Seminar Archive Summaries

Connecting the Dots: The Water, Food, Energy and Climate Nexus

Monday, April 16, 2012 | 01:00 PM - 04:00 PM | McCaw Hall, Frances C. Arrillaga Alumni Center |

We have a special Stanford program today and encourage our Energy Seminar community to attend. Registration is required. If you are not a student enrolled in the Energy Seminar and wish to attend the Connecting the Dots program on April 16, please register at Additional information is available at the Connecting The Dots website.
Please note this event is being held in a different venue then most Energy Seminars.
Related Themes:

Car Sharing and Pooling: Reducing Car Over-Population and Collaborative Consumption

John Atcheson, Vice President, Getaround

Logan Green, CEO & Co-founder, Zimride

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

John Atcheson


Logan Green

In the United States alone, there are more than 250 million cars and light trucks, and these vehicles sit idle an average of 92% of the time.  With the average car costing more than $6,500 per year just to own, (i.e., not including gas and other operating expenses), this represents over $1.5 trillion dollars each year in wasted capital.  Peer-to-peer car sharing puts this capital to use, as John Atcheson will discuss, giving car owners the opportunity to earn thousands of dollars per year off their idle asset, and providing drivers with a viable alternative to car ownership.  In the process, peer-to-peer car sharing dramatically helps our environment. Studies have shown that the average shared car replaces 9-13 other cars, and that drivers who switch from driving their own car to driving a shared car reduce both vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions by more than 40%. This presentation will focus on the opportunities and challenges facing peer-to-peer car sharing, and offer a vision for a world in which every car is shared.
People are in the beginning of a dramatic transformation that is changing the way we think about personal transportation. In this new age, access trumps ownership. Access to a network that gets us from point A to point B is becoming more desirable than incurring all of the expenses and burdens associated with car ownership. Logan Green will explore how this new transportation network is taking shape, why it’s happening now, and the factors that are making it possible.
Related Themes:

The Energy Balance of the Photovoltaic Industry: Is the PV Industry a Net Energy Provider?

Michael Dale, Global Climate & Energy Project, Stanford University

Monday, April 2, 2012 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

A combination of policy measures and reduced costs have driven a rapid growth in global installed capacity of solar photovoltaics. This rapid growth has prompted concerns over the net energy yield of PV energy production. Mik will analyze the energy balance of the PV industry given historic and projected growth in capacity. Results suggest that, despite the large amount of energy required to manufacture and install PV systems, there is a high likelihood (greater than 80%) that the industry became a net provider of electricity between 2009 and today. If current trends continue, the industry will almost certainly be a net electricity producer by 2015 and will have ‘paid back’ the energy subsidy required for its early growth by the end of this decade. This analysis raises a number of implications for PV research, development and deployment including: further reducing the energy embodied within PV systems, including balance of system components; designing more efficient and durable systems; and deployment in regions that will achieve high capacity factors.

Related Themes:

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: