Seminar Archive Summaries

Carbon and Net Energy Performance of Flexible Power Generation Technologies

Charlie Barnhart, assistant professor, Western Washington University

Monday, February 8, 2016 | 04:30 PM - 05:20 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Great uncertainty surrounds our efforts to mitigate climate impacts from energy use. One promising strategy for long-term climate mitigation is the use of renewable resources including wind and solar. Their weather-dependent nature however requires flexible power grid technologies to maintain power grid stability. As more intermittent and distributed renewable energy resources are added to the electricity grid, more flexible forms of power generation and storage are needed to maintain power quality and manage the imbalance between supply and demand. Energy storage and natural gas fired combustion turbines can both provide the needed flexibility. However, adding these technologies to the power grid will require extra investments and results in additional emissions from manufacturing and operating them. We compare the energy and carbon intensities of these options and show that the environmental costs and benefits of adding flexibility to the grid vary widely. Some options greatly improve the environmental performance of the electricity grid, for example using lithium ion batteries coupled with wind power generators, while other options make it worse, namely, storing grid power using traditional lead acid batteries. Knowing this can help guide good decisions about technology choices for the rapidly evolving electricity grid.

Carbon Capture and Storage: How Policy and Finance Can Help

Dan Reicher, executive director, Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance, Stanford University

Monday, February 1, 2016 | 04:30 PM - 05:20 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Dan Reicher is Executive Director of Stanford’s Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance, a joint center of the Stanford business and law schools where he holds faculty positions. He also is interim President and CEO and board chair of the American Council on Renewable Energy. Reicher previously directed Google’s climate and energy initiatives, was an investor and executive in the clean energy industry, and served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of Energy for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and Energy Department Chief of Staff in the Clinton Administration. He also was a member of President Obama’s Transition Team and early in his career a staff member of President Carter’s Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island. Reicher serves on the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, the National Academy of Sciences Board on Energy and Environmental Systems, and is a non-resident senior fellow with the Brookings Institution.

American Public Opinion on Climate Change: The Latest Measurements

Jon Krosnick, professor, Humanities and Social Sciences, Communication, Political Science, and (by courtesy) Psychology, Stanford University

Monday, January 25, 2016 | 04:30 PM - 05:20 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

During the past two decades, headlines on newspapers across the country have proclaimed such things as: "Scientists and the American Public Disagree Sharply over Global Warming." And one U.S. Senator has pronounced that the global warming issue is "dead" in the minds of Americans. Meanwhile, emissions reduction bills, such as Waxman-Markey, have been defeated in the Congress.  Is it really true that Americans reject the opinions of natural scientists on climate change?

In this presentation, Professor Krosnick will describe findings from a series of national surveys that he has designed and conducted since 1996, tracking what Americans do and do not believe on this issue and what they do and do not want to have done about it. Surprising results challenge many widely-held presumptions about public opinion and help set the stage for understanding how future legislation on climate change may fare.


**Join us at the Energy Social: 5:20-6:20pm, Huang Foyer**
The social is open to Stanford faculty, staff, and students.

What are the Prospects for Significant Global Deployment of Nuclear Power?

John Deutch, emeritus institute professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Monday, January 11, 2016 | 04:30 PM - 05:20 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

The construction of new nuclear plants in the U.S. and OECD countries has slowed substantially due to the low cost of natural gas, incentives for deployment of wind and solar, and especially due to the high cost of nuclear power plant construction and safety concerns after Fukushima. The fleet is aging and significant retirements are expected beginning in 2030. While construction of new plants continues in a few countries notably, China, South Korea, and Russia it seems likely that nuclear will experience a decline in its share of world wide electricity generation. 

Nuclear power is an important source of carbon free electricity. The purpose of this talk is to assess the prospect for future nuclear power deployment at significant scale. What are possibly technologies? What are expected development schedules and costs? Who will pay for the development and initial deployment? What should governments do? Are there prospects for international collaboration?

Energy and Economic Development: What We Know and What We Should Know

Morgan Bazilian, lead energy specialist, World Bank 

Michael Toman, lead economist on climate change, Development Research Group, World Bank

Monday, January 4, 2016 | 04:30 PM - 05:20 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

While energy sector development is rightly seen as key to broader economic development and poverty reduction, empirical evidence on some important aspects of the energy-development nexus remains surprisingly thin.  After presenting the contours of the energy and development topic broadly, the presentation will review what we know about the connections, conceptually and empirically, and what we need to better understand.  Topics addressed will include: the economic value of increased electricity availability and reliability; barriers to widespread adoption of modern cooking energy sources; links between energy poverty and security; and the political economy of the energy sector in developing countries.

Energy Efficiency: The Bad, the Good, and the Reality

Jim Sweeney, director of the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center, professor of Management Science & Engineering, senior fellow at Precourt Center and at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and, by courtesy, at the Hoover Institution

Monday, November 30, 2015 | 04:30 PM - 05:20 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Energy efficiency -- economically efficient reductions in energy use – supports three goals fundamental to US energy policy: the health and growth of the economy, the domestic and international environment, and domestic and international security.   Although barriers still keep the United States from full implementation of energy efficient options, energy efficiency improvements since the oil crisis of 1973-74 have had more beneficial impacts on US energy security and on the environment than any of the increases in domestic production of oil, gas, coal, geothermal energy, nuclear power, solar power, wind power, plus biofuels, put together.  Progress has been based on cumulative small changes, broadly distributed throughout the economy, and thus difficult to notice. 

