Seminar Archive Summaries

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.

The Solar Car

Celebrating Over Twenty Years of Solar and Automotive Student Innovation

Monday, October 19, 2015 | 04:30 PM - 05:45 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Come join past and current team members of the Stanford Solar Car Project (SSCP) for the showing of the documentary, "Stanford Solar Project: Riding on Sunshine.” The film features the team's top-five finish in the 2013 World Solar Challenge across the Australian outback, as well as interviews with project supporters, including JB Straubel, CTO of Tesla Motors, and representatives from Google, Panasonic and other tech companies.

**Energy Social: 5:45-6:45pm, Huang Foyer** The social is open to Stanford faculty, staff, and students.


Energy Efficiency in California and the U.S.: Progress and Prospects

Ralph Cavanagh, senior attorney and co-director of Natural Resources Defense Council’s energy program

Monday, October 12, 2015 | 04:30 PM - 05:20 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Ralph Cavanagh has represented the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in California and national energy forums since 1979. He will reflect on the emergence of energy efficiency as the nation's most important energy resource, the history of efforts to mobilize it in California and nationally, and the challenges ahead. He will focus on electric utilities in particular as the nation's most important clean energy investors, and on progress in federal and state efficiency standards. He will also address the role of energy efficiency in EPA's new Clean Power Plan, and in global climate policy negotiations.

Beyond 2020: California's Role in Climate and Energy Transformation

Ken Alex, director, Governor's Office of Planning and Research

Monday, October 5, 2015 | 04:30 PM - 05:20 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Ken Alex is a senior policy advisor to Governor Jerry Brown and the director of the Office of Planning and Research, focusing on energy, environment, and land use issues. As California moves towards a population of 50 million in a climate change constrained world, Ken and OPR work on issues and policies that protect and promote the State’s environment and economy. Before joining the Governor’s Office, Ken was the senior assistant attorney general heading the environment section of the California Attorney General’s Office, and the co-head of the Office’s global warming unit. From 2000 to 2006, Ken led the California Attorney General’s energy task force, investigating price and supply issues related to California’s energy crisis. During his tenure at the Attorney General’s Office, Ken negotiated dozens of significant settlements, including agreements with San Bernardino County and ConocoPhillips for the first required reductions of greenhouse gas emissions in the country.

California Lawyer named Ken an “Attorney of the Year” in 2004 for his work in energy law, and he received the ABA award for Distinguished Achievement in Environmental Law and Policy in 2007 for global warming work. He has taught courses on environmental law and policy at Stanford, Hastings, and Golden Gate University.

Ken is a graduate of Harvard Law School and holds a B.A. in political theory from the University of California at Santa Cruz.


A Big Data System for Things That Move

Balaji Prabhakar, professor of Electrical Engineering and of Computer Science and, by courtesy, of Management Science and Engineering and of Operations, Information and Technology at the Graduate School of Business

Monday, September 28, 2015 | 04:30 PM - 05:20 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

The world consists of many interesting things that move: people go to work, home, school, and shop in public transit buses and trains or in cars and taxis; goods move on these networks and by trucks or by air each day; and food items travel a very large distance to meet their eater. Thus, massive movement processes are underway in the world every day and it is critical to ensure their safe, timely and efficient operation. Towards this end, low-cost sensing and acquisition of the movement data is being achieved: from GPS devices, RFID and barcode scanners, to smart commuter cards and smartphones, snapshots of the movement process are becoming available.

In this talk, I will present a system for stitching together these snapshots and reconstructing urban mobility at a very fine-grained level. The system, which we call the Space-Time Engine, provides an interactive dashboard and a querying engine for answering questions such as: What is the crowding at a train station? Where are packages being held up and how can their delivery be sped up? How can the available supply of transport capacity be better used to address daily demand as well as the demand on exceptional days (such as rallies and severe weather events). I will describe the STE's capabilities for operational and planning purposes, and as a learning system.

Developing Sustainable Pathways to Fuels and Chemicals

Tom Jaramillo, associate professor of Chemical Engineering and of Photon Science

Monday, September 21, 2015 | 04:30 PM - 05:20 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Nearly all the fuels and chemicals produced and consumed today are derived from fossil resources. This talk will describe recent efforts to develop new, renewable pathways to produce the same kinds of fuels and chemicals that our society relies on, though in a sustainable manner. In particular, the talk will focus on two areas of sustainable technology: (1) Solar-based processes for the renewable production of H2 from water, and (2) CO2 conversion to produce carbon-based fuels and chemicals. Keys to improving these technologies for widespread commercialization involve the development of higher performance semiconductors, interfaces, and catalyst materials for high efficiency, stability, and selectivity for targeted products. This talk will describe challenges in the field and our means to address them through our research efforts to engineer improved materials and devices.

111(d) Modeling Series: Modeling Pathways to Long-Term GHG Reductions in California


Elaine Hart, Managing Consultant, E3

Jeffery Greenblatt, Staff Scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Monday, June 1, 2015 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Governor Brown recently issued an executive order calling for a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across the California economy relative to 1990 levels by 2030. E3 and LBNL will present recent modeling work done by each of their organizations analyzing scenarios, policies, and technologies for emission reductions and provide an overview of key findings and implications.

The California Air Resources Board, California Energy Commission, California Public Utilities Commission, and the California Independent System Operator engaged E3 to evaluate the feasibility and cost of a range of potential 2030 targets along the way to the state's goal of reducing GHG emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. E3 developed scenarios that explore the potential pace at which emission reductions can be achieved as well as the mix of technologies and practices deployed. E3 conducted the analysis using its California PATHWAYS model.  Enhanced specifically for this study, the model encompasses the entire California economy with detailed representations of the buildings, industry, transportation, and electricity sectors.  

LBNL will discuss its separate but related effort, modeling 2020 and 2030 policy and technology scenarios in California. Using CALGAPS, a new, validated model simulating GHG and criteria pollutant emissions in California from 2010 to 2050, four scenarios were developed: Committed Policies (S1), Uncommitted Policies (S2), Potential Policy and Technology Futures (S3), and Counterfactual (S0), which omits all GHG policies. Forty-nine individual policies were represented. Sensitivity analysis provided quantification of individual policy GHG emissions reduction benefits.