News Archive:

Campus and Alumni Mourn the Passing of ERG Professor Gene Rochlin

Obituary and news:

A message from Energy and Resources Group Chair, Professor Dan Kammen:

It is with a very heavy heart that I have to pass on the news that University of California Berkeley Energy and Resources Group (ERG) core faculty emeritus Gene Rochlin passed away this weekend.  The last night before suffering a stroke, he spent his final dinner surrounded by his sons, their wives, and all of his grandchildren.

Gene was an incredibly vibrant and integral part of ERG.  His own transition from physics to the social and political study of science, complexity, and engineered systems mirrored what so many of us find critical and central to the Energy and Resources Group.  Among his many publications, his books, Scientific Technology and Social Change (1974), Plutonium, Power, and Politics (1979), and Trapped in the Net (1997) explored both the high profile and the more nuanced aspects of science and society.

Gene was an invaluable teacher and mentor to generations of ERG and UC Berkeley students.  He facilitated the dialog across campus between science, engineering and social science and the humanities.  In fact, even in retirement, Gene continued to play a core and inspiring role in ERG.  He would have taught a masters seminar this coming week.

In looking over Gene’s papers, his children wanted to pass on a small part of one of his poems that in many ways summed up Gene’s optimism and philosophy in mentoring and in building careers in sustainability:

When at last it’s all quite done 
Make them feel that it’s been fun

Gene was also a tremendous friend and mentor outside the classroom.  His welcoming informal meetings with students, extensive conversations about career paths, and trips to Giants baseball games (especially when the Cubs were in town) showed just how fun and welcoming a role model and friend he was.

Gene will be sadly and sorely missed.


Gene I. Rochlin was Emeritus Professor of the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley. He received a B.S. in 1960, M.S. in 1961, and Ph.D. in 1966 from the University of Chicago, all in Physics. After teaching physics at Berkeley for several years, he retrained in political science as an advanced post-doctoral scholar at MIT and Harvard in the mid-1970s. His research interests included science, technology and society, cultural and cognitive studies of technical operations, the politics and policy of energy and environmental matters, and the broader cultural, organizational and social implications and consequences of technology – including large technical systems. He was a principle of the Berkeley High Reliability Project, a multidisciplinary team that studied the organizational aspects of safety-critical systems such as nuclear power and air traffic control, and continued to work on the management, regulation and control of large, complex, high-technology organizations performing socially critical functions as an independent scholar. This extended to studies that sought to apply methods, approaches, and theories from a broad spectrum of the humanities and social sciences to issues arising from the vulnerability of complex, sophisticated technologies and technical systems, particularly the global threats arising from human networks as well as natural phenomena.

Prof. Rochlin’s book “Trapped in the Net: The Unanticipated Consequences of Computerization” (Princeton: 1997), which focused on the vulnerability of organizations and institutions in an earlier phase of global technical integration, won the 1999 Don K. Price Award of the Science, Technology and Environmental Politics Section of the American Political Science Association. He was a Fellow of the American Physical Society, and served on the editorial board of several journals.

Expanded information on his research, publications, and instruction is available at:

To make a gift to ERG in Professor Rochlin’s honor please visit our giving page and indicate that your gift is in his memory.

Energy by Whom? With ERG Alumna Nikky Avila

Nikky Avila (PhD ’18) was recently featured on the podcast “Somebody Call a Doctor.” Avila discusses how distributed energy technologies are disrupting conventional electricity planning paradigms and enabling social innovation. She also shares how working with Professor Charisma Acey and engaging in Vietnam and Kenya transformed the way she thinks about energy planning.

Nkiruka (Nikky) Avila is a recent PhD in Energy and Resources at Berkeley. Her graduate research focused on solar grid integration and climate policy in California, and on electrification in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia to answer the question, “Energy by Whom?”. We’ll be talking about her research and its implications, the process of getting a PhD, and ask her why you’d call her if somebody said, ‘Somebody Call a Doctor!'”

Listen to the full podcast here.

