For the past four years, Arizona State University has dared brilliantly creative and technical minds to answer some of society’s most complex questions through the Emerge event. On March 6, 2015, this year’s event showcased radically new visions of the future with the theme “The Future of Choices and Values.” In a press release for this year’s event, Joel Garreau, founding co-director of Emerge and Professor of Law, Culture and Values at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law said, “Humans today have unprecedented power to harness and reshape matter, energy and even life itself. Emerge asks what kinds of futures we should build together, at a moment in history when what we can do is almost unlimited.”
Emerge 2015 featured visionary Jad Abumrad, creator and host of Radiolab. Retrieved from ASU Emerge website.
By way of performance, technology and storytelling, the Emerge 2015 event gathered artists, designers, scientists, engineers, and audiences to explore the ways we create the future, and how we ensure it as the future we hope for. The event featured dancing robots, story-telling through Legos, an interactive design studio, and much more. The featured visionary this year was Radiolab host and creator Jad Abumrad who discussed innovation and the essential parts of creative process and imagination.
LightWorks assisted Toby Fraley, a contributing artist for ASU Emerge and Scottsdale Public Art, at the 2015 Canal Convergence to promote his futuristic creation—the Artwork Forge. Fraley explored the question: Could a machine put artists out of a job?
The Artwork Forge by Toby Fraley. Photo taken by Gabrielle Olson, LightWorks.
Fraley’s creation of the Artwork Forge provided an interesting perspective on the convergence between technology and art. This clever art installation required you to drop in a couple quarters and feed a rough block of wood into the machine. The whirring of motors signals your attention to the window where you see your piece of wood being shaped by spinning blades. Next, the machine appears to require a moment to scour the internet, seeking what is popular among our generation’s choices and values. It almost appears as if the machine is “thinking” about what it should paint. Then, the next window opens up as you see your block of wood being spray painted and pencils being moved over it as the art is being created. A few minutes later, a 4-inch by 6-inch painting drops down a chute for you to take home and ponder the question—could this be the future of art? Watch the video demo below.
artworkforge from toby fraley on Vimeo.
The Artwork Forge is a strong example of how art and technology merge by bringing attention to how our choices and values have been affected by a culture reliant on technology and the internet. By compiling data from our personal preferences, social media, news trends, and revered masterpieces of art, the Artwork Forge produces a result that can be argued as an example of a “perfect” piece of artwork. But despite having all of the integral components of what a piece of art should incorporate, does the Artwork Forge accurately portray the unique creativity that human beings bring to works of art? Revealing these complex questions is an important part to how we envision and shape our future, especially as technology will continue to advance and impact our culture.
Not only will technology shape our future choices and values, increasing levels of climate change and population will have an effect as well. Scott A. Cloutier, a Walton Fellow in the Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU, recently wrote a contributing article for Slate Magazine which highlighted the importance of the Emerge 2015 theme. Cloutier asks- How can we give people the greatest opportunity to pursue their own happiness? To answer this question, he challenges readers to think about the types of neighborhoods we would like to see in the future by basing design on sustainability and happiness. Cloutier argues that happiness and sustainability are interchangeable and that the need to intentionally design and redesign our systems in line with these values will create a culture mindful of environmental impacts, which will be even more critical in the future. He writes that ultimately designing our neighborhoods in this way “could result in a more equitable, just, and sustainable world.” Read the full article by clicking here.
LightWorks believes in cultivating broader knowledge of the human component when we make decisions about energy transitions. By connecting with entities like IHR Nexus Lab and the ASU English Department, participating in panel discussions to explore climate fiction, and hosting lectures examining humans’ conception of energy from the past to present, LightWorks plans to continue demonstrating how humanities research can help us with modern questions related to science, technology, and the built environment. For more information about LightWorks’ involvement in the humanities please read our previous blog post by clicking here.
Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks
In a world where science and technology advance at record-breaking paces, so too must we ensure that studies in the humanities progress and obtain firm grounding. While science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines can answer the “what” and “how” of our society, the humanities offer insights to answering the “why” as well as communicating it well to others. The humanities and sciences must therefore work together in order to offer solutions to the pressing problems of our time to create meaningful change. To answer this need, the Institute for Humanities Research at Arizona State University (IHR) established the Nexus Lab. The Nexus Lab integrates the common interest of computation and data analysis as a means to connect the humanities with STEM disciplines.
The Nexus Lab during its first Research Advancement and Innovation Forum. Photo retrieved from the Nexus Lab website.
Created in November 2013, the Nexus Lab leads digital humanities research projects at ASU by fostering transdisciplinary partnerships between departments, schools, and colleges to explore complex research questions in which the humanities can play a critical role. LightWorks has worked closely with the Nexus Lab to help cultivate skills and interest on the link between humanities and energy research and development. Jacqueline Hettel, assistant director of the Nexus Lab, gave us further insight about the mission and future goals of the lab in an interview which begins below.
Photo of Jacqueline Hettel. Photo retreived from the Nexus Lab website.
Interview with Jacqueline Hettel:
How would you define the digital humanities? How does it differ from traditional humanities?
There is no one definition for it. At the heart of digital humanities, it’s about taking the best parts of the humanities, such as the ability to ask big “why?” type questions, and finding ways to apply it to different disciplines. The digital humanities can be thought of as “humanities applied” that is, a community of practice centered on a circuit exchange between disciplines by combining the use of computational methods to investigate problems and create opportunities for answering large cultural questions. It is not to say that the digital humanities turns the human perspective into numbers, but rather it leverages numerical approaches to make complex humanistic issues a bit more concreate and contractible to modeling. We make these complex questions a bit easier to understand.
How can the digital humanities help us think through and address complex problems like energy development, policy, efficiency, etc.?
