News Archive:

ERG Alumni Deshmukh, Mileva, and Wu Explore Renewable Alternatives to Mega Hydropower

ERG alumni Ranjit Deshmukh, Ana Mileva, and Grace Wu recently published their research on alternatives to the hydroelectric power Inga III Dam in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The team explores the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of possible renewable energy options, which offer lower economic, social, and environmental risks.

“Given these [environmental and social] shortcomings, developing countries with persistent energy supply shortages and limited access to capital should consider and thoroughly weigh alternatives to the hydropower-expansion paradigm, particularly with regards to economic risk. Recent cost declines for solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind generation technologies (Bischof-Niemz 2015, Wiser and Bolinger 2016) may make these resources economically competitive with new hydropower generation. In this study, we investigate, from a systems perspective, whether wind and solar PV can be cost-effective low-carbon alternatives to new large hydropower projects. Specifically, we examine the case of the 4800 MW Inga 3 hydropower project proposed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).”

The article has been supported by grants from UC Berkeley and the International Rivers organization.

Read the full report here.

Carbon Loopholes: Report by ERG Student Cecilia Springer in New York Times

In an article examining the costs of carbon pollution “outsourcing” this week, The New York Times featured a report co-authored by ERG student Cecilia Springer. The report, The Carbon Loophole in Climate Policy, explains how approximately 25 percent of the world’s carbon emissions are not accounted for in the national emissions reduction targets set by the Paris climate agreement.

“Over the past decade, both the United States and Europe have made major strides in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions at home. That trend is often held up as a sign of progress in the fight against climate change. But those efforts look a lot less impressive once you take trade into account. Many wealthy countries have effectively “outsourced” a big chunk of their carbon pollution overseas, by importing more steel, cement and other goods from factories in China and other places, rather than producing it domestically.

…The report, written with the consulting firm KGM & Associates and ClimateWorks, calls this a “carbon loophole,” since countries rarely scrutinize the carbon footprint of the goods they import.”

For more information, please attend the Buy Clean event at the Global Climate Action Summit or read the full New York Times article.

 

What Does Development Mean for the Stateless?

For over one million Rohingya refugees living in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, water and sanitation, health, and shelter are crucial issues. ERG PhD student Samira Siddique examines the importance of access to sustainable energy as well, which is often neglected in emergency situations like the Rohingya crisis.

“Historically, there has not been a systematic approach to energy supply in conflict settings because they are thought to be shorter term. Most of the energy is supplied ad hoc by individual NGOs or international aid agencies, usually through diesel generators. The move toward renewable energy shows increasing interest in long-term development because it is inherently sustainable and simple to use. A solar mini-grid offers a cleaner and more consistent alternative to diesel generators, and can potentially be used to anchor local mini-grids if the refugee camps are present in the longer term.”

Read more here.

Green Energy is Gold for California, US: Kammen SF Chronicle Op-ed

Energy and Resources Group Professor and Chair, Daniel Kammen summarizes the green energy economic opportunities that California and US should not miss. He advocates for the passage of the “100 Percent Clean Energy Act” (Senate Bill 100), which would establish a bold goal of 100 percent clean, zero-carbon electricity by 2045.

Read the full San Francisco Chronicle Op-ed HERE or on UC Berkeley Blog HERE.

New ERG Courses Focus on Data, Energy, Ecosystems, Climate Change

The Energy and Resources Group has announced two new courses this fall addressing current, timely topics in energy and environment. Registration is open.

Statistical Learning for Energy and Environment (ENERES 190C)
ERG Professor Duncan Callaway
Lecture: 102 Wheeler, TT 9:30 – 11 (#32987) + Lab: 110 Barrows, M 10 – 12 (#32988)
This course will teach students to build, estimate and interpret models that describe phenomena in the broad area of energy and environmental decision-making. The effort will be divided between (i) learning a suite of data-driven modeling approaches, (ii) building the programming and computing tools to use those models and (iii) developing the expertise to formulate questions that are appropriate for available data and models. My goal is that students will leave the course as both critical consumers and responsible producers of data driven analysis.
(See flyer link below for full description.)

