of and moderated a five-part series of public discussions at Stanford, called Rising Power, on China’s energy business and its global implications.
Max Tavoni, fellow, Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences (Stanford), associate professor, Politecnico di Milano
Monday, November 3, 2014 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All
Implementing measures which allows us to start reducing global emissions is an important objective of international climate policy. Against the limited progress being observed so far, there are rising expectations about a post 2020 climate agreement - to be agreed upon in the Paris UNFCCC meeting in 2015. This talk will summarize the state of knowledge of the modeling work on global climate and energy policies. Reporting from the literature of energy-economy-land use integrated models -which provided major input to the IPCC 5th assessment report WGIII- I will assess the relation between short term mitigation actions and long term temperature objectives, the impacts of climate measures in the major economies, the difficult relation between efficiency and equity, and the role of abundant natural gas for climate change.
Stefan Heck, consulting professor, Precourt Institute for Energy
Monday, October 27, 2014 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All
The prophets of doom are wrong. They believe the rapid rise over the next two decades of a new 2.5-billion-person urban middle class—and the unprecedented demand this growth will generate for oil, gas, steel, land, food, water, cement, clean air, and other commodities—must inevitably spur a global economic and environmental crisis. This talk takes that challenge seriously—but comes to exactly the opposite conclusion.
Instead, I will make the case that we are on the cusp of a new industrial revolution, the Resource Revolution, and that that same order of magnitude change we saw in labor productivity is possible for resources. We can meet soaring demand in a sustainable way by transforming how companies and societies prosper represents nothing less than the biggest business opportunity in one hundred years. The combination of information technology, nanoscale materials, and biotech with traditional industrial technology can unleash a step-change in resource productivity and generate enormous new profit pools. However, capturing these business opportunities—and avoiding the disruption they bring—will require an entirely new approach to management.
Michael Sivak, director, Sustainable Worldwide Transportation, University of Michigan
Monday, October 20, 2014 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All
I will discuss two series of studies related to the possible peaking of motorization in the U.S. In the first series of studies, I examined recent changes in the number of registered light-duty vehicles, and the corresponding changes in distance driven and fuel consumed. The units of the analyses were both the absolute numbers and the rates per person, per driver, and per household.
Bob Litterman, Chairman of the Risk Committee and a founding partner, Kepos Capital LP
Monday, October 13, 2014 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All
The appropriate time path for emissions prices, which economists call the "Social Cost of Carbon," should be thought of as the solution to an optimal control problem. The price of carbon is the brake that society uses to accelerate or decelerate the rate of usage of the atmosphere's unknown capacity to safely absorb emissions. Right now the incentive to reduce emissions is strongly negative, i.e. governments around the world heavily subsidize the creation of emissions. Potential climate-risk tail events, together with societal risk aversion (which is best observed in the equity risk premium) and expectations of technological change determine the appropriate time path for emissions prices. Societal understanding of this issue is at a tipping point. As expectations of incentives being created sooner and higher increase, the valuations of stranded assets, such as coal and coal fired power plants will decline. But understanding how forward expectations of carbon emission prices drive current valuations is complex. It is also important to understand that it is not the act of pricing emissions that destroys the value of these assets – it is the economic externality that has already destroyed their value. What the recognition of that externality will do is to reduce their current false valuations. Exxon and Shell have, in their public discussion of stranded assets, shown that they do not understand this issue. Paraphrasing Upton Sinclair, “It is difficult to get a company to understand something, when the valuation of its assets depends on it not understanding it.”
Holmes Hummel, founder, Clean Energy Works
Monday, October 6, 2014 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All
How can we deploy clean energy technologies on a scale that matters and in a time frame that makes a difference? Market conditions that motivate private equity investments are framed in part by public policy decisions taken in contexts where social equity is a factor. Claims for justice are persistent in sticking points such as the distribution of benefits and burdens along energy supply chains, investing revenue from climate policies, and international development efforts to expand access to electricity worldwide. However, advocates with urgent calls for technology transition often overlook calls for fairness and inclusion as a path for expediting progress.
From this vantage point, advancing equity and opportunity is tightly aligned with opening opportunities for entrepreneurs, investors, and consumers everywhere – and with sustaining Earth’s life support systems. Interdisciplinary thinking that connects engineering, economics, policy, sociology, and philosophy can integrate concepts of fairness and inclusion into strategies for accelerating clean energy technology deployment. This seminar will draw on real-world examples at multiple scales to highlight landscapes of opportunity for more innovations in interdisciplinary problem-solving that can accelerate clean energy revolutions.