It gives us a bigger tool box to work with. In my own work, I use methods of quantitative and qualitative research to help answer questions about culture within energy organizations to get back to that human element. I am interested in the stories that people tell or discuss within organizations to go about making energy, changing energy policy, or acting on behalf of their community to advocate for what they think regarding to energy issues. The Nexus Lab plans to work closely with LightWorks to continue building this research capacity.
How does your work in the digital humanities connect with energy research and development?
By using publically available documents from the regulated nuclear power industry, I created a corpus of over 9 million words for my dissertation at The University of Georgia. I was interested in what were the most salient and significant things that the nuclear power industry was communicating. I used frequency analysis with statistical analysis to find 20 key terms that were being used. I found that there was an interesting dynamic between how the public, regulation, and corporations communicated these key terms about the nuclear power industry. Even though there was a shared meaning with regard to the key terms, the communication and use of these terms varied greatly between group membership and geography. By investigating energy and digital humanities research together in corpus and social linguistics, I was able to see how language functions when communicating the trends that concern the nuclear power sector.
Currently, I am Assistant Editor of the Linguistic Atlas Projects which holds a linguistic archive of audio recordings since the 1950s. This archive is filled with narratives of people and their interaction with the environment. I am researching recordings that share personal stories relating to energy in terms of policy influence, conservation, and other ideas. For example, I am looking at people from rural areas of the United States and analyzing their narratives of personal experience with energy—like experimenting with biofuel—from a historical perspective. It’s data that you wouldn’t expect from the energy arena because it’s getting at how people construct their notions, meanings, and interactions with energy. Using digital and computational tools is a way to extend qualitative data found by listening through these archives. In all, intersecting the digital humanities with energy research is a way to critically think about energy and human interaction with the environment.
How can these projects tell us more about the research ASU strives to produce?
Our goal is to extend the research capacity of the humanities and help to make it more impactful than it already is. The Nexus Lab tries to create impactful projects by applying it in situations where they haven’t been applied before. By sticking to our principle of being a thought leader and shared aspirations of the New American University, we are trying to show how the digital humanities can be used to inspire research that has application in a real world setting so we can have a positive impact in our own community.
What is next for the Nexus Lab? What are you looking forward to?
We have had a lot of growth and successes in the last seven months and we plan to continue with that. We are really looking forward to furthering collaboration and opportunities for connecting energy and the humanities research and discovery. We are also going to be more focused on building external partnerships to find opportunities on how we can help answer difficult problems that exist within organizations. We also aim to create more opportunities to get ASU faculty, staff, and students more involved with the digital humanities and the Nexus Lab.
Are there any opportunities for ASU students, staff, or faculty to get involved with the Nexus Lab in the upcoming future?
We will have upcoming workshops which are always open to anyone interested in participating. We want to hear ideas on how the digital humanities and energy can intersect and we want to get more people interested and involved. If ASU students, staff, or faculty want to work on a project integrating the digital humanities or simply hear more about we do, all they have to do is drop by or contact us.
Conclusion of interview.
In the past year, Sydney Lines, LightWorks’ communication program coordinator, has worked with the Nexus Lab on the Developing Wassaja project which aims to empower faculty, staff, and students to develop sustainable web applications for impactful ASU research. LightWorks firmly believes that engaging the full range of social and humanistic sciences is integral to our goal towards an energy system change. By leveraging the tools and expertise available at the Nexus Lab, LightWorks is able to collaborate with researchers who are also interested in “grand challenge” topics by integrating humanities engagement with computation as a common ground. For more information or to schedule a meeting to the Nexus Lab, please visit their website here.
Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks
A phone charger powered by the sun, a lantern with state-of-the-art solar panels, and a kinetic USB or laptop charger that powers up in your pocket while you walk are just a few of the devices you could checkout through the Household Independent Power Project’s (HIPP) Personal Power Lending Library at ASU. HIPP has chosen ASU as one of three US project sites for spring 2015 under the “PowerUp” slogan. The PowerUp Lending Library facilitates access to renewable-energy-powered electronics and communication devices and investigation of the potential for mainstreaming such devices in the US and, ultimately, across the world.
Students, faculty, and staff that have an ASU ID are all eligible to check out these devices for up to two weeks. As this project is also being used for research, those who check out these devices will be asked to complete a short follow up survey to gauge each participant’s experience using the devices. To see what’s available please follow this link.
LightWorks' Gabrielle Olson (left) and ASU graduate student Alecia Radatz (right) promoting HIPP outside the ASU Bookstore. Photo by Sarah Mason, ASU LightWorks.
Elisa Graffy, project director of the HIPP, seeks out devices with proven market success and high approval ratings to include in the PowerUp Lending Library. In a recent report by Clapway, the Solar JOOS Orange, one of the devices available to rent, was noted as one of the best solar power chargers available. This device is designed to charge all personal electric devices, such as cell phones, smart phones, laptops, iPads, portable game devices, and more. With only one hour of charging yielding two hours of 3G talk time, the Solar JOOS Orange tops the list due to its ability to capture up to 20 times more energy than any other solar charger device on the market today. Graffy carefully selected all of the renewable energy devices available through the PowerUp Lending Library to make sure that users were being presented with only the best options. You can check out the Solar JOOS Orange here.
The purpose of the HIPP is to conduct investigations and engagement around personal and household-scale decisions, innovation, and behavior related to broader questions of sustainable energy system transitions. Because most renewable energy products available are rarely seen outside of niche markets for outdoor recreation enthusiasts, HIPP is interested in how these devices fit into the modern day household. Previous surveys have already indicated consumer preferences for convenient and “green” options to their devices yet have not necessarily been presented these options through the market. The project therefore systematically explores factors associated with availability, uptake and scarcity of these sorts of products to derive hypotheses about policy, market, R&D and educational advances in this arena.
LightWorks is committed to delivering market-ready solutions that integrate renewable energy and technology. By investigating which devices are most useful for modern-day households through the HIPP PowerUp Lending Library, we are able to gain a better understanding of which devices will be the most practical for today and for future markets. To learn more about the HIPP PowerUp Lending Library please visit this website.
Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks
This is our first of several interviews with experts at Arizona State University concerning the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP). In this interview, I sat down with Mick Dalrymple to discuss the role of energy efficiency in Arizona’s state plan for the CPP. Energy efficiency is one of the EPA’s four primary emissions reduction measures, or “Building Blocks”, presented in the CPP. For more information on each building block, please see our prior blog posts.
Q&A with Mick Dalrymple
How has Arizona benefited from energy efficiency initiatives in recent years?
Primary and secondary benefits of energy efficiency initiatives are significant and often get overlooked. For example, utility customers in Arizona have benefited from energy efficiency initiatives in four ways.
First, customer participants in utility-operated and other energy efficiency programs save money on their individual utility bills because of energy efficiency upgrades in their homes and buildings.
Second, all utility customers benefit when construction of new generation capacity is postponed or avoided. This is true because utility rates are primarily based on an Arizona Corporation Commission-approved rate of return on the utilities’ capital investment. Rates can then be lower.
Third, residential customers benefit from improved indoor air quality and comfort levels in their homes because many energy efficiency programs appropriately treat the home as a system, diagnosing and treating causes rather than just symptoms.
Fourth, additional benefits include important effects such as local jobs and keeping Arizonans’ dollars circulating in the state rather than exporting them in exchange for more imported fuel.
These benefits are more than speculation. Our research from the Energize Phoenix study projected that the annual energy savings from the 2,600 residential housing units and commercial buildings we monitored will amount to 135 million kWh per year. This equals approximately $12.6 million of direct energy savings for participants per year and an expected CO2 emissions avoidance for Arizona of 95,000 metric tons per year.
This was only for that one program. From a statewide perspective, the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) and the major utilities in Arizona put together reports on overall energy savings. These positive trends are under threat as a philosophical discussion is underway at the ACC regarding these programs, but energy efficiency can play a key and vibrant role in Arizona’s state plan for the CPP.
How can Arizona use innovative building code initiatives to help meet its Clean Power Plan (CPP) targets?
Building codes are a key tool for improving construction quality and adopting the latest energy efficiency science, techniques and technologies. In exchange for accepting stimulus funding from The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, former Governor Brewer had to commit to taking actions within her power towards adoption of the most current energy codes. Arizona is a home rule state, however, which means that local jurisdictions have authority over which codes, if any, they adopt.
There are ways the legislature could establish a minimum state energy code, and it should consider doing so, possibly through incentives for local governments rather than by mandate. By having cities and towns adopt the latest versions of energy codes, educating contractors on how they work and why, and educating code officials on how to verify and enforce these codes, huge strides can be made towards preventing the construction of energy inefficient buildings. Building codes are an important component of a solid Arizona strategy for energy efficiency in its state plan for the Clean Power Plan.
What role do you expect energy benchmarking and disclosure ordinances to play in helping contribute energy savings for Arizona’s CPP targets?
Energy benchmarking is a fantastic tool to suit Arizona’s energy and regulatory environment. Benchmarking tools do not necessarily tell users to make specific energy efficiency improvements. Instead, tools such as ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager and the Department of Energy’s Commercial Building Energy Asset Score tool increase owners’ awareness around building energy use and even competition is some cases.
It is hard to improve what you don’t measure. Energy benchmarking tools leverage people’s natural behavioral tendencies to compare themselves to others. If you knew your home used more energy than 75% of comparable homes, wouldn’t that cause you to at least wonder why and perhaps take action?
Disclosing the energy use of buildings is a second important step in unleashing that personal comparative behavior as a competitive market force. For example, a recent study in the District of Columbia showed that privately owned commercial buildings in the District are more energy efficient than national peers. In releasing the data, the District noted that its private commercial buildings have a median ENERGY STAR score of 74 out of 100—meaning that these buildings perform better than 74 percent of similar buildings nationwide. Owners also notably improved the energy performance of those buildings over the previous year’s disclosed performance. If prospective tenants can calculate their energy costs in addition to their lease costs, building owners are going to strive to keep those costs competitive.
Another example of putting the power of disclosure into action in advancing energy efficiency goals is incorporating energy consumption into the information considered during the residential real-estate transaction process. The earlier such information is disclosed, the more powerful it becomes as a consideration in the purchase decision.
Who implements this information is dependent upon which stage in the transaction process you are in. The ideal time to disclose energy use is in a multiple listing service (MLS) so that the buyer can see it while comparing properties. As a policy, this would require coordination and cooperation with multiple listing services. A second option is to require inclusion of energy information in the seller property disclosure statements. Energy information could, as a third option, be required to be included in the appraisal process.
Disclosing energy use information as part of the home buying processing helps to maximize the ability of the customer to use this data in their purchase decision-making process.
What are the implications of Arizona being a home-rule state when implementing energy efficiency initiatives as part of the State’s plan for CPP?
Although a state-wide energy efficiency standard might be perceived as the most efficient way to set new policies, establishing efficiency initiatives in each jurisdiction presents many advantages. In Arizona’s environment, establishing bottom-up energy efficiency policies and programs may be more effective, long-term, compared to a top-down approach. The bottom-up approach promotes buy-in, tailoring of policies and programs to local conditions, and compliance and enforcement. At the same time, it is important for jurisdictions with little or no energy efficiency initiatives to get started on efforts. Likewise, it is essential to allow jurisdictions with established energy efficiency programs to go above and beyond in their energy initiatives.
How can existing resources such as Energize Arizona’s Energy Efficiency Idea Guide be used by State experts to help design its plan in response to EPA’s CPP?
The purpose of the Energy Efficiency Idea Guide is to generate creative thinking around new and existing methods of achieving energy savings. It is meant to get the conversation started. Although most of the ideas presented in the guide are not new, they are ideas reconsidered for Arizona’s specific utility, cultural and regulatory environment. In other words, these are ideas reimagined for the Arizona context. The individual policy briefs that support the ideas presented in the guide are intended to provide more detailed information. Together, these resources can play an important role as Arizona starts to design its own plan for the CPP.
