LightWorks Blog

Feature: Introduction to ASU’s new blog series on EPA’s “Clean Power Plan”

published September 8, 2014, 4:32 pm

Welcome to our new blog on the U.S. EPA's so-called Clean Power Plan. The "Clean Power Plan" is a new set of regulations recently proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to address carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. While it's far from being finalized, the Clean Power Plan could have far-reaching implications for the U.S. electricity system, utility companies, and citizens from all walks of life. 


As part of cooperation between the ASU’s Energy Policy Innovation Council (EPIC), ASU LightWorks, and ASU's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, we'll be using this space to share our thoughts and analysis on the EPA's plan.

Maren Mahoney, Strategic Initiatives Coordinator, Energy Policy Innovation Council, and Eddie Burgess, Program Coordinator for the Utility of the Future Center (UFC) are the primary authors, though occasionally we'll also have guest posts from ASU faculty experts in other fields such as economics, environment, law, business, geography, and engineering.


Maren Mahoney, EPIC

Eddie Burgess, UFC

The aim of this blog is to add to the discussion on carbon dioxide reduction by contributing an impartial perspective of Arizona’s unique regulatory, cultural, and economic status within the Southwestern U.S. As part of the New American University, it is one way for ASU to play a helpful role within the Arizona community.

This blog is just the start of our efforts to thoroughly and accurately inform Arizonans and people throughout the U.S. about the opportunities and challenges presented by the Plan.  As we write, we'll be asking questions that tackle big questions, such as: 

  • What are the big legal and technical issues that this proposal raises? 
  • How does the Clean Power Plan affect Arizona's citizens? 
  • How will it affect citizens, not just in Arizona, but throughout the Southwest and other parts of the country?
  • How can Arizona, working with this proposal, build the best state plan for its future?

We want to enlighten, encourage, and embolden our readers, and we look forward to exploring these questions and potential answers with you. Please join the discussion on our Facebook pages: ASU LightWorks and EPIC or via Twitter (@ASULightWorks and @ASUEnergyPolicy). We also welcome emails to:

Written by Maren Mahoney, EPIC

LW’s Elisabeth Graffy calls for revitalization of utilities

published June 24, 2014, 8:41 am

Elisabeth Graffy, Arizona State University professor and ASU LightWorks co-director of energy policy, law and governance 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. Read the article in the Energy Law Journal.

Wayne National Forest Solar Panel Construction. Photo taken by Alex Snyder.

Graffy and Kihm note in their article that the recent surge in rooftop solar installations will create a new space for innovation in energy markets as well as competition for energy utilities. The article explores many areas of this issue including: the significance of disruptive competition, how electric utilities are responding to a growing solar industry, and ways to adapt to a competitive market. 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. Both write that leaders in this environment will succeed only by shifting focus on strategies that “create value for customers and that demonstrate nimble responsiveness to the broader contextual demands on energy systems, perhaps particularly during a time of rapid change.”

Below is a segment from the Devil's Advocates 07/01/2014 podcast in which both Graffy and Kihm are interviewed. 

The published journal has been referenced in The Hill, a newspaper published from Washington D.C., as well as in Forbes magazine. The links for these two stories are below in the Additional Information section.

Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

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Employing Sunlight: Taking a tour of Tempe’s largest solar project

published April 23, 2014, 1:57 pm

On March 27, 2014, Tempe’s South Water Treatment Plant hosted their first public solar tour. The tour highlighted the implementation of more than 3,000 solar panels that will generate more than 1.6 million kilowatt (kW) hours of electricity each year, supplying 15 percent of the plant's energy needs. This achievement marks the city’s largest solar energy project thus far.

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Tempe South Water Treatment Plant Solar Project. Photo retrieved from SRP Newsroom website.

Sunny and without a cloud in the sky, the afternoon was at perfect condition for the solar panels. City of Tempe’s Energy Management Coordinator, Grace Kelly, and Environmental Services Manager, David McNeil, introduced themselves as tour guides. “I feel lucky because I get to go outside and work on this project every day,” McNeil said as he led guests toward the impressive display of solar panels.

Guests on the tour were free to walk around with Kelly and McNeil asking any questions they had about the solar project. The tour was without haste as guests had the opportunity to independently network with one another while pleasantly enjoying a first-hand look at the remarkable project.

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Tempe South Water Treatment Plant Solar Tour. Photo taken by Anne Reichman, ASU Sustainable Cities Network.

