Seminar Archive Summaries

Screening and Discussion of "Beyond the Light Switch"

Panel: Ed Moore, Detroit Public Television; David Biello, Scientific American; Sally Benson, Department of Energy Resources Engineering, Stanford University; Mark Zoback, Department of Geophysics, Stanford University
Moderator: Paul Rogers, KQED News

Monday, March 12, 2012 | 04:15 PM - 06:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Ed Moore David Biello Paul Rogers Mark Zoback Sally Benson

"Beyond the Light Switch" takes viewers on an enlightening and comprehensive journey into the inner workings of the electrical power infrastructure, from a first-of-its-kind coal plant in West Virginia to natural gas wells in Pennsylvania, from the inside of a nuclear reactor under construction in Tennessee to wind farms  in Oregon. The documentary, which was directed and co-written by Ed Moore, won a 2011 Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award, the highest honor in broadcast journalism. The two-hour show, of which an abbreviated version will be screened, illustrates how a new paradigm is rapidly evolving for electric power generation.

What is this new paradigm? By 2050, the United States must replace most of its electric power generation fleet, cut carbon dioxide emissions by 80% and completely update its power grid. All of this must happen while demand for electricity is expected to rise 30%.

Related Themes:

Saving the World and Having a Job: The Changing Energy Landscape and Implications for Investment

 Marc Lipschultz, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.

Monday, March 5, 2012 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

The energy landscape is changing rapidly. What the internet is to information technology, the development of unconventional resources is to energy, except the impact has been even swifter. The advent of unconventional resources on the supply side intersected with the rapid growth and urbanization of developing markets is creating upheaval in the short term and vast new capital requirements and career opportunities for years to come. These changes impact all facets of the energy complex from renewable generation to the transportation fleet of the future. This seminar will cover these major changes and their implications for investment and careers in the broad energy and infrastructure complex.

Related Themes:

Fossil Fuel Independence for Denmark: Why, When and How?

Katherine Richardson, University of Copenhagen 

Monday, March 5, 2012 | 12:15 PM - 01:30 PM | Mackenzie Room, Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

For the first time in history, the human demand for a number of critical natural resources is approaching or exceeding the global supply of these resources. Sustainable development requires that the demand for resources be brought into, and maintained within, the limit of supply. This means that the only possible growth paradigm for society demands that we use our natural resources much more efficiently and, when possible, develop alternatives for resources where demand approaches supply. While this paradigm applies to a number of natural resources, it is most obviously playing out with respect to energy. Here, two resources are challenged by demand at the global level: fossil fuels (especially oil) and our common atmospheric garbage dump for greenhouse gas waste.

This is leading a number of countries – especially those where energy security in the short-term is potentially threatened – to invest in or plan alternative energy systems. Denmark has set an absolute date of 2050 for removing fossil fuels from its energy system,  the first country in the world to take such action. This talk will describe the Danish plan, how it was developed, the strategy for achieving fossil fuel independence and the status of the transition.

Related Themes:

Consumer-Owned Utilities as an Energy Career Path: Doing Pretty Well While Doing Some Good Too; Saving the World and Having a Job

Susan Kelly, American Public Power Association

Monday, February 27, 2012 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

It can be hard to find a career path in the energy field that satisfies the urge to make a positive difference while not donning an economic hair shirt. Working for for-profit producers, generators and utilities can require you to put the company’s business plan and profits before what might be best for consumers, but working as a consumer advocate can be a tough economic road. A “sweet spot” that even those in the field tend to overlook is working for utilities that are owned by their consumers, either directly through a cooperative or indirectly through a local governmental entity. Because producing profits to satisfy a separate class of shareholders is not required, those working for such utilities can concentrate on a single mission: providing the most reasonably priced, reliable utility service possible while meeting environmental goals. Sue Kelly has spent 30 years working for consumer-owned utilities, and will share her views on why they can provide a satisfying energy career path.

Related Themes:

Integrated Energy and Resource Recovery from Waste and Wastewater

Craig Criddle, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University

Richard G.Luthy, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University

Monday, February 13, 2012 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All






Craig Criddle


Richard Luthy


By the end of the 20th century, the United States had about 15,000 wastewater treatment plants and 13,000 landfills. These systems were designed to prevent environmental harm and to protect public health. Other factors, such as energy costs and climate change, were not a consideration. Waste and wastewater were collected, transported to centralized facilities, treated to remove harmful agents, and the effluents and residuals discharged. Now these systems have reached their design life and are in need of revitalization. Energy costs, climate change, and demand for secure supplies of water, food and materials provide powerful incentives for technological innovation through the creation of circular markets. In such markets, wastewater becomes a resource for local production of freshwater and nutrients, and organic waste becomes feedstock for local production of energy and biomaterials. Many groups around the world are now developing technology to enable such innovation.


Related Themes:

National Oil Companies and the World Oil Market: Should We Be Worried?

Mark Thurber, Program on Energy and Sustainable Development, Stanford University

Monday, February 6, 2012 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

State-owned oil and natural gas companies, such as Saudi Aramco, Petróleos de Venezuela and China National Petroleum Corp., own 73 percent of the world's oil reserves and 68 percent of its natural gas. They bankroll governments across the globe. Although national oil companies superficially resemble private-sector companies, they often behave in very different ways.