Biography: Mick Dalrymple
- Practice Lead, Global Sustainability Solutions Services, Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives
- Senior Sustainability Scientist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability
- Mick Dalrymple, (LEED AP BD+C and Homes) serves as Practice Lead and Senior Sustainability Scientist for the ASU Walton Global Sustainability Solutions Services where he creates and leads projects to apply ASU sustainability research expertise to solve sustainability challenges and opportunities in communities and organizations. He is a seasoned leader, communicator, and educator in multiple fields with direct participation since 2001 in the shaping of national programs, standards, public policy and awareness regarding green building and sustainability. He connects stakeholders to get things done, and done successfully. Dalrymple managed the complex, interdisciplinary research efforts ASU performed for the $25M DOE-funded Energize Phoenix program, including several beyond-scope deliverables. He is currently working on projects in the U.S., Albania and Guatemala related to green buildings, circular economy, sustainable neighborhoods, solar PV and algae biofuels. He served two terms on the national board of the US Green Building Council and is a member of the Rio Salado College President’s Advisory Council. The Business Journal of Phoenix named him Green Pioneer in 2009 for his national and local sustainability contributions.
Written by Jeffrey Swofford, Energy Policy Innovation Council and Ph.D. Student, School of Sustainability
Joni Adamson likes to call herself a “Jill of all trades.” Adamson, a professor of English and Environmental Humanities in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) and a Senior Sustainability Scholar at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU, has developed an impressive repertoire of research interests including but not limited to: environmental humanities, environmental literature and film, Sonoran Desert ecosystems and cultures, global indigenous studies, food sovereignty, and critical plant studies. The research that Adamson contributes uncovers the ways in which sustainability sciences and the humanities work together, which is crucial to solving the complex ecological and urban challenges that we face now and in the future.
At LightWorks we understand that sustainability is fundamentally a human problem that needs the expertise of the humanities, a field that studies, critiques, and lays bare the experience of being human. The humanities, which include studies related to history, philosophy, aesthetics, religious studies, literature, theater, film, and media studies, are becoming increasingly integrated into research focused on the sciences of nature and sustainability in a field of study called the “environmental humanities.” Adamson’s work with the environmental humanities includes utilizing collected archives of oral story cycles and written texts to prove that humans have long been raising questions about a “quality of life” that is equitably shared and sustainable for all species. Adamson believes that analyzing the ways humans muse on the value of sustainability addresses the anthropogenic factors contributing to the increasingly extreme weather-related events we are seeing occur around the world.
We sat down for an interview to discuss exactly how the humanities and sustainability are interconnected as well as her current position working as a Principle Investigator for the North American Observatory and West Cluster of the Andrew W. Mellon funded project, “Humanities for the Environment” (HfE) and the Desert Cities Initiative, a seed grant awarded by the Carnegie Humanities Initiative Fund (CHIF) which was created by President Michael Crow and is administrated through the College of Humanities and Dean George Justice. The interview begins below.
Interview with Joni Adamson:
- Why should the humanities and sustainability be studied together?
Multiple fields must be brought together because our problems with sustainability not only emerge out of nature but out of human cultures and ways of being. There are things human beings can and cannot see physically. Sight has limitations. We don’t always experience our limitations or even see the ways our physical and cultural limitations might be creating sustainability problems. Sustainability scientists and humanists can therefore come together to think about the ways in which our planet is changing and what it is about humans and the ways we live, acculturate, and sometimes clash, to reveal the ideas that we may not have yet imagined. The humanities do this very well because humanists are trained to look at human cultures and philosophies and how they came to be. Humanists seek to ask questions about how the paths we as humans are taking now were shaped by the ones we took in the past. Through genres such as science fiction, they encourage us to think about the future. Further, they encourage us to ask, do we necessarily have to continue on this path? Do we need to shift course? Can we imagine an alternative future?
In the past, one of the goals of Western cultures has been “progress,” but what if, instead, our goal was to develop “prospect?” “Prospect” requires “vision,” it means the possibility that something auspicious might be on the horizon. It is what you look for if you are an explorer. What if our goal was not “progress” but to “see more clearly, from a 360 degree prospective, from the past, present and future, a complete circle of vision, a complete vision of not only our our past but what might be possible in the future”? “Progress” only looks to the future, while “prospect" seeks a complete understanding of past, present and future, in order to make wise decisions about “what is on our horizon.” In other words, how do we understand the possibility of a future event occurring? For the sake of future technology, let’s think about expanding our understanding of where it is we’ve been, and where we’re going.
- Can you explain the CHIF: Desert Cities Initiative project you are working on?
In 2013, ASU President Michael Crow was among one of four recipients to receive a Carnegie Corp. grant to pursue academic initiatives. One of the initiatives that President Crow feels strongly about is funding humanists at ASU who are working to develop interdisciplinary projects. He has also supported desert cities as a major focus of research on well-being at ASU. The CHIF has given generous external funds to support the environmental humanities to date. With this level of support, Sally Kitch, founding director of the Institute for Humanities Research (IHR), and I proposed the project “The Future We Want: Desert Cities as Physical Systems and Cultural Objects.” This project will utilize the expertise in desert ecosystems, indigenous cultures and urban systems at ASU to build bridges between the environmental humanities and sustainability scientists. We specifically aim to work with the Wrigley Institute, LightWorks, and ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) to discuss the ways we should build our future desert cities to be both physical systems and places that encourage rich cultural diversity that promotes a sense of well-being. We hope to do this by developing collaborative teams of researchers in the context of on-going discussions. Our aim would be to encourage thinking that promotes quality of life in desert cities that would be equitably shared and environmentally sustainable. Our first brainstorming meeting took place in January at the IHR.
