One thing is clear after experts from around the country weighed in on the future of energy at Ohio State’s Energy 2012 Conference – numerous, and some difficult, tasks lie ahead.
The final panel, America’s Top Energy Challenges: The Next 50 Years, looked back over that last two days of input to see how land-grant universities might proceed in tackling these challenges.
You might think of it as the first steps.
“This is a springboard,” said James Clements, a panelist from West Virginia University. “There is a lot of opportunity.”
Certain “imperative” themes and areas needing attention and research, identified as “cross cutting,” emerged from the various keynote and panel discussions.
Those included: Partner or Perish; Test Beds; Workforce Development; Increase the Energy Literacy of Society; Regionalism; and Water, Water, Water.
Virginia Hinshaw, from the University of Hawaii, Manoa, noted that partnership was mentioned at every session. She said land-grant universities are uniquely positioned to tackle these challenges with the strong partnerships schools have already, but more funding is needed.
And, universities must turn up the volume on these issues.
“We’ve been taking baby steps, but we need to take leaps,” she said. “We are the canary in the mine. The need is great, the time is now. That has got to be the message for everyone.”
Clements made the point that land-grant universities can and should be “the voice” at the national level. The schools must continue to develop programs that cut across many disciplines, including science, technology, engineering, law and policy.
Jim Turner, senior counsel and energy director for APLU, said the conversation will continue at the organization’s annual meeting in November.
“My biggest conclusion was a lot of affirmation that we have done a lot of things right in the last 150 years,” he said. “We have to figure out how to keep doing things better.”
Stay tuned to this blog for a deeper exploration of these challenges in the coming days.
Producing more energy and using less is not only the right thing to do, but it will also aid the economy and create jobs.
That central theme was delivered by keynote speaker U.S. Senator Rob Portman to the conference this morning.
Portman linked energy issues and research to the poor state of the U.S. economy, noting the nation’s $15 trillion debt and continuing record budget deficits.
“If we don’t change course we will find ourselves on an unsustainable path that will crowd out what you all care about,” Portman told the audience, made up of people from universities, utilities, energy organizations and government. “That requires us to look at the biggest problem we face in the budget – nearly two thirds of the budget is mandated spending.”
Portman pointed to the increase in horizontal, shale drilling for natural gas in Ohio as a positive development in energy development.
“In the last five years there has been a quiet revolution in Ohio driven by research and innovation – access to shale gas,” Portman said. “We should be sure to continue to promote that.”
Portman also spoke of legislation he is sponsoring, which would reduce the barriers consumers and businesses face when trying to reduce energy consumption.
“If the bill passes, the potential to reduce energy would be the equivalent of taking 37 million homes off the grid by 2030, he said. “When we use less energy, it makes our economy more competitive and it helps make us more energy dependent.”
Catalyzing Energy Breakthroughs for a Secure American Future is the topic for the Tuesday keynote address at the Energy Challenges 2012: The Next 50 Years Conference.
Arun Majumdar, acting undersecretary for energy and director, U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), said we cannot leave the energy legacy for the future. Our country and public land grant universities must play a leadership role in shaping the domestic and global energy landscape.
Majumdar explained what the role of ARPA-E is in energy innovation. The agency has a portfolio of energy ideas and potential game changers.
“We are hungry for innovation,” he said. As innovations are introduced and scaled by industry, the agency moves ahead looking for the next energy discovery.
Some of the areas where ARPA-E sees real potential include:
Plants engineered to produce oil-Corn and sugarcane were not developed to produce oil. Several concepts are being developed that have real potential for oil production.
Electrofuels-Photosynthesis is inefficient in creating fuel. Progress is being made in creating biofuels without the use of the sun.
Natural gas transportation-The use of natural gas for transportation is already being developed in the long-haul trucking industry. To develop a passenger car that is fueled by natural gas would require a significant investment in creating filling stations. Gas-heated houses, however, make up, 60 percent of our housing stock. Breakthroughs in retrofitting homes to allow gas-fueled cars to gas up at home could be a game changer.