Once the tour ended, guests were led back inside for a thorough presentation by Kelley, discussing the development of the project. Although it had been in the talks for a few years, Kelly explained that planning for the project officially began in early 2012. The first step was establishing the city’s Alternative Energy Committee, which aims to research the best energy practices and select sites for installations. The bid to issue Tempe South Water Treatment Plant with solar panels took place in December with submittals for the project due by March 2013. Out of the 10 vendors submitted for the proposal, SolarCity was selected to install the solar energy system along with the public power utility Salt River Project (SRP). The overall project only took about two years to complete with just six weeks needed for construction. Kelly saluted SolarCity, SRP, and the City of Tempe for their great work together in the partnership. Follow this link to view the entire Power Point presentation.

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Close up view of the solar panels. Photo taken by Anne Reichman, ASU Sustainable Cities Network.

With 100 percent of the solar energy produced going into the plant, Tempe expects to save more than $25,500 in utility costs during the first year, and anticipates savings of $2.3 million over 20 years. Plans for the city’s next solar projects are already in the making. Future solar projects include a 250 kW facility at Tempe’s downtown Police/Courts building, a 900 kW system at Johnny G. Martinez Water Treatment Plant, and solar implementation at a library complex is in its planning phase. It is clear that Tempe is working toward establishing itself as a leading city committed to solar energy. Follow this link to SRP’s website to watch a brief virtual tour of the facility’s solar panels.

Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

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Arizona Solar Summit IV: Progressing AZ Energy Markets

published March 18, 2014, 3:16 pm

The fourth annual Arizona Solar Summit took place on February 20, 2014, in part of ASU Global Institute of Sustainability’s 2014 Sustainability Solutions Festival. Members from across the energy field gathered at ASU SkySong to discuss policies, programs, and technologies that aim to reshape Arizona’s energy markets. The summit also served as a public unveiling of the state’s first comprehensive energy plan in more than 20 years, “emPOWER Arizona: Executive Energy Assessment and Pathways.”  

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Photo of AZ Solar Summit IV keynote speaker William Harris, CEO of Science Foundation Arizona. Photo by Annette Fuentes.  

The Solar Summit IV kicked off with engaging roundtable discussions lead by representatives from the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives. Table topics ranged from organizational sustainability strategy in urban areas to technological developments in renewable energy. Event attendants actively engaged with each other discussing important ideas that would serve as the main topics throughout the day ahead.    

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Photo of Solar Summit IV attendants during roundtable discussions. Photo by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks.

Todd Hardy, Vice President of Assets of the ASU Foundation for a New American University, opened up the first panel discussion of the day with positive remarks on Arizona’s progress in energy efficiency and renewable energy development. He continued to explain the importance of having open discussions about Arizona’s evolving energy industry and thanked ASU SkySong for providing that opportunity for the day. Hardy closed his opening remark by noting that Arizona should continue to strive for “increasing solar energy by best practices and leading by example.”

The first panel discussion focused on investigating how new technology is bringing change and opportunities to electric companies and their customers. Kris Mayes, Director of the Utility of the Future Center and Professor of Practice at ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, served as moderator for the panel. Utility focusing more value on their customers in the future was a consistent theme within the discussion. Panelist Tim Berg of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District noted that utility companies must seriously consider how new technologies will influence a customer’s choice. Berg believes in utilities transforming from “one size fits most to customized solutions.” Panelist Megan Nutting of Solar City discussed how people show an increased demand for a future with solar energy as well as re-shaping of traditional utility companies. She explained that in ten years, the electric grid will look extremely different, introducing new energy efficient technologies including smart grids and meters. She believes that the public will demand more services, and utilities will need to listen. Nutting humorously referred to a Saturday Night Live comedy sketch which referenced the telephone industry’s lack of value toward their customers. The sketch created a slogan for the industry that said “We don’t care, we don’t have to, we’re the phone company,” meaning their customers must deal with whatever problems arise because there is no other option. Nutting said that utilities of the future will need to be focused on making all customers happy. Panelist Bob Graham of Southern California Edison also added to Nutting’s point saying that “the utility’s responsibility is to every single customer not just a select few.” Watch the video of the SNL comedy sketch below:

The second panel discussion addressed Arizona’s carbon challenge. Gary Dirks, director of the ASU Global Institute of Sustainability and ASU LightWorks, led the panel into a hard-hitting conversation on de-carbonizing the energy system. A main theme was the societal and economical costs of pursuing a clean energy future alongside recent technological developments. Charles Bayless of North America Energy Holdings opened the discussion by explaining the significance of pursuing a clean energy future.