Rob Jackson, professor, Environmental Earth System Science, Stanford University
Monday, September 29, 2014 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All
Unconventional oil and natural gas extraction fueled by horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is driving an economic boom, with consequences described as “revolutionary” to “disastrous”. Reality lies somewhere in between. Unconventional energy generates income and, done well, can reduce air pollution compared to other fossil fuels and even water use compared to fossil fuels and nuclear energy. Alternatively, it could release toxic chemicals into water and air and slow the adoption of renewables. Based on research to date, some primary threats to water resources come from surface spills, wastewater disposal, and drinking-water contamination through poor well integrity. For air resources, an increase in volatile organic compounds and air toxics locally is a potential health threat, but the switch from coal to natural gas for electricity generation will reduce sulfur, nitrogen, mercury, and particulate pollution regionally. Data gaps are particularly evident for human health studies, the extent to which natural gas will displace coal compared with renewables, and the decadal-scale legacy issues of well integrity, leakage, and plugging and abandonment practices. Critical needs for future research include data for 1) estimated ultimate recovery (EUR) of unconventional hydrocarbons; 2) the potential for further reductions of water requirements and chemical toxicity; 3) whether unconventional resource development alters the frequency of well-integrity failures; 4) potential contamination of surface and ground waters from drilling and spills; 5) factors that could cause wastewater injection to generate large earthquakes; and 6) the consequences of greenhouse gases and air pollution on ecosystems and human health.
Dian Grueneich, Senior Research Scholar, Stanford University
Monday, September 22, 2014 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All
Over the past 30 years, energy efficiency has become an important tool for reducing customer and utility costs and achieving sustainability goals, particularly avoided carbon emissions, but its impact is still limited. The widely used model for delivery of energy efficiency is a utility-centric approach funded through ratepayer or other public fees with complex regulatory oversight structure. The focus has been on delivering widgets (primarily CFLs) with limited attention to persistency of savings, linkage to procurement decisions, leveraging of private sector financing, or support for innovation. Energy efficiency needs to transform significantly over the next 30 years in order for it to be a large-scale tool for climate change and economic development. Private investment, innovation, and deeper reliance on markets are critical to rapid expansion of energy efficiency.
I will discuss a new initiative Stanford has launched on the “next generation on energy efficiency”. This project will develop a new framework to deliver deep, persistent, and comprehensive savings, at a level far beyond historical practice. I will discuss key areas of the project including: identifying the most successful existing energy efficiency efforts in terms of cost, persistency of savings, scalability, market share, and ease of implementation; identifying key barriers that must be overcome for the next generation of efficiency to deliver large-scale, persistent savings; analyzing new technologies and approaches that can improve efficiency uptake; researching new delivery approaches that can support energy efficiency in a more market-oriented fashion; and examining a new regulatory structure to support new approaches to energy efficiency.
Rodney C. Ewing, professor, Stanford University
Monday, June 2, 2014 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All
One hundred commercial nuclear reactors in the United States generate ~ 800 billion kWh of energy each year. This accounts for 19% of the electricity generated in the U.S. The nuclear power plants (NPP) themselves produce no carbon dioxide, but the construction of the NPPs does require energy that leads to limited CO2 emissions. The essential issue is: What is required of the nuclear fuel cycle in order to have a significant impact on the carbon cycle?
Globally, nuclear power plants account for a reduction of carbon emmissions of ~ 0.5 gigatonnes (Gt) of C/yr This is a modest reduction, as compared with global emissions of carbon, just over 8 GtC/yr. Most analyses suggest that in order to have a timely impact on carbon emissions, carbon-free sources, such as nuclear power, would have to expand total production of energy by factors of three to ten by 2050. A three-fold increase in nuclear power capactiy would result in a projected reduction in carbon emissions of 1 to 2 Gt C/yr, depending on the type of carbon-based energy source that is displaced. This three-fold increase utilizing present nuclear technologies would create 25,000 metric tonnes (t) of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) per year, containing over 200 t of plutonium. However, there is considerable technological flexibility in the nuclear fuel cycle that can be described as: open, closed, or a symbiotic combination of different types of reactors. Within each cycle, the volume and composition of the high-level nuclear waste and fissile material depend on the type of nuclear fuel, the amount of burn-up, the extent of radionuclide separation during reprocessing, and the types of materials used to immobilize different radionuclides. Further, the nuclear fuel cycle can be augmented by different strategies for the immobilization of nuclear waste and geologic disposal.