Rare earth alternatives-Research is being done at Case Western University and other universities on creation of magnets that do not use rare earth materials. This would allow an expanded use of magnets in energy production which Majumdar said would be a great breakthrough.
Carbon capturing in coal burning-The ability to capture carbon when burning coal and turning it into oil has tremendous potential. Carbon capturing is very expensive and new technologies in bringing that cost down are needed.
Power electronics-The average age of a transformer is 42 years and it weighs 8000 pounds. Innovations in silicon carbide have the potential to reduce transformers to 100 pounds.
He said many called the century from 1900 to 2000 the American century due to the research and development of many technological advancements involving such areas as space, the internet and aviation.
“In 1912 many would not have guessed what the rest of the 20th century held for America. I asked do we know what the future hold for the rest of this century? With this innovation potential there is reason to believe this will also be the American century,” said Majumdar.
Can public land grant universities lead the way in showing America how performance-based buildings can have little or no carbon footprint? Energy 2012 looks at the sustainability in individual buildings and how to construct the future.
Colin McCormick, senior advisor for research and development, U.S. Department of Energy, said 40 percent of all energy goes into buildings. The goal is to reduce the substantial waste in energy to heat, cool and light buildings.
Sid England, assistant chancellor, environmental stewardship and sustainability, University of California-Davis, said the UC-Davis has two projects aimed at reducing its carbon footprint.
The UC-Davis West Village is the largest planned “zero net energy” community in U.S. It will eventually be around 200 acres and will house 8000 students.
The goals are to make it livable, affordable and environmentally responsive. The initiative is to both reduce energy use and also produce energy, including photovoltaics and a campus biodigester.
Hank Foley, vice president for research, Pennsylvania State University, said energy research and development funding is lower than in most other economic sectors.
Fifty-five percent of energy used in the U.S. each year is wasted. With 40 percent of all energy going into buildings, progress must be made to retrofit buildings.
Buildings have not improved energy efficiency since the 1980s, while trains, airplanes and cars have substantially improved. This creates a tremendous loss of economic strength.
“Our goal is to demo or die. We need to show building owners energy efficiency works,” said Foley.
He said that combining people, information and technology are key factors to accomplish more efficient buildings. If each can be brought into the process then the chances of energy-efficient success increases.
Clay Nesler, vice president for global energy and sustainability, Johnson Controls, said that his company does a yearly survey of 4,000 companies about energy use.
In the most recent survey, it was heartening to see that every region of the world finds energy efficiency as a more important goal. Energy savings is the number one global driver. This year’s survey shows the number two goal in the U.S. and Canada was utility incentives and rebates sought by companies looking for improving energy efficiency.
The top barriers to pursuing energy efficiency are awareness, technical expertise, certainty of savings, financial criteria and available of capital.
Ellen Vaughn, policy director, high performance green buildings, Environmental and Energy Study Institute, remarked that we have a lot of challenges with use of energy by existing buildings.
The problem is getting people to understand the major investment the country has in buildings. EPA estimates we spend 90 percent of our lives in buildings but we often take them for granted.
Consumers need to start asking for better performance from buildings. ”It is just a label that we want or is it better performance and construction and sustainability?” she asked.
Educating future scientists and engineers will be critical in facing the challenges sure to face transportation in the next 50 years.
Thus, universities will have a lead role, a point made many times by the morning panel, Leading Innovations in Transportation.
Gary Smyth, director of powertrain systems at GM http://www.gm.com/, said universities have many roles in solving future transportation problems, especially with the need to develop a national transportation policy.
“Universities can play a very critical role,” Smyth said. “You have the technologies, the science and the impartiality to make sure we have the right policy, and we are asking you to help develop it.”
Like many of the themes heard during panels yesterday, Smyth said the industry needs more R&D and more collaboration.
“We need collaboration between industry, the government, energy companies and consumers,” he said. “There is a lot of misinformation and hype out there.”
Giorgio Rizzoni, director of Ohio State’s Center for Automotive Research, http://car.eng.ohio-state.edu/, said the industry faces three challenges: vehicle efficiency, energy sources, and a new paradigm for mobility.
Rizzoni, pointing out “that a lot of work needs to be done,” noted that two-thirds of fuel for internal combustion engines cools the engine or goes out the tailpipe.
“We better change the mobility paradigm and think about the way we move and transport ourselves in different ways,” he said. “If everyone wants a five passenger vehicle … it is not going to work.”
Rizzoni had a laundry list for universities: experiential student education, disciplinary studies that teach business, economics and policy, taking an active role in public discourse and energy policy, working in partnership with industry and serving as living labs to demonstrate what is possible.
Maj. Gen. Neil McCasland, commander of the Air Force Research Lab, http://www.af.mil/information/bios/bio.asp?bioid=7886, said the Air Force strategy is to reduce demand, increase supply and change the culture.
“We want to increase aircraft efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, diversify our energy supplies and execute more efficient operations,” McCasland said.
Aviation fuel and diesel are two fuels that will need a lot more study, said Dale Gardner, associate lab dir, of NREL, http://www.nrel.gov/.
“The consumption of diesel and jet fuel will increase by 2030,” Gardner said. “We have no replacement for those fuels and those areas are getting increasing attention in terms of how to offset the consumption.”
For sure, transportation going forward will involve a lot of entities and integration will be key, said Smyth.
“We need action,” he said. “I’m tired of seeing studies, even though they are very important. Take it from studies to really driving policy.”
Smart grid technology is about computerizing the electricity system. But the challenges are great.
The environment, economics, institutions, consumers and the technology of our electric grid are facing major issues and smart grid technology is the hope for answering these challenges.
Michael Aimone, director, Business Integration for the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense, Installations Environment, helps run military installations worldwide.
DOD is concerned with energy security. Its military installations need a steady stream of power but they face outages as well. Their goal is to provide a steady stream of energy in a cost-effective manner.
DOD sees great opportunity in solar energy. Aimone said one task is how to integrate solar power into the smart grid.
Christian Grant, director, Smart Grid Applications, Siemens, said the three-to-five-year window for developing a smart grid is the key challenge. Without better coordination, 50 years out won’t matter.
Siemens sees the greatest problems as operational efficiency, cleaner power and energy information.
The cost to make cities sustainable, competitive and livable are enormous. Many of the older eastern United States’ cities have aging infrastructures that will require trillions of dollars to upgrade.
Universities need to take a more multidisciplinary approach for a smart grid workforce. Today’s professional education for a smart grid worker will need to combine information and communication technology with electrical engineering and financial engineering.
Another area of university support is the creation of standards and protocol. They can be beneficial in creating even-handed standards.
“Learn, practice and innovate is formula for success,” said Grant.
Greg Reed, director, Power and Energy Initiative, University of Pittsburgh, said that Thomas Edison and others who created our electrical system in the 1800s would be familiar with today’s system.
“What is needed is the creation of a superhighway for energy transmission,” said Reed. ”How do we deliver electricity in the most efficient manner?”
Karen Slonekar, director, Customer Services and Marketing, AEP Ohio, said universities can be helpful in educating consumers.
“Most consumers do not know what a kilowatt hour is. How do you get them to change their behavior if they don’t understand the pricing structure?”
Deploying smart devices is also a challenge. A lot of research is necessary to create smart appliances that work everywhere. ”People who buy a smart refrigerator in Ohio and move to California are going to want to have it work there,” said Slonekar.
Slonekar said AEP might need to start marketing to certain demographics. The difference between what demographic segments understand and will do varies greatly.
The general consensus was that the challenges run throughout the smart grid system from creation of energy to the consumer. #energy2012
Looking for a job in the future? Start studying the oil and gas industry.
The lack of qualified workers in this field is going to be a huge challenge in the coming years, said several members of the panel, Shale Energy: The New “Gold Rush.”
Jerry Borges, of Momentive Specialty Chemical, http://ww2.momentive.com/home.aspx, put it bluntly.
“Two thirds of people in the field are close to retirement or that age and a lot of people are going to be leaving, Borges said. “This is the biggest challenge facing the industry.”
