Global Climate Architectural Policy

John Weyant, Professor (Research) of Management Science and Engineering

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | Building 420, Room 40 | Free and Open to All


Targets for climate policies at the national and international levels were very poorly assessed, evaluated and communicated prior to the Copenhagen climate summit, and now urgently need to be re-analyzed. Using the results of the recent Energy Modeling Forum Global, US and EU climate policy model comparison exercises as points of departure, this talk looks at what kinds of formal and informal global climate policy agreements might be desirable and/or feasible. The relationship between global objectives and national and international policy architectures is crucial, but often ignored or done inconsistently. We take a hard look here at the large gap in public discourse that currently exists between what might be desirable and what might actually be feasible. We end with a set of pragmatic suggestions for how to proceed. The old policy initiatives did not work, but promising new ideas are emerging, so the need to at least keep the accounting straight has never been more important. Despite their immense popularity, “aspirational” goals and objectives have not, are not and will not ever work.

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Solar Energy at Scale: Materials, Environmental and Energy Impact

John Benner, National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Wednesday, November 18, 2009 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | Building 420, Room 40 | Free and Open to All

The installed capacity for photovoltaic generation of electricity in the United States is still a tiny slice of the generating mix of the country -- less than 0.1%. The industry must maintain a growth rate greater that 40% annually to achieve national goals to exceed 10% of the total electricity capacity by 2020. Surprisingly, this high rate of growth has been exceeded during the past several years even as the industry passed through its first major bottleneck. The shortage of silicon feedstock certainly impeded the expansion plans of many companies, left much production capacity unused, and likely contributed to a flattening of the trajectory of cost reduction. Perhaps sales would have been even higher had this shortage not constrained growth.

Looking forward, we can anticipate a number of other bottlenecks. We are already seeing longer lead times in equipment delivery. Feedstock for several leading technologies, including silicon, may continue to constrain growth. Distributed generation will soon grow to a point where utilities’ ability to integrate these sources may impede expansion. The current financial turmoil will limit expansion capital. Additionally, high penetration on distribution circuits will add problems that are only now becoming anticipated. Ultimately, we should all expect and welcome a shortage of government incentives, such that the technologies will be competing as low-cost energy producers.

This talk will provide a status report on photovoltaics and explore means to overcome anticipated barriers to sustaining the necessary growth.

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Solar Cell Technology in 2009 and Beyond

Professor Michael McGehee, Director, Center for Advanced Molecular Photovoltaics, Stanford University

Wednesday, November 11, 2009 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | Building 420, Room 40 | Free and Open to All

Professor McGehee will provide an overview of the technologies and economic considerations covered in his Solar Cells course. He will compare crystalline silicon, amorphous silicon, CdTe, CIGS, tandem and organic solar cells as well as emerging concepts that utilize multiple exciton generation and nanowires. He will explain how the solar cells are made, how they operate, what limits their performance and how their performance to cost ratio is likely to evolve over time.
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The Solar Opportunity: How New Business Models Can Make the Sun a Mainstream Source of Global Electricity

Lyndon Rive, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, SolarCity

Wednesday, November 4, 2009 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | Building 420, Room 40 | Free and Open to All

Most of the scientific community and a growing portion of the energy industry recognize that solar energy is one of the cleanest and most widely accessible means of producing electricity on Earth, yet solar power still counts for far less than 1 percent of global energy production. If solar is to take its proper place among coal, oil & gas, nuclear and other primary energy sources, new business models must necessarily emerge to facilitate mass adoption. Solar technology has become a risky, highly competitive gambit for new businesses. Opportunities abound for entrepreneurs in services, where new approaches to financing, distribution, implementation and administration can remove key barriers to adoption. This talk will explore today’s best solar opportunities from the entrepreneur’s perspective, and some emerging business models that might address them.

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Economic Analysis of the Solar Industry: Achieving Grid Parity

Annie Hazlehurst, Graduate Student, Stanford GSB

Wednesday, October 28, 2009 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | Building 420, Room 40 | Free and Open to All

The economics of solar systems will drive long term adoption and market viability. Today, the U.S. and many other countries continue to subsidize the cost of solar systems and incentivize adoption through standards such as RPS. If solar is going to contribute meaningfully to our energy future, the economics must favorably compare to alternative sources of energy on a levelized cost basis. When and how will we achieve grid parity? The talk will cover where we are today and where we need to get for solar to be a primary source of global energy generation.