Disturbance and Resilience in Terrestrial Ecosystems Exposed to Climate Change (ENERES 290)
ERG Professor Lara Kueppers
Fridays 1 – 3 pm, 323 Barrows Hall (#32555)
This course will review what is known about projected changes in drivers of major disturbance types, post-disturbance recovery trajectories, and how these are and should be represented in vegetation models used to understand and project regional- to global-scale vegetation change. We will consider current theory related to disturbance and resilience in ecological systems, as well as interactions and feedbacks between physical and biological processes, and develop case studies from US ecosystems, with student interests influencing exact topical emphasis.
(See flyer link below for full description.)

FLYER_ER190C Data and Environment
New Graduate Seminar290_Kueppers

ERG Alum Steve Fetter Named UMD Assoc Provost and Dean

“COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland has named Steve Fetter as Associate Provost and Dean of the Graduate School, effective June 1, 2018. As Dean, Fetter will lead the Graduate School’s mission to advance graduate education and enhance the graduate student experience at UMD by working closely with staff of the university’s more than 230 graduate programs.”

Steve Fetter completed the Energy and Resources MS (’83) and PhD (’85).

Read the full announcement: https://umdrightnow.umd.edu/news/umd-names-steve-fetter-associate-provost-and-dean-graduate-school

Lyft Commits to Cancelling Out its Carbon Emissions – Will it Make a Difference?

Lyft announced its plans last month to purchase carbon offsets to cancel out the carbon emissions created by its drivers. It’s also part of a larger strategy to lessen Lyft’s carbon footprint and to provide a billion rides a year via autonomous electric vehicles by 2025.

“Some energy experts have applauded the announcement, while suggesting it should be the first in a multistep process to ensure Lyft isn’t just removing the pollution it adds, but that it’s making less in the first place.

‘I think it’s very much a partial step,’ says Daniel Kammen, a professor of energy at University of California, Berkeley. ‘Recognizing it and offsetting it is not the full answer,’ he says. ‘But it’s certainly a great start.'”

Read more here.

Why Climate Change, Food Security, and Population Should Be at the Top of Your Agenda

Last month, the Nanaimo and Area Land Trust co-hosted a world-class symposium on water stewardship in a changing climate. Canadian water expert and professor Bob Sandford spoke about “The Hard Work of Hope,” the title of his recent book, and the grim outlook of global climate issues, from the water cycle to temperature rise.

Also last month, ERG Professor John Harte published a piece with Stanford ecologist Paul Ehrlich entitled “Pessimism on the Food Front,” detailing the food insecurity, soil quality, and water scarcity issues our population can no longer ignore and will certainly face in the coming century.

“Ehrlich and Harte name the greatest barrier to hope as ‘a combination of ignorance, politics, and the stresses on the world order from human overpopulation.’ Unless climate change and food security and population issues reach the top of all agendas, the risk of social breakdown and mass suffering faces all of humanity. The only way to move towards real solutions is to stop working against nature and start working with natural forces and resources.”

Find the full article here.

Costa Rica’s Promise to Phase Out Fossil Fuels

Costa Rica’s president-elect Carlos Alvarado announced his goal to remove gasoline and diesel from the country’s transportation plans by 2021, its 200 year anniversary of independence. This promise marks the first time a Costa Rican leader has backed such a move, though green organizations have previously urged it. While completely eliminating fossil fuels within three years may not be realistic, ERG’s Jose Daniel Lara (a Costa Rican native) praises the plan, and the groundwork it lays for faster action toward the goal.

“A proposal like this one must be seen by its rhetoric value and not by its technical precision,” Lara told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. One problem in cutting back on fossil fuels is that the country´s budget depends on them, Lara said. “But the president´s proposal to eliminate fossil fuel use for transport could force a rethink of Costa Rica´s financial dependence on a pollution source.”

Read the full article here.

ERGies Contribute to the Green Schoolyard Movement

May is International School Grounds Month, and organizations like Green Schoolyards America are inspiring and enabling communities to enrich their school grounds and use them to improve children’s well-being, learning, and play, while contributing to the ecological health and resilience of their cities. ERG student Alana Siegner contributed to this year’s Living School Yard Activity Guide, designed to provide a wide range of outdoor activity ideas for elementary, middle, and high school students. Her activity allows students to gain hands on experience with composting, and learn about climate change.

View the full guide here.