Q&A With Sam Arons, ERG Alum and Lyft Sustainability Director

GreenBiz recently caught up with Mike Masserman and ERG’s own Sam Arons (MS ’07) to discuss their respective roles as the first Head of Social Impact and Director of Sustainability at Lyft. The ride sharing company has been tackling a variety of environmental and social issues in recent months.

“They’re making our commutes easier, which is leading more people to travel by car. From the beginning, Lyft has carved out a reputation for itself as the friendlier of the ride hailers. The company’s interest in social issues has manifested in numerous ways, not least of which involve asking their then-head of global policy & strategy, Mike Masserman, to add social impact to his portfolio, then by naming Sam Arons as the first director of sustainability. In the last year, Lyft has made some big climate impact commitments and accomplished some major milestones. In April, it made all Lyft rides carbon neutral, and in September, extended carbon neutrality to the rest of Lyft’s operations.”

Hear their take on Lyft’s journey through some of these issues here.

ERG PhD Student Kripa Jagannathan Spotlighted for California Outreach

As a graduate student in the UC Cooperative Extension Program, Kripa Jagannathan has the opportunity to supplement her research at ERG with outreach to California farmers and water utilities officials. Her goal is to evaluate the usability of climate science for adaptation planning in agriculture and water management. This week, the Berkeley Food Institute highlighted Kripa’s work, alongside ESPM PhD student Aidee Guzman.

“For Kripa, research and extension are not separate pursuits. Through interviews, focus group discussions, and workshops with California almond farmers and water utilities officials, she set out to understand the types of climate information that practitioners need, and whether current scientific research is meeting those needs. Kripa learned that almond growers have in fact experienced changes in climate over the past few decades, yet current climate projection tools don’t address crop-specific climate information such as future changes in chill hours and frost patterns. After receiving this feedback she started another project to evaluate how well climate models are able to predict chill hours. She is working with Lawrence Berkeley Lab and the California USDA Climate Hub on further research to develop these decision-relevant tools.”

Read the full post here.

Master’s Student Gauthami Penakalapati Connects Sanitation with Mental and Social Well-Being

In her recent review on sanitation and well-being outcomes, Gauthami Penakalapati explores a more holistic definition of “health,” which includes physical, mental and social well-being. She discusses how inadequate sanitation, privacy, and safety can lead to increased mental and social risks, especially for women and girls.

“Public health research on sanitation has focused predominantly on the impact of sanitation on infectious diseases and related sequelae, such as diarrhea and malnutrition. Yet, the WHO defines health not as the absence of disease but as a “state of complete physical, mental and social well-being” (WHO, 1948). This holistic definition of health is critical to understanding how sanitation impacts all aspects of health. Studies have increasingly documented how sanitation may influence health beyond disease, particularly for women and girls. Worldwide about 1 in 3 women have experienced gender-based violence (GBV), and studies indicate that inadequate sanitation may put women and girls at greater risk of experiencing violence (WHO, 2013).”

Read the complete review in Social Science & Medicine.

ERG Research Shows Reliability of Independent Solar Power in Sub-Saharan Africa

Nature Energy recently published research by ERG PhD Student Jonathan Lee and Professor Duncan Callaway quantifying the cost of reliability for decentralized solar and battery systems in Sub-Saharan Africa. Their research finds that falling costs of solar photovoltaics and lithium-ion batteries is enabling decentralized solar plus storage systems to be increasingly cost-competitive with traditional electricity grids in Sub-Saharan Africa at reliability that matches or exceeds traditional grids. They also find a scaling pattern that above 90% reliability, decentralized systems can be designed to have higher reliabilities by increasing the levelized cost of energy by $0.11 / kWh per additional “9” of reliability (i.e. going to 99%, 99.9%, and higher) on average.

Geographic Variation in Levelized Cost of Electricity for Representative Decentralized Solar System

Lee and Callaway have made their model available online with an interactive interface as a research and decision-support tool at

Read the full Nature Energy article here, additional coverage by the UC Berkeley College of Natural Resources here, Berkeley News here, and a blog by the authors describing the evolution of the research here.

ERG Students, Faculty and Alumni Encourage You to Vote!