Frank Tsuru, CEO of Momentum M3 Midstream, http://www.m3midstream.com/, said it is critical to identify and educate a competent and talented labor force.
“Almost every facet of the industry is hurting for professionals,” Tsuru said.
Tsuru said other areas that need attention for this industry include public education, creation of markets for hydrocarbon products and stable and consistent regulatory policies.
Bryan Willson, director of the Engines & Energy Conversion Lab, Colorado State University, http://www.eecl.colostate.edu/staff/Bryan_Willson, identified a top ten list of “issues” that need to be considered with shale drilling, including environmental, policy, economics, misinformation and research and development.
“Energy spends about one quarter of one percent of its revenue on R&D”, Wilson said. “Even a marginal increase would be huge.”
There’s plenty that land-grant universities can do too, said Jeffrey Daniels, professor of Solid Earth Dynamics at Ohio State. http://www.earthsciences.osu.edu/faculty_bios.php?id=12
“There is not one single petroleum engineer at Ohio State,” Daniels said. “And I don’t think we are unique to other universities.”
In Ohio, companies have 13 permits for drilling of Marcellus shale, with seven wells drilled. For Utica shale, they have 199 permits, with 62 wells drilled. It is projected that by 2014, 1,000 to 2000 wells will be active.
The overarching challenge ahead will be to determine how shale energy fits in at the university level, said Daniels.
“There’s a practical challenge for universities, especially for schools like Ohio State which is on the front lines,” Daniels said. “How do we enhance these programs and be responsive to the wants and needs of taxpayers (at public universities) and especially to the students?”
Biomass and biofuels face numerous opportunities and challenges if they are going to make a dent in US long-term energy needs, according to speakers on the panel Biomass and Biofuels: Can America’s Agricultural Heritage Power the Future?
Simon Tripp, senior director of Technology Partnership Practice at Battelle, is bullish on the potential of biomass and biofuels.
He said that the biomass economic development opportunity is great because it is spread out equally throughout a large part of the country. This is different than the petrochemical industry, which is focused in the gulf states.
Larry Walker of Cornell University, said that the biomass issues include getting farmers on board, locking in supplies required to produce products, commercial viability, land use, scalability, workforce and training, government policies, capital availability and future agricultural yield increases.
“Energy, water, food and environment are drivers of growth. We need to ramp up technology to make it happen. We need to drive innovation,” said Walker.
Walker believes one of the key challenges is systems development. How does it all work together? It is highly integrated and it will take system engineering to bring it all together.
Harold Wright, Sr, vice president and chief technology officer, Rentech, Inc., gave a different perspective. The key challenge in his view is getting products into the market.
Rentech is a clean energy company. They create a number of different sources of synthetic fuels. But how to you get innovations from lab to the market?
Many hurdles must be overcome. He said corporations work best when technologies are fully researched from pilot scale to production. Wright said that partners are key, with investors, universities, government and farmers needing to take a role.
Chad Haynes, technical assistant at ARPA-E, said his agency has funded about 180 projects. He said biomass is a tough economic nut to crack. It is simply more expensive to produce. Biofuels have a hard time competing with oil.
The speakers agreed the challenges of biomass and biofuels are great but so are the opportunities.
Developing renewable energy is clearly important for the future, but of equal importance is the evolution for increased storage for that energy.
That seemed to be a consensus of the panel, Renewable Energy: Solar, Wind and other Innovations.
Greg Wilson, of NREL http://www.nrel.gov/, said we “need to go beyond renewable energy and must deal with storage and conversion.”
Like the other panel members, he urged universities to collaborate with each other and industry and to educate the public about the challenges that lie ahead.
“We don’t have 50 years, climate change is much bigger than we appreciate,” Wilson said. “We must completely replace fossil fuels with renewable and electricity, which will be an enormous task that requires international partnerships.”
Steven Ringel, an Ohio State University professor of energy electronic materials, nanostructures, and devices http://www2.ece.ohio-state.edu/~ringel/, said sorting out all of the elements of solar, especially Photovoltaics, will not be easy.