The cumulative, broadly distributed growth in energy efficiency resulted from many factors working together, not simply one factor -- energy prices, attitudes, energy efficiency regulations, governmental and utility-based subsidies, governmental organizations and nongovernmental organizations, nudges, managerial changes.  For some companies energy efficiency became a profit strategy.  Technology innovations and innovations of energy management and utilization have been central. These factors in many cases were mutually reinforcing.


Options for De-Carbonizing Our Energy System

Arun Majumdar, co-director of Precourt Institute for Energy, professor of Mechanical Engineering and professor, by courtesy, of Materials Science and Engineering

Monday, November 16, 2015 | 04:30 PM - 05:20 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Arun Majumdar is the Jay Precourt Professor at Stanford University, a faculty member of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and co-director of the Precourt Institute for Energy. 

Arun’s research in the past has involved the science and engineering of nanoscale materials and devices, especially in the areas of energy conversion, transport and storage as well as biomolecular analysis. His current research focuses on using electrochemical reactions for thermal energy conversion, thermochemical water splitting reactions to produce carbon-free hydrogen, understanding the limits of heat transport in nanostructured materials and a new effort to re-engineer the electricity grid.

In October 2009, President Obama nominated Arun and the Senate confirmed him as the first director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy, where he served until June 2012. Between March 2011 and June 2012, Arun was also the acting under secretary of energy and a senior advisor to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.

After leaving Washington, DC and before joining Stanford, Arun was the vice president for energy at Google, where he created several energy technology initiatives, especially on the electricity grid, and advised the company on its broader energy strategy. 

U.S. Unconventional Oil Production, Low Oil Prices, and Global Impacts

Trisha Curtis, director of research, Upstream and Midstream, EPRINC

Monday, November 9, 2015 | 04:30 PM - 05:20 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Trisha Curtis is the Director of Research, Upstream and Midstream, at the Energy Policy Research Foundation, Inc. (EPRINC).  Since 2010 she has lead extensive research efforts and authored several reports on the North American upstream and midstream.  She recently spearheaded EPRINC’s project with Dept. of Energy for the Quadrennial Energy Review, evaluating production potential and crude oil transportation across the U.S. and Canada.  She is currently studying global markets and evaluating the impact of lower oil prices on the U.S and other major oil producing nations.  Ms. Curtis has a long standing commitment to pursuing a career in energy economics and technical analysis.  Raised in northwest Colorado, she has worked on oil and gas sites in Colorado and Wyoming.

Ms. Curtis’ work for Department of Defense has focused extensively on China and international economics.

Ms. Curtis did her undergraduate work at Regis University in Denver, Colorado where she double majored in Economics and Politics, minored in Criminology, and graduated Summa Cum Laude. She has a Master of Science (MSc) degree from the London School of Economics in International Political Economy and wrote her MSc Dissertation on Chinese National Oil Companies.  As an undergraduate she also worked as a staff assistant in UK Parliament for John Grogan, Selby Constituency.



The Economic Challenges and Chances of the German Energy Transition

Claudia Kemfert, professor of Energy Economics and Sustainability, Hertie School of Governance, Berlin and head of the department of Energy, Transportation, and Environment, German Institute of Economic Research (DIW Berlin)

Monday, November 2, 2015 | 04:30 PM - 05:20 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

The German energy transition is now in progress. In 40 years, electricity generation, which for the most part, is currently based on fossil fuels such as coal and gas, will be almost entirely converted to renewable energy sources. Presently, the share of electricity produced from renewables is about 23 percent, which is slightly more than nuclear power (18 percent).

Further, as part of the energy transition, a commitment has been made to phase out nuclear power early: the remaining nuclear reactors will be decommissioned by 2022. The energy transition is also focused on improving energy efficiency, both in the building energy sector and to achieve more sustainable mobility. The energy transition is designed to facilitate the development of a sustainable energy supply. There will be no blackouts, provided that sufficient funds are invested in improving energy efficiency, optimizing the electricity grid management system, expanding the grid and storage capacity, and also in gas-fired reserve power plants during the transitional period. Only a slight increase in the price of electricity is anticipated since there are key factors exerting both a downward and an upward effect on prices.

Although significant investment is required, this will, in turn, create added value and employment, however. Since Germany has sufficient plant, infrastructure, and power plant engineering and construction expertise, the German economy is in a better position than any other to profit from the energy transition, the boom in renewable energy, new power plants, improvements in energy efficiency, and sustainable urban development and mobility. The energy transition is expected to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs and thus undoubtedly brings more economic opportunities than risks.

America’s Clean Power Plan For Reducing Carbon Emissions: Rules, Challenges, and How States Are Responding


Dian Grueneich​, senior research scholar with the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center and the Shultz-Stephenson Energy Policy Task Force

Michael Wara, associate professor, Stanford Law School, research fellow, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies Faculty Fellow

Monday, October 26, 2015 | 04:30 PM - 05:20 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

On August 3, President Obama and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the Clean Power Plan (CPP).  Issued under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, these are the first-ever national standards addressing powerplant carbon emissions and will change the entire landscape of America’s electricity system.  Professor Wara will summarize the new rules and major areas of controversy.  Dian Grueneich will then discuss the challenges states face in developing compliance plans.  She will also analyze the role of and uncertainties facing the use of energy efficiency for compliance.