- How will your work with the Desert Cities project contribute to a sustainable energy future?
Part of what the Desert Cities project aims to explore in its focus on cities as both physical systems and cultural objects is the complex, systemic nature of a city as a whole, of which energy consumption, and cultural ideas about energy consumption, are both integral considerations. The project views the city as a kind of living organism.
In a sense, cities “breathe” just like any living organisms. They either have more trees or less trees, more or less stringent policies on particulate matter in the air. Everything that is alive breathes. If the air is choked up then we all have problems breathing. Scientists can approach these problems by building better technology, but humanists help by providing the context for new technology – who will use it? Why will they use it? What cultural problems are we solving or creating with this new technology? We want to create cities as places that can actually make the environment and the humans that occupy them better. We also want to make cities forces for good where people think about their attachment to place in unique and specific ways. When places become homogenized, there is no attachment to the place or “sense of place,” or for that matter, no “sense of planet.” The Desert Cities project wants to get people to think about the city and the planet as a combination of its physical, cultural and ecological complexities. We need to think about it as an ecological place, but also as a place with its own aesthetics, history, spirituality and other culturally-driven features.
For example, many people who are living in Phoenix go outside and experience what the Sonoran desert has to offer, but there are others who have lived here for years and have never taken a moment to explore the desert. They simply get into their cars, go to work, and never take the opportunity to see our city as a living organism. If we challenge others to look at cities as living organisms, we can create cities as places that actually make the environment better. That could include planting more trees, or reimagining the ways we generate and use energy. In the Desert Cities Initiative, we will bring in architects as key players in the project, since design is so important to the ways we think about and utilize energy in the city. My fellow humanists and I will contribute by offering students and our multidisciplinary team members ways to think about place, and the ways humans experience place. We want people to think, create, and experience in ways that help them understand the places we live and conceptualize the “future we want.” For example, a short video clip recorded by Libyan writer Ibrahim Al-Koni illustrates what the humanities offers interdisciplinary teams exploring desert urbanism. Al-Koni suggests that “In the desert we visit death” and challenges listeners to rethink the idea that the desert is “without soul.” Instead, al-Koni examines the desert as a transcendental space as well as a symbol of human existence. This raises the question, how could desert cities become spaces that are aware of themselves as places that ensure well-being and equity?
Excerpt from the video:
“The desert is still an untouched treasure, because the prevailing view, the general perception in the world is that the desert is desolate, that the desert is dominated by nothingness, that the desert is a void. In reality, that’s not true. The desert has everything. The only difference is that a desert is forbidding, inaccessible, unforgiving. It disguises its true nature. To face it, to discover it, constitutes a harsh challenge for those who aspire to penetrate the world…The desert has been the home of saints and prophets because [it] is an oasis for contemplation, because it is the isthmus between total freedom and existence, between death and life. That is why the desert is a complete system. [It] is a whole knowledge that hasn’t been fully discovered yet.”
Watch the Ibrahim Al-Koni video “In the desert we visit death” below.
- How can the humanities and organizations like LightWorks encourage human empowerment, equality, and well-being?
I think the LightWorks vision statement encapsulates that goal (see statement below). LightWorks encourages people to work in a day-to-day way to secure not only energy security but also energy justice for communities around the world. It envisions people who are working not just for the development of alternative forms of renewable energy technology, but also for spaces and places where people are able to creatively achieve their full potential as human beings. The humanities analyze history and employ the arts and media in ways that aim to encourage people to imagine, adapt, or transform everyday practices and encounters with other people in ways that open up possibilities for energy transitions that work.
The LightWorks’ vision statement is listed below:
“ASU will inspire and develop ways to revolutionize the use of energy and the large scale conversion of sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into useful products. We will support creation of new industries not just to power the world, but to empower it; not just to create wealth for a few, but to enrich people’s lives everywhere; not just to light an energy revolution, but to enlighten communities across the globe; not just to achieve energy security but to secure energy justice.”
Conclusion of interview.
Following the lecture that Joni Adamson presented at LightWorks on March 18, 2014, “How the Humanities Power Efforts to Live Well (Not Better),” the Wrigley Institute and LightWorks have been working more closely with ASU humanists across all four campuses to develop better methods of multi-disciplinary collaboration.
For another look at the way humanists are engaging with issues of sustainability, watch the video below with Sally Kitch, Director of the Institute for Humanities Research (IHR).
Written by Gabrielle Olson and Sydney Lines, ASU LightWorks.
This blog continues our feature series on the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. In order to achieve or surpass the EPA’s expectations for Building Block 4 of the plan, energy efficiency, Arizona will need to continue the current trajectory of its energy efficiency savings beyond the 2020 timeframe. However, there is some concern about whether the level of savings we outlined in our previous post can be sustained. As lighting and HVAC processes become more energy efficient over time, for example, future incremental savings opportunities will be become more difficult to identify. Likewise, as certain federal energy efficiency standards come into effect, there is concern whether states can include those savings towards the CPP targets. This post outlines several potential energy efficiency measures that Arizona can include in its CPP state plan to ensure that energy efficiency makes significant contributions to the state’s emissions reduction target.
Expanded energy efficiency appliance standards
Appliance and equipment standards specify the minimum energy efficiency levels of specific products. These standards are a proven and cost-effective method for achieving significant energy savings. Arizona currently has appliance standards for pool pumps and portable electric spas. Arizona could add new standards for products such as battery chargers, commercial dishwashers, refrigerators and small motors. For example, California’s new battery charger standards, adopted in 2012, result in annual electricity savings equivalent to providing electricity to approximately 350,000 homes. Additionally, Arizona can benefit from new appliance standards set nationally, by the DOE, and their associated electricity savings. Table 1 (below) shows electricity savings, CO2 reductions, and dollar savings from standards finalized since 2009.