Oil and Governance: State-Owned Enterprises and the World Energy Supply (Cambridge University Press, 2012), a new book commissioned by Stanford University's Program on Energy and Sustainable Development, explains the variation in performance and strategy for such state-owned enterprises. The book, which Mark Thurber co-edited and contributed to, also provides fresh insights into the future of the oil industry and the politics of the oil-rich countries where national oil companies dominate.

Though national oil companies have often been the subject of case studies, for the first time multiple case studies followed a common research design, which aided the relative ranking of performance and the evaluation of hypotheses about such companies' performance. Interestingly, some of the worst performing of these operations belong to countries quite unfriendly to the United States. Mark will also discuss the industrial structure of the oil industry, and the politics and administration of national oil companies. One result of the dominance of this structure for oil markets is that high prices often lead to lower supplies and low prices lead to increased production -- the opposite response of private companies.


Related Themes:

Producing Natural Gas from Shale - Opportunities and Challenges of a Major New Energy Source

Mark Zoback, Department of Geophysics, Stanford University

Monday, January 30, 2012 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

It is now clear that enormous quantities of natural gas can be produced from organic rich shales found in many countries throughout the world. Because natural gas is both a flexible fuel and much cleaner than other fossil fuels, it has the potential to significantly transform energy use in many regions. Natural gas used for electrical power generation produces about half as much CO2 as coal.

Despite these advantages, there are also significant challenges associated natural gas development. These include minimizing the impact of shale gas development on the environment and communities. In the U.S. alone, thousands of wells will need to be drilled each year (along with construction of pipelines, compressor and distribution facilities, etc.). While a number of misleading claims have been made about the dangers associated with processes such as hydraulic fracturing, poor well construction and drilling have the potential to cause environmental damage which must be minimized.

Another challenge associated with shale gas development is to significantly improve the efficiency of drilling and production practice.  This will require greatly improved understanding of shale gas production from the nano-scale pore structure and flow mechanisms in the shale to the optimal way to stimulate production using horizontal drilling and multi-stage hydraulic fracturing. 


Related Themes:

Going Underground: Safe Disposal of Used Nuclear Fuel

 Burton Richter, Director Emeritus, SLAC National Accelerator Labaratory

Monday, January 23, 2012 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Nuclear reactor fuel after it comes out of a reactor is intensely radioactive and dangerous.  It is literally too hot to handle for 4 to 5 years after it comes out and is stored under water, and then too radioactive to be stored without massive shielding.  How to ultimately dispose of this material has been the focus of both technical and political controversy.  The deep underground repository planned for Yucca Mountain in Nevada has been abandoned after twenty five years of R&D, leaving a new site to be found and characterized before used fuel can be put away.  The problem is mainly political, rather than technical and in this presentation I will discuss the technical and political issue that got the US into its current situation.  Other countries (Switzerland, Finland, and France for example) have no problems like ours.  A new high level commission has been working on what to do and their report is due out at the end of this month, though its main points are already available and I will review how the spent fuel issue can be managed.

Related Themes:

CO2 Sequestration: Recent Advances and Remaining Challenges

Sally Benson, Department of Energy Resources Engineering, Stanford University

Monday, January 9, 2012 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

In little more than a decade, carbon dioxide (CO2) capture from point source emissions and sequestration in deep geological formations has emerged as one of the most important options for reducing CO2 emissions. Two major challenges stand in the way of realizing this potential: the high cost of capturing CO2, and gaining confidence in the capacity, safety and permanence of sequestration in deep geological formations. Building on examples from laboratory and field-based studies of multiphase flow of CO2 in porous rocks; this talk addresses the current prospects for CO2 sequestration.

Which formations can provide safe and secure sequestration? At what scale will this be practical and is this scale sufficient to significantly reduce emissions? What monitoring methods can be used to provide assurance that CO2 remains trapped underground? What are the long-term risks of geological sequestration and how can they be managed? The status of each these questions will be discussed, along with emerging research questions.

Related Themes:

Stanford'se ARPA-E Sensor and Behavior Initiative

Panel: Carrie Armel, June Flora and Tom Robinson, Stanford University.
Moderated by Byron Reeves, Stanford University.

Monday, December 5, 2011 | 04:15 PM - 05:30 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All


Carrie Armel

June Flora

Byron Reeves

Tom Robinson

Smart meters and related sensing technologies promise that energy information will change energy use. Poorly designed interactions with energy information, however, jeopardize billion-dollar infrastructure investments. The current problems are numerous: sensor information is complex and dull, incentives are inappropriate, informational barriers to action are high, and social context is ignored. These problems all involve the intersection of human behavior and technology. The goal of the Stanford ARPA-E Sensor and Behavior Initiative is to develop a comprehensive human-centered solution that leverages the anticipated widespread diffusion of energy sensors to significantly reduce and shift energy use. The Stanford ARPA-E Sensor and Behavior Initiative includes 20 projects spanning 10 Stanford academic departments with multiple industry collaborators. The Initiative can be divided into three types of projects: (1) technology-oriented projects: hardware, analytics and a software platform that enables behavioral programs to be implemented at scale; (2) behavioral programs to reduce and shift energy use; and (3) data modeling that incorporates behavior into prescriptive engineering and economic analyses. The behavioral programs include media (interaction design, social networking, games and feedback interfaces), policy (behavioral economic incentive programs), and community (e.g., a Girl Scout program).