clean tech

Fireside chat with Tom Steyer and Sally Benson

Tom Steyer, Investor, Philanthropist and Advanced Energy Advocate

Monday, March 9, 2015 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All


Tom Steyer is a California business leader, philanthropist and advanced energy advocate. Before retiring from the private sector, Tom founded and was the Senior Managing Member of Farallon Capital Management. 

Tom is actively engaged in climate politics through his NextGen Climate political organization, and works to promote economic development and environmental protection in California and across the country. In 2010, Tom teamed up with former Secretary of State George Shultz to defeat Proposition 23, an effort by out-of-state oil companies to dismantle California’s groundbreaking clean energy law, AB 32. In 2012, Tom served as co-chair with Shultz for Yes on Proposition 39, which closed a tax loophole for out-of-state corporations and created jobs in California.

Tom and his wife, Kat Taylor, joined Warren Buffett, Bill and Melinda Gates and other high-wealth Americans in the “Giving Pledge,” a promise to donate the majority of their wealth to charitable and nonprofit activities during their lifetimes. Tom and Kat created and funded the Oakland-based Beneficial State Bank and Foundation, which provides loans and banking services to underserved small businesses, communities and individuals in California and along the west coast. Tom and Kat have four children.

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Emerging High-Efficiency Low-Cost Solar Cell Technologies: Solar Mini-Series (2 of 2)

Michael D. McGehee, Associate Professor Materials Science and Engineering

Monday, March 3, 2014 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

The dramatic decrease in price of silicon solar cells over the last 5 years has allowed the solar industry to grow at an impressive rate, but has also led to the demise of many solar cell startup companies that were developing next-generation technologies. Many believe that photovoltaic modules will need to cost less than $0.50 per watt and have power conversion efficiency > 25% to compete with fossil fuel power plants on a large scale. While it is likely that conventional silicon solar cells will reach this cost target, it will be challenging for them to reach the efficiency target. Some of the promising approaches that will be discussed involve lifting off thin single crystal solar cells from a wafer that can be reused. Others involve better understanding what causes recombination and polycrystalline thin films so that substantially better thin-film solar cells can be made. One of the most promising, yet not heavily researched, approaches is to make tandem solar cells using materials that function well even when they are polycrystalline and defective. Recent advances with hybrid perovskite semiconductors and their potential use in tandems will be emphasized.


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Commercializing Wind, Photovoltaics, Lighting, and Batteries: The Impact of Government Policies During the Past 25 Years

Cathy Zoi, Consulting Professor at Stanford University

Monday, March 3, 2014 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

On March 10th, Cathy Zoi will present the findings from Energy 158, a research seminar held during the Fall of 2013, that investigated the progress of wind, photovoltaics, lighting and batteries over the past 30 years, and the impact that government intervention had on this progress. She will then apply these lessons from history to propose a framework policy makers can use in the future.

Rationale for the research: Public policy imperatives have created a drive for energy technologies that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve national security, and boost domestic economic activity. To accelerate the development and commercialization of these new technologies beyond what the market would deliver on its own, governments frequently use policies like direct R&D funding, financial incentives or penalties (e.g. through the tax code, state funds, or utility rates), mandatory targets or caps, information disclosure, and performance codes and standards to create market conditions that favor emerging technologies. There is significant public debate about the most effective mix of these policy interventions.


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The Rapidly Changing Economics of Solar PV Power, Solar Mini-Series (1 of 2)

Anshuman Sahoo, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Management Science & Engineering at Stanford

Monday, February 24, 2014 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

This talk examines the economics of solar photovoltaic power both from the perspective of investors in solar installations and from the perspective of solar panel manufacturers. For investors, the key consideration is the cost competitiveness of solar PV relative to other electricity sources. The model calculations I present focus on commercial – and utility scale installations, highlighting the importance of geographic location and the role of federal tax subsidies.

To project the economics of solar PV in coming years, I will summarize some recent work that examines changes in the manufacturing costs of solar panel manufacturers. These findings suggest that the dramatic reductions in module prices over the past few years are partly attributable to cost reductions, but also to massive additions of manufacturing capacity that arguably left the industry with excess capacity. The talk will present a methodology for quantifying the magnitude of these two effects in order to make predictions about the future price trajectory of solar panels and, by implication, the competitiveness of solar power.


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Tailoring Demand to Match Supply: How Much Flexibility There is in Loads?

Ram Rajagopal, Assistant Professor, Civil and Environental Engineering, Stanford University

Monday, January 27, 2014 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Increase in supply side variability due to increases in renewable generation require demand side management strategies to reduce electricity delivery costs. Smart grid technologies provide opportunities for measuring and controlling loads at an unprecedented scale. Yet, understanding their performance requires accurately capturing how loads respond to specific technologies and how consumer behavior affects such response.  Typical demand side management planning and capability studies have been conducted relying on theoretical scenarios of adoption and response. This talk presents a new approach utilizing large scale individual level data made available by AMI deployments (smart meters). We utilize a 500,000+ customer data set and measure the available flexibility as well as potential strategies to elicit this flexibility from consumers.We classify various types of flexibility and demonstrate methods to infer them relying on features from data that reflect both behavior and response to specific technologies.  We demonstrate that flexibility depends both on environmental and geographical considerations as well as appropriately classifying and selecting consumers.The proposed approaches illustrates the value of combining tools from statistical signal processing,  stochastic control, machine learning and economics. 