“For PV, to make it work, is a system with many components and those system issues are a problem and one of the challenges universities have to face,” Ringel said. “The economies of scale are starting to take place. That is a great challenge for universities and for industry manufacturing.”
And enough solar power must be produced to cover a significant area, said B.J. Stanbery, CEO of Heliovolt, a solar company http://www.heliovolt.com/.
“This is a core problem for the significant penetration of solar,” Stanbery said. “The challenge for solar is to make enough to cover a significant area of square kilometers.”
Many systems issue must yet be resolved, said Tom Gendron, board chair of Woodward, a technology integration company for aerospace and energy markets http://www.woodward.com/.
“The biggest challenge is how to integrate it into a complex grid,” Gendron said. “It’s about systems issues that have to be resolved.”
And what can the public, land-grant universities do to move things in the right direction?
The panel circled back to collaboration with industry, including the development of unique labs that can be shared in the business world, and more openness and all around funding.
How American universities play a role in helping the United States meet its energy goals was the topic discussed by six university presidents at the 2012 Energy Challenges Conference at The Ohio State University.
Peter McPherson, APLU, moderator of the panel says the universities are in a good financial position to help solve our energy problems. They do need to delve into issues that our country needs to solve.
“We are trying to clarify what are role should be,” says McPherson. He challenged the presidents to discuss what they are doing to help solve our energy issues.
Dr. Jimmy Cheek, chancellor, University Tennessee, Knoxville, is a native Texan. ”The economy changed in 1973 and the whole world changed. We have not been responsive to energy,” said Cheek.
University of Tennessee is in a unique position since it is only 22 miles from Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The university has created an interdisciplinary program that combines different energy fields.
“What we find at our place is the ability to build partnerships with industry,” he said. He said the university will continue to work on bringing energy innovation to market.
Dr. Jim Clements, president, West Virginia University, says what we need to work on is a blend of energy sources and responsible extraction of coal and gas.
WVU offers studies involving petroleum, shale, advanced advanced coal technology, alternative fuels courses and emissions and mining studies.
Dr. Tony Frank, president, Colorado State University, remarked that the work of the conference is important. ”We have good raw materials at universities and we have to figure out how to translate it into action. There is great innovation, connecting up pieces of universities’ research to the private sector and government is the key challenge.”
One way CSU did to assist in this is hiring Bill Ritter, former Colorado governor, to help put research innovation into policy. ”We have tremendous resources but we have much to connect.”
Dr. Virginia Hinshaw, chancellor, University of Hawaii, Manoa, says we need to care for the earth. The indigenous people of Hawaii have learned to be sustainable. ”We all share the earth and we need to come up with great advances that are adopted by all the people.”
She said that young people are passionate about a sustainable world. There is a sense of urgency and hope.
Hawaii is 90 percent dependent upon oil imports. Increase costs are devastating to its local economies. Hinshaw says that Hawaii has solar, wind and biomass potential but needs to take advantage of them.
Renovation of older building is another of the university’s focus. ”Zero net energy is what we are trying to do. Partnerships are key in getting this done. Second is being an energy generator. We need to produce and invest as well.”
Dr. Michael Martin, chancellor, Louisiana State University, lives in a state that is the heart of energy production and risk.
LSU has two large agenda issues. The first is the intersection of energy and the environment. The BP debacle showed we really don’t know as much about energy extraction as we thought we did.
The second agenda issue is shale gas and its extraction. Natural gas can be made into a useable source that can replace the role now filled by oil.
Martin says partnerships and consortiums are key to answering these challenges.
Dr. Charles Steger, president, Virginia Tech, said that they just did a strategic plan, Plan for New Horizon. Its major thrust is to see what a major institution can do to help society.
VT wants to be a destination campus for energy innovation that is aligned with national and state goals.
Steger says that while we are in a 24-hour news cycle our cultural change is slow. ”We are facing a multi-decade problem. Sustained effort needs to take place,” he said.
VT feels strongly about coal and nuclear research along with renewable energy and energy transmission. They are working on 300 projects involving energy issues and technology.
Steger summed up the comments of all the university leaders on energy and how they need to move forward. ”The energy future can’t be about the past.”