Public sector energy efficiency initiatives
Although Arizona has made great strides, making improvements to its public sector represents a significant energy savings opportunity. Expanding existing efficiency measures in Arizona’s public sector through setting energy savings goals, financing programs, use of performance contracting, and other mechanisms can provide additional energy savings in public buildings and public infrastructure. The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) identifies Peoria, AZ as a successful example of a local government achieving a significant reduction in its electricity consumption by using only general fund dollars and revenues from sales of municipal bonds. According to SWEEP, Peoria reduced the city’s total annual electrical usage by 7.7%, saving almost 5.4 GWh per year. This was accomplished with work performed in 2009-2011—some buildings have already achieved over 20% savings. Additionally, the city of Tempe, AZ has established municipal energy efficiency targets that include an energy dashboard tool for real-time monitoring of city buildings' energy consumption and annual savings. This tool allows users to compare the energy performance of city buildings as part of the Sustainable Tempe project. In summary, several municipalities and regions throughout Arizona have established public sector initiatives that can be expanded and strengthen. For Arizona to meet its goals under the CPP, pubic sector initiatives will play a key role.
Improved and expanded energy efficiency building codes
ACEEE estimates that adopting state-of-the-art building energy codes nationwide could provide incremental annual savings of 10,900 GWh per year in 2020 and 12,100 GWh per year in 2030. As a home rule state, Arizona adopts building codes at the local level. A number of Arizona communities have adopted energy codes or building codes that contain energy chapters, such as the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). Arizona communities with no existing energy efficiency building codes can adopt existing measures to start contributing to Arizona’s CPP targets. Likewise, parts of Arizona with existing building codes can increase their stringency over the next 5-10 years. Although a home rule environment is difficult for measurement and verification purposes, given that different municipalities and regions have varying accounting metrics for energy savings, home rule states should be allowed to receive energy savings credits for building energy codes that are included in a state’s CPP plan. Energy benchmarking tools—such as DOE’s Building Energy Asset Score tool and EPA ENERGY STAR’s Building Portfolio tool—and methodologies make this process easier for tracking the energy efficiency improvements in buildings. Home rule states like Arizona should track construction levels in local jurisdictions that have adopted these up-to-date codes to ensure they can be accounted for when meeting the CPP target. Through activities such as technical assistance, Arizona utilities supported these codes to meet existing energy efficiency requirements such as the Arizona Corporation Commission’s energy efficiency resource standard (EERS) and Salt River Project’s Sustainable Portfolio Principles. The expertise, relationships, and institutions are already in place to support an expanded effort for energy efficiency building codes.
Table 1. Summary of major federal energy efficiency appliance standards since 2009.
Written by Jeffrey Swofford, Energy Policy Innovation Council and Ph.D. Student, School of Sustainability
As media outlets increasingly tout the possibilities of algae as a resource for the future, more and more people are beginning to ask the question- “why algae?” With recognition of being one of nature′s most prolific and efficient photosynthetic plants, algae is speculated to serve as the foundation for a new generation of renewable and low-carbon transportation fuels, as well as serving as a major component for numerous bioproducts. It is no wonder why a group of multidisciplinary researchers have come together to explore this fascinating organism further in a resource hub named the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI). AzCATI has served as Arizona's platform to spur a new industry cluster in research, development and commercialization of products along the algal value chain.
Dave Cardello, assistant research technologist at AzCATI, speaks about algae’s significance in the energy sphere and what it’s like to work on the frontline of algae research and development.
Photo of Dave Cardello at AzCATI.
For more than four years, Cardello has been working at AzCATI to carry out activities such as growing algae, processing it to make products or prepare it for research and basic day-to-day routines of lab work and upkeep. In this time, Cardello has also participated in working with U.S. Department of Energy-funded projects including the Sustainable Algae Biofuels Consortium (SABC) and the Algae Testbed Public-Private Partnership (ATP3). He has also worked on projects with AzCATI collaborators including Morgan Hill Bioenergy, Inc., Algenol and Heliae Development. I interviewed Cardello to reflect on his experience working with these projects as well as discussing why working with algae is important to him.
- What have you learned from working on these AzCATI projects? Were there any surprises?
The first project I did was I was working in a support role in the SABC project. I “got my feet wet” with larger scale algae culture by growing algae strain weekly which built the foundation to contribute more to future projects. By going through that process, I gained a lot of experience in culture harvesting techniques which are being explored as potential methods of growing algae at larger scale. After working with the SABC project, I then gained experience operating innovative photobioreactor technology (PBR) with our collaborative partners Algenol and Morgan Hill which led to giving me the skills to fulfill my current work with the ATP3 projects.
At AzCATI, we try to avoid surprises because the ATP3 testbeds provide us the opportunities to see what surprises can come up in our algae cultures. We intend to come up with innovative ways to deal with any challenges that come our way. A pleasant surprise has been collaborating with people from different backgrounds and disciplines and seeing how we can come together and work toward a shared goal and vision.
- Do you view your contributions as successful? In what ways?
Yeah, I definitely do. All of our performance metrics are very well defined. Our project managers delegate what needs to be achieved and at what time. My hat goes off to AzCATI Lab Manager Tom Dempster, Director of Operations John McGowen and Project Manager Jessica Cheng to make sure all of that happens. They understand what my capabilities are, as well as the rest of the team and they know what we need to do and how to pull it all together. Just knowing what everyone’s skill sets are and knocking out one challenge at a time is all you need to piece together progress.
- What would you say most motivates you to do what you do? What are you most excited or passionate about in your work?
What brought me into the algae industry in the first place was recognizing energy as being the source of a lot of conflict in the world. I wanted to do something that would offer an alternative to petroleum and fossil fuels.
I was talking to my uncle, whom I really respect, about energy problems and he asked if I had heard about the potential of algae. After that, just out of the blue, a friend of mine told me that the University of Georgia’s Biorefining and Carbon Cycling Program was looking for a technician in their algae lab. I spent a year working there and the more I learned about algae the more I got excited about what it has to offer. This excitement is still building today as I am continuously realizing just how many different avenues there are for using algae not just as an alternative fuel, but for plastics, pharmaceuticals and much more.