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Powering the Future

Robert Laughlin, Department of Physics, Stanford University

Monday, November 18, 2013 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

This talk will follow the rough outline of Robert's recent book, Powering the Future: How We Will (Eventually) Solve the Energy Crisis and Fuel the Civilization of Tomorrow. Robert will take the audience past contemporary politics through a mental journey to a time, several centuries from now, when nobody uses carbon-based fuel out of the ground anymore, either because they have banned the practice or it is gone. The world will be warmer then, although exactly how much warmer depends on events to come. What is this time like? How do the people make their living? What do they learn in school about us? While scientific discoveries of the future are difficult to predict, some of the future is very predictable by virtue of the immutability of physical law and human nature. People wishing to live well will still need energy. The energy in question will still be conserved. It will still have to be procured from somewhere in prodigious amounts and discarded into space after use. Chemical bonds will be the same as they are now. So will gravity. The constraints on energy storage will be the same. Nuclear waste will still be dangerous. Thinking through the energy and climate problem backward in this way is easy to do, and it clarifies the present-day situation immensely.

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Energy Data: Big Decisions, Miniseries Part 3 of 3 | Which Problems to Solve, What Data to Use?

Dr. Carrie Armel, Research Associate, Precourt Energy Efficiency Center (PEEC) at Stanford University

Ian Kalin, Director of Open Data, Socrata

Adam Rein, Principal, Mission Point Capital Partners

Monday, November 11, 2013 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Carrie Armel Adam Rein Ian Kalin

What energy challenges are best served with data, and what data sets are available for these applications? Adam Rein of Mission Point Capital will outline the most promising opportunities from a VC’s perspective. Ian Kalin, Director of Open Data at Socrata and a former White House Presidential Innovation Fellow, will survey this administration’s mission to jump start data sharing initiatives and compile data sets. Carrie Armel will provide examples of the diverse ways in which Stanford’s ARPA-E funded initiative has utilized energy data, such as that from smart meters, to reduce energy consumption. Following the panel will be an opportunity to engage the speakers and other knowledgeable professionals in lively discussion and brainstorming.


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Energy Data: Big Decisions, Miniseries Part 2 of 3: Creating an Energy Efficient Future Through Data Driven Decision Making

Philip Farese, Vice President of Engineering, Advantix Systems

Monday, October 28, 2013 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of measures one can take to reduce energy use of any given piece of machinery, building, city, state, or nation.  Trying to decide which to implement proves a challenge in the face of limited information, technology and implementation risks, competing priorities, and rudimentary decision making tools. By including economics, potential energy savings, and adoption dynamics one can help disentangle this milieu to provide objective facts.  We discuss multiple methods for decision making by highlighting a tool recently developed to inform Department of Energy decision making.  This tool revealed that a 30% energy savings reduction goal is both realistic and adds economic value to the country.  Additionally it surfaced the true potential of engineering and development to reduce national energy use by as much as 80%.  We conclude by briefly reviewing the most promising technologies and highlighting the potential of one of these: liquid desiccant air conditioning.



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BETTER BURNING: China's Attempt at Clean Coal

Shisen Xu, President, Clean Energy Research Institute at China Huaneng Group; moderated by Jeffrey Ball, Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance, Stanford University

Monday, October 7, 2013 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

China consumes nearly as much coal as the rest of the world combined, and is leading the world in greenhouse gas emissions. Now, even as China builds more coal-fired power plants, it is working to roll out technologies to burn that coal more cleanly — from anti-smog filters to systems to capture carbon dioxide and shoot it underground. China has launched the world’s largest “clean coal” experiment. During this talk, the top technology officer from China’s largest power company will assess the state of cleaner coal-burning technology and its prospects for real-world rollout in China and around the globe. Shisen Xu is President of the Clean Energy Research Institute at China Huaneng Group, one of China’s largest state-owned electric utilities. 

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Renewable Profits at the Base of the Pyramid

 Ted Hesser, Independent Consultant

Monday, September 30, 2013 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | NVIDIA Auditorium, Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center | Free and Open to All

Poverty and profit tend not to mix. Yet, the alleviation of the former is creating a tremendous opportunity for the latter. Close to one billion people have risen above the poverty line over the past twenty years, entering the global consumer marketplace. The trend is anticipated to continue – potentially liberating the remaining one billion people from poverty over the next two decades. For investors, the implication is the emergence of the largest new market for global goods and services. An estimated three billion people now earn between $2 and $10 a day. Selling basic services to this market through micropayment schemes may enable technology access, development gains, environmental benefits, and profit opportunities that were unimaginable prior to mobile banking. Pay-as-you-go (PAYG) solar may become the largest opportunity in energy services, and business models positioned at the confluence of declining component costs, rising mobile money usage, and low cost financing are poised for explosive growth over the coming years. Efficient product distribution and working capital financing are the primary impediments to scale. Neither raw demand nor market size is a concern. Rural villagers can save money today and dramatically improve their quality of life as customers of PAYG solar. There are multiple companies successfully selling low cost solar power systems and services to homes and small shops across the developing world through multiple business models. These business models and their execution will determine the spoils of this enormous market opportunity.


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