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Sustainable Energy Future: Scale, Tradeoffs, and Co-Benefits

Panel with Stanford Faculty: Sally Benson, Director, Global Climate and Energy Project; Pamela Matson, Chester Naramore Dean of the School of Earth Sciences; Lynn Orr, Director, Precourt Institute for Energy; Stephen Schneider, Melvin & Joan Lane Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies; Jim Sweeney, Director Precourt Energy Efficiency Center; Buzz Thompson, Co-Director Woods Institute for the Environment

Wednesday, October 14, 2009 | 04:15 PM - 05:30 PM | Building 420, Room 40 | Free and Open to All

The Stanford panelists will discuss a number of important themes and issues about energy use, impacts, and opportunities as we begin the transition to a low emission energy future. Panelists will consider economic viability, political will, resource constraints, and environmental impacts of various energy technologies at scale. They will discuss tradeoffs and how decision makers may seek co-benefits and avoid unintended consequences when making choices.

* Energy Social following the talk (Note: we do not provide venue details for social on the web)

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National Academy of Sciences Report: America's Energy Future: Liquid Transportation Fuels from Coal and Biomass

Michael Ramage, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company (retired);
James Sweeney, Stanford University

Wednesday, September 30, 2009 | 04:15 PM - 05:30 PM | McCaw Hall, Frances C. Arrillaga Alumni Center | Free and Open to All

National Academy of Sciences Report: America's Energy Future: Liquid Transportation Fuels from Coal and Biomass

The volatility of oil prices, the large proportion of oil importation, and the massive contribution of greenhouse gases from the transportation sector motivates the United States to seek domestic sources of alternative transportation fuels with lower greenhouse emissions. The abundance of coal and biomass in the United States makes them attractive candidates to provide alternatives to petroleum-based liquid fuels. However, there are important questions about the economic viability, carbon impact, and technology status of these options.

The National Research Council report Liquid Transportation Fuels from Coal and Biomass: Technological Status, Costs, and Environmental Impacts provides a snapshot of the potential costs of liquid fuels from biomass by biochemical conversion and from biomass and coal by thermochemical conversion. The report concluded that alternative liquid transportation fuels from coal and biomass have the potential to play an important role in helping the United States address issues of energy security, supply diversification, and greenhouse-gas impacts. The various options have different greenhouse gas impacts, and the choices will most likely depend on U.S. carbon policy. Cellulosic ethanol, coal-to-liquid fuels, and coal and biomass to liquid fuels can be available commercially in the 2020 time frame if large-scale demonstrations of the conversion technologies are pursued aggressively in the next few years.

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Why the United States Has Yet to Benefit from Electricity Industry Re-structuring (And What Can Be Done to Change This)

Frank Wolak, Stanford University

Wednesday, April 29, 2009 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | Building 420, Room 40 | Free and Open to All

April 29, 2009 - Frank Wolak, senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, discusses restructuring the electricity industry in the U.S. and explains the problems involved in energy market design. He believes that the divergent goals of state-level and federal-level regulation of the energy industry are ultimately harming consumers, and that in the future, there will be a need to address government vs. private ownership. Wolak calls for the need to treat electricity like any other product in the U.S. and argues for changing the structure of the electricity network to a market-controlled system, rather than an explicitly regulated one. However, because the market system carries with it many problems that can lead to an imbalanced power structure, some regulation is necessary. Wolak believes the United States will need to protect consumers from price risk and ensure the right to electricity. Wolak also projects that installation of smart meters will lead to estimated savings on wholesale energy purchase costs. Currently, investor-owned utilities are installing hourly meters for customers, and this restructuring is a positive step.
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Taking Solar Seriously:  How to Run a Modern Industrial Civilization on Sunbeams

Denis Hayes, President and CEO, Bullitt Foundation, National Coordinator of first Earth Day

Wednesday, April 15, 2009 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | Building 420, Room 40 | Free and Open to All

Mr. Hayes spoke about taking solar seriously. Hayes, who served as national coordinator of the first Earth Day in 1970, is currently the president and chief executive officer of the Bullitt Foundation, which advocates for environmental protection and sustainability practices in the Pacific Northwest. Hayes also directed the National Renewable Energy Laboratory under President Jimmy Carter's administration and served as President of the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) in 1968.

No video or speaker slides available

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How Energy Policy is Really Made

Tara Billingsley, Professional Staff, Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, U.S. Senate

Wednesday, April 8, 2009 | 04:15 PM - 05:15 PM | Building 420, Room 40 | Free and Open to All

Tara Billingsley, professional staff, for the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, U.S. Senate, discusses current and proposed U.S. energy policy and the legislative process. The Energy Seminar meets during the academic year on Wednesdays, 4:15 to 5:15 p.m.

No video or speaker slides available

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