The best thing is that they are sustainable products, which makes me feel like I’m doing something good.
- When you think of the future of the kind of work you’ve talked about here, what gives you a sense of hope? What makes you concerned or worried?
It gives me hope when we keep seeing opportunities to do research handed down from the government. It is understood that this is a necessary pursuit especially as things become more uncertain regarding our fuel supply. I don’t think that algae is going away anytime soon. All the baby steps we make in the right direction cumulatively come together for significant progress. Like I said before, the scope of algae technology is going beyond fuels and I’m excited and hopeful for future opportunities that support AzCATI’s efforts because I believe they will continue to be necessary and important.
I am concerned that some of the stakeholders behind pursuing these types of alternative technologies might not remain as excited about progress as we are. One of the things I’ve learned about working in this field is that we are pursuing a long-term goal and vision, so persistence and resilience are necessary characteristics to have to do what we do.
- What’s next for you in your work? What are you looking forward to?
AzCATI is supporting me in my efforts in pursuing a master’s in sustainability. That being said, I’m looking forward to leveraging my skills with algae to perhaps get in policy development or management with algae. AzCATI would be a good place to accomplish that role in the future. As for right now, I am just focusing on fulfilling AzCATI’s goals and obligations to Department of Energy as best as I can.
Conclusion of Interview
Keeping in line with our commitment to support new discoveries and technological advances in our ability to harness sunlight, LightWorks works to actively support AzCATI as they continue to serve as a statewide international and intellectual resource hub for algae-based goods. Our goal is to work together to spur innovative commercial uses for algae and encourage a hands-on learning environment for next generation scientists like Dave Cardello. For more information about the services and solutions AzCATI is working on please visit their website here.
Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks.
As we prepare to bid farewell to 2014, we would like to take a moment to reflect upon some highlights and accomplishments made during this year. With a proven performance of swiftly and strategically partnering with a diverse set of institutions, LightWorks continued to unite resources and researchers across Arizona State University to confront global energy challenges. Confronting these challenges leads to a vision that ASU will continue to inspire and develop ways to revolutionize the global use of energy and the large scale conversion of sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into useful products.
Left to right: Gary Dirks, director of ASU LightWorks, Zev Rosenzweig, CEO of AORA Solar and John Riley, associate vice president of university business services and sustainability operations officer at ASU finalize the ASU/AORA collaboration on 24/7 hybrid solar technology at ASU. Photo by: Andy DeLisle
AORA Solar NA has agreed to install the first ever Solar Tulip, a hybrid concentrated solar system, in the United States which will be located at ASU. The Solar Tulip produces power 24/7, moving seamlessly from solar to natural gas or biogas. AORA Solar NA signed a contract with ASU to provide research options aimed to increase efficiency, improve reliability, utilize the exhaust heat and decrease the cost of this Israeli-developed technology. University faculty, research staff and students are already working with AORA to enhance the system.
Dennis McGinn, U.S. Navy Assistant Secretary for Energy, Installations and Environment, discusses algae-based fuels and products while at the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation at Arizona State University. Photo by: Sarah Mason
The U.S. Navy through the Office of Naval Research Global and LightWorks are looking forward to furthering collaboration specifically in accelerating research and technology to market. Future forums centering on U.S. energy security, U.S. Navy participation in the DOE Algae Testbed Public Private Partnership (ATP3), and projects aimed to progress ASU’s Zero Waste goal are a few among many efforts predicted to come out of the partnership. In May 2014, Dennis McGinn [https://asunews.asu.edu/20140527-navy-visits-asu-algae-test-bed], U.S. Navy Assistant Secretary for Energy, Installations and Environment, visited the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI) at ASU Polytechnic campus and discussed the potential of algae-based biofuels and products.
Wayne National Forest Solar Panel Construction. Photo taken by Alex Snyder.
Elisabeth Graffy, Arizona State University professor and ASU LightWorks faculty in energy policy co-wrote an article about the impact of solar installations to energy markets and electric utilities. The article, “Does Disruptive Competition Mean a Death Spiral for Electric Utilities,” was an effort of Graffy and Steven Kihm, director of market research and policy for the Energy Center of Wisconsin. In a sector that is central to social, economic, security, and environmental necessities, Graffy and Kihm note that utilities must change in order to confront competition.
Gary Dirks, director of ASU LightWorks and the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, ASU Provost Robert Page and U.S. Virgin Islands Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. discuss sustainability at Arizona State University. Photo by: Sarah Mason
LightWorks signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Virgin Islands to establish a long-term partnership. The collaboration is intended to further development of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects and education on the island territory. In June 2014, the U.S. Virgin Islands Governor John P. de Jong, Jr. along with representatives from the U.S. Virgin Islands government, utilities, and industry met with ASU Provost Robert Page at ASU Tempe campus to formalize the partnership.
LightWorks furthered plans to optimize the area of anaerobic conversion of organic wastes to energy through collaboration with Proteus and Midwestern Bioag (MBA). Plans include working with ASU’s Biodesign Institute to focus on microbiology of anaerobic digesters to maximize nutrient value, establishing online training and certification platforms, as well as consulting experts from ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability to conduct life-cycle and economic assessments of the products from anaerobic digestion processes.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack
Tom Vilsack, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), visited ASU on September 4, 2014 to deliver a presentation on the relationship between agriculture and the renewable energy industry. Secretary Vilsack noted the importance of research and innovation in ensuring farmers meet the needs for food, feed, fiber, and biomass in a sustainable way. The presentation highlighted the USDA’s support for AzCATI and ATP3’s research and development of algae products that fulfill demand in near term pharmaceutical and nutraceutical markets. Opportunity for USDA support in the areas of energy efficient production technologies, CO2 and carbon reuse policies, and fostering business innovation to accelerate algae research outcomes was also a main topic of discussion.
