Full video of presentation, “Innovating for the clean energy economy” @ MIT Energy Initiative

For the video of the talk: click here.

Talk deliv­ered Feb­ru­ary 19, 2018

Daniel Kam­men is a pro­fes­sor of energy at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley, with par­al­lel appoint­ments in the Energy and Resources Group (which he chairs), the Gold­man School of Pub­lic Pol­icy, and the Depart­ment of Nuclear Sci­ence and Engi­neer­ing. Recently, he gave a talk at MITEI exam­in­ing the cur­rent state of clean energy inno­va­tion and imple­men­ta­tion, both in the U.S. and inter­na­tion­ally. Using a com­bi­na­tion of ana­lyt­i­cal and empir­i­cal approaches, he dis­cussed the strengths and weak­nesses of clean energy efforts on the house­hold, city, and regional levels.

Q: Your team has built energy tran­si­tion mod­els for sev­eral coun­tries, includ­ing Chile, Nicaragua, China, and India. Can you describe how these mod­els work and how they can inform global cli­mate nego­ti­a­tions like the Paris Accords?

A: My lab­o­ra­tory has worked with three gov­ern­ments to build open-​​source mod­els of the cur­rent state of their energy sys­tems and pos­si­ble oppor­tu­ni­ties for improve­ment. This model, SWITCH, is an excep­tion­ally high-​​resolution plat­form for exam­in­ing the costs, reli­a­bil­ity, and car­bon emis­sions of energy sys­tems as small as Nicaragua’s and as large as China’s. The excit­ing recent devel­op­ments in the cost and per­for­mance improve­ments of solar, wind, energy stor­age, and elec­tric vehi­cles per­mit the plan­ning of dra­mat­i­cally decar­bonized sys­tems that have a wide range of ancil­lary ben­e­fits: increased reli­a­bil­ity, improved air qual­ity, and mon­e­tiz­ing energy effi­ciency, to name just a few. With the Paris Cli­mate Accords plac­ing 80% or greater decar­boniza­tion tar­gets on all nations’ agen­das (sadly, except for the U.S. fed­eral gov­ern­ment), the need for an ‘hon­est bro­ker’ for the costs and oper­a­tional issues around power sys­tems is key.

Q: At the end of your talk, you men­tioned a car­bon foot­print cal­cu­la­tor that you helped cre­ate. How much do indi­vid­ual behav­iors mat­ter in address­ing cli­mate change?

A: The car­bon foot­print, or Cool­Cli­mate project, is a visu­al­iza­tion and behav­ioral eco­nom­ics tool that can be used to high­light the impacts of indi­vid­ual deci­sions at the house­hold, school, and city level. We have used it to sup­port city-​​city com­pe­ti­tions for “California’s coolest city,” to explore the rel­a­tive impacts of life­time choices (buy­ing an elec­tric vehi­cle ver­sus or along with changes of diet), and more.

Q: You touched on the topic of the “high ambi­tion coali­tion,” a COP21 goal of keep­ing warm­ing under 1.5 degrees Cel­sius. Can you expand on this move­ment and the car­bon neg­a­tive strate­gies it would require?

A: As we look at paths to a sus­tain­able global energy sys­tem, efforts to limit warm­ing to 1.5 degrees Cel­sius will require not only zero­ing out indus­trial and agri­cul­tural emis­sions, but also remov­ing car­bon from the atmos­phere. This demands increas­ing nat­ural car­bon sinks by pre­serv­ing or expand­ing forests, sus­tain­ing ocean sys­tems, and mak­ing agri­cul­ture cli­mate– and water-​​smart. One path­way, bio­mass energy with car­bon cap­ture and seques­tra­tion, has both sup­port­ers and detrac­tors. It involves grow­ing bio­mass, using it for energy, and then seques­ter­ing the emissions.


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