As the November 6, 2018 midterm elections approach, the Energy and Resources Group faculty, students, and alumni are taking action to increase voter participation. We encourage all voices to be heard in our democracy, and invite all to vote to support leaders and policies that lead to a sustainable environment and a just society.


  • Voting for a Just Transition – Dan Kammen: Read Professor and ERG Chair Dan Kammen’s post in the Berkeley Blog on the importance of student participation in this year’s midterm elections.
    • “The clean energy opportunity is aligned with core values — at least those stated on paper — by both the Democratic and Republican parties. Instead of one of the few places for bipartisan action, however, it has become an area where even the most basic facts are endlessly debated… By reaching out to fellow students, parents, and friends both across California and across the country [students can] highlight how doubling down on equitable clean energy projects offers a rare and genuine “win-win” at a time when the country is more divided than ever.”
  • Voter Registration and Canvasing
    • Master’s and PhD students Gordon Bauer and Margaret McCall have been traveling throughout California to canvas for congressional as well as state Senate candidates.
    • Master’s student Sara Mulhauser has been working with the organization California Away Team since 2017 to sign up non-registered voters, and convince registered voters to participate in the midterm elections. “So far we have ‘reactivated’ more than 1,000 voters through this process… we also produce thousands of homemade post cards that we send to more remote voters that we can’t realistically knock on doors. We do this for other important races outside of California.”
  • Empowering Female Voters
    • Master’s/PhD student Gauthami Penakalapati has been involved with the organization Post March Salon since last February. They are active in getting out the vote in the Bay Area and highlighting flippable districts.
  •  Berkeley Campus and Community
    • PhD student Adam Orford has been providing support for the ASUC Graduate Assembly to promote voter participation through student events on the UC Berkeley campus. Orford also co-authored an opinion piece on Berkeley city council policies and their impact on housing prices.
  • Getting Out the Vote – ERG Alumni
    • ERG alumni have been actively canvasing and working with NextGen, an organization that focuses on registering, motivating, and turning out young voters.
    • Richard Norgaard (ERG Professor Emeritus) and Nancy Rader (MS ’92) recently hosted a gathering for a state assembly candidate.
    • Collectively, 17 ERG alumni and faculty wrote and sent over 300 letters and 50 postcards in order to mobilize voters (pictured).












Resources for Voters:

Look into local volunteer opportunities in your community as well.

Continue to check back here for more information. This page will be updated throughout the 2018 election season.

ERG Student Zeke Hausfather Maps Global Warming










“Climate change is often communicated by looking at the global average temperature. But a global average might not mean much to the average person. How the climate is likely to change specifically where people live is, in most cases, a much more important consideration.” – Zeke Hausfather & Rosamund Pearce

ERG PhD Student Zeke Hausfather has been working with Carbon Brief to create a new climate visualization tool, which pinpoints how temperatures have changed in specific regions around the world and how they are predicted to change in the future.

Try out the map and read more about the research here.

Carbon Footprint Map by ERG Alum Chris Jones is Putting Pressure on Bay Area Cities

Earlier this month, the Global Climate Action Summit convened in San Francisco to discuss ambitious climate action targets for global emissions by 2020, setting the stage to reach net zero emissions by midcentury.​​ Chris Jones, ERG alum and lead developer at UC Berkeley’s CoolClimate Network, spoke about his team’s interactive map of the Bay Area, color-coded to show the relative size of neighborhoods’ carbon footprints. Though at first the findings unintentionally caused commotion among Bay Area cities to defend their efforts, Jones believes this could be a powerful side effect. “Cities with higher emissions, this can light a fire under them to do more,” said Jones. He said that there is “peer pressure” between cities, households and businesses as they make commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Read more about the Carbon Footprint Study here.

PhD Student Valeri Vasquez Selected for Women in Science Leadership Initiative

ERG PhD student Valeri Vasquez will be among 95 women representing 28 countries next year for the Homeward Bound leadership program, a ground-breaking leadership initiative which aims to heighten the influence and impact of women in making decisions that shape our planet. Through workshops, lectures, networking, and excursions, the program aims to foster leadership development, strategic capability, visibility and science communication, and science collaboration among the women selected, as well as among the entities that they represent.

Read the announcement from UC Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources here.