ASU researchers Dan Buttry (right) and colleagues Helme Castro (left) and Poonam Singh work in the lab. Photo by: Mary Zhu
ASU researchers were awarded a grant from the Department of Energy to further develop an efficient and cost-effective carbon capture technology aiming to reduce carbon emissions. The project will be led by Dan Buttry, professor and chair of ASU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the grant is part of a special Department of Energy program designed to pursue high-risk, high –reward advances in alternative energy research.
Energy Secretary Moniz tours research projects at ASU with Sethuraman "Panch" Panchanathan, senior vice president of Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU (left) and Gary Dirks, director and distinguished sustainability scientist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability and LightWorks director. Photo by: Robin Kiyutelluk
U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz visited ASU to meet with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students, and explore Department of Energy research projects at the university. During a tour of research projects at ASU, Moniz was able to explore groundbreaking endeavors, such as the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions, which advances carbon management technologies that can capture carbon dioxide directly from ambient air. Photovoltaic installations and research information was also presented during the secretary’s tour.
Looking forward to 2015, LightWorks will continue its mission to pull light-inspired research at ASU under one strategic framework with greater integration of arts, humanities, and social sciences. We aim to continuously support creation of new industries not just to power the world, but to empower it; not just to create wealth for a few, but to enrich people’s lives everywhere; not just to light an energy revolution, but to enlighten communities across the globe; not just to achieve energy security but to secure energy justice. LightWorks’ strategic goals reflect our mission and vision to make the spaces outlined above world class in their respective areas of focus and to make positive contributions to the global energy transition in a multitude of ways.
Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks.
In our last few posts we started walking through the EPA’s calculation of state goals for CO2 emissions, covering Building Block 1, Building Block 2 and Building Block 3. In this post, we’ll conclude the walk-through with Building Block 4: Energy Efficiency.
Like Building Block 3, energy efficiency can be thought of as a way to meet energy needs with zero emissions. Energy efficiency is the fourth and final building block included in the EPA’s proposal. When we add this to the other three Building Blocks it yields the state’s final emissions rate of 702 lbs/MWh (states are also subject to an interim goal which we’ll describe in a later post).
Arizona was actually recognized in the EPA’s proposal as a top-performing state in terms of achieving energy efficiency savings. This is largely attributed to the Arizona Corporation Commission’s Energy Efficiency Resource Standard, which applies to investor owned utilities such as APS and TEP. SRP has also set ambitious energy savings goals as part of its Sustainable Portfolio Principles. Given Arizona’s past performance and ambitious policy goals, the EPA anticipated that energy efficiency can lower electricity use in the state by about 1.5% each year (as a percent of the prior year’s electricity sales). 1.5% annual savings is a relatively high amount, although Arizona utilities such as APS and SRP have surpassed it in recent years. Yet, there is some concern about whether this level of savings can be sustained and questions about what new types of energy efficiency measures might be needed to do so (we’ll explore these questions in later posts).
Overall, Arizona ranks 15th out of states in terms of the overall EE savings expected by EPA in 2030 (based on cumulative annual savings as a percent of retail sales).
Expected energy efficiency deployment according to EPA’s proposal.
Cumulative EE Savings (% of 2012 retail sales)
This level appears to be somewhat higher than what Arizona’s current policies require. While Arizona utilities currently have one of the most ambitious EE savings goals of any in the country, the state’s existing policies and utility plans expect EE savings to level off after the year 2020 and thus their effect on helping the state meet EPA’s requirements will be diminished unless changes are made. In order to achieve or surpass the EPA’s expectations for Block 4, Arizona would need to continue the current trajectory of EE savings beyond the 2020 timeframe.
Written by Eddie Burgess, Energy Policy Innovation Council
In our last two posts we started walking through the EPA’s calculation of state goals for CO2 emissions, covering Building Block 1 and Building Block 2. In this post, we’ll continue the walk-through with Building Block 3: Cleaner Generation Sources.
Neither nuclear power nor renewable energy (“RE” e.g. wind and solar) generationcreate any CO2 emissions. One could think of these as having a lbs/MWh emissions rate with a “0” in the numerator. Thus, to the extent that states add nuclear and renewable energy to their energy resource mix, they can lower their overall emissions rate.
While few states are actively building new nuclear plants, EPA proposes that states would get credit for a small fraction (6%) of energy from any existing nuclear power plants that are “at risk” of being retired. This credit would apply to Arizona’s Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, despite the fact that the plant’s operating license is not set to expire until 2045.
In addition to nuclear, EPA assumes that each state could ramp up its renewable resources over time. In Arizona’s case, the EPA anticipates RE to increase from 2% of total generation recorded in 2012, to 4% of total generation by 2030.
This final amount is considerably lower than most states. In fact, Arizona ranks 37th in terms of the overall amount of renewable energy generation anticipated (we’ll discuss the reasons for this low expectation in another post).
Expected renewable energy deployment according to EPA’s proposal.
Renewable Energy (MWh) in 2029
EPA’s expectation seems to underestimate Arizona’s likely performance in this category. For example, based on recent reporting from the states largest utilities Arizona Public Service (APS), Salt River Project (SRP), and Tucson Electric Power (TEP) had a combined renewable energy portfolio of 3,305,021 MWh in 2013, which is much higher than the EPA’s assumed starting point of 2,150,930 MWh. By the end of 2015, APS and TEP alone are planning to have combined renewable energy generation equal to 3,886,173 MWh, thus surpassing EPA’s target 15 years early. There are some complicating factors regarding how out-of-state generation might be counted (we will explore this in future posts), but in short, Arizona appears positioned to outperform the EPA’s proposal for Building Block 3. If that occurs, it would offer some flexibility for underperformance in the other Building Blocks.
Written by Eddie Burgess, Energy Policy Innovation Council