“Climate change is happening,” Bayless said. “We have got to do something for the sake of future generations.”

Kerry Smith of ASU W.P. Carey School of Business added to the point by noting how society and economics work hand-in-hand when envisioning a low-carbon energy future. Kerry believes it is important to design future markets with carbon policy in mind.

Ellen Stechel of ASU LightWorks gave the audience an insider look into possible low-carbon transportation fuels of the future. Stechel explained that the time for cheap oil is coming to an end and that cleaner fuel, like liquid hydrocarbon and algae biofuel, will be investigated further as an alternative. Stechel promoted the possibilities of Arizona’s abundant sunlight and land availability to serve algae and solar fuel processing. Stechel said she believes in Arizona being an ideal place for algae biofuel production with the current challenge being cost and making the practice more sustainable. She believes that research and development will take some time but that she is overall optimistic. 

The third panel of the day focused on deep energy retrofit financing. Harvey Bryan, professor at ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, moderated the panel. Bryan asked panelists to explain ways in which energy efficiency financing and management is being incorporated in Arizona. Panelist Daniel Hunter of Ameresco explained the recent partnership between ASU, Ameresco, and Rocky Mountain Institute plans on providing a cutting-edge financing and management plan for ASU to work toward their climate neutrality and zero-waste goals. Read more about ASU’s plan, which was covered in our last blog here.

Dimitrios Laloudakis of the City of Phoenix provided insight on some of the city’s energy goals. He noted Arizona’s Renewable Energy Standard which plans to hit a renewable energy target of 15% by 2025 and the Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15% below 2005 levels by 2015. Laloudakis explained that the Energize Phoenix project, a $25 million federal grant, has made significant progress and accelerated the city closer toward this goal.

The closing panel of the summit focused on Arizona’s new master energy plan, “emPOWER Arizona: Executive Energy Assessment and Pathways”. The energy plan was signed into effect by Governor Jan Brewer on February 18, 2014. Leisa Brug, Brewer’s energy policy advisor and director of the Governor’s Office of Energy Policy, was moderator to a discussion on its plan and goals. Brug believes that the new master energy plan will help Arizona continue to be a national leader in the energy field. Brug noted that the energy plan is intended to be an “ebb and flow document” and believes that collaboration between policy leaders and energy experts will push the plan further. Brug specifically gave thanks to ASU’s Energy Policy Innovation Council for their assistance with creating the Arizona master energy plan. She is confident that collaborative effort will keep the energy plan fresh and foster growth in renewable energy development. Gary Dirks also added optimism to the states’ new energy plan by noting how the plan will “make Arizona an energy leader.” Read the “emPOWER Arizona: Executive Energy Assessment and Pathways” energy plan here. 

The themes that were discussed at this years’ Solar Summit proves that progress in clean energy technology and policy is a work in action here in Arizona. The open discussions and audience participation that take place each year are critical for planning our state’s future energy market. Collaboration between government, industry, university, and community leaders will be necessary in order for Arizona to fast-forward toward its future energy goals.

Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

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LightWorks Lecture Series: Achieving zero waste at ASU

published February 18, 2014, 2:33 pm

On January 24, 2014, LightWorks kicked off its first lecture series of the new year with a panel-style discussion on Arizona State University’s zero carbon initiative. The discussion addressed ASU’s recent partnership with Ameresco Inc. and Rocky Mountain Institute to achieve climate neutrality goals by 2025. The panelists covered accomplishments made so far and steps to take the university closer to this goal.

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ASU Zero Carbon panelists. Photo taken by Sydney Lines, ASU LightWorks.

Peter Byck, director and producer of the 2011 documentary Carbon Nation, was host of the lecture and led panelists into an engaging discussion. The panelists included: Daniel Hunter and Mark Wilhelm of Ameresco, Dave Brixen, Vice President of Facilities Development and Management at ASU, and Nicholas Brown, Director of University Sustainability Practices and Sustainability Scientist at the Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU.

Nicholas Brown began the conversation by explaining ASU’s current status with greenhouse gas emissions which is hitting approximately 310,000MT of CO2 per year. Brown believes that because ASU will only continue to grow, a strategic plan to get emissions down to zero will be necessary. Dave Brixon added that the ASU Campus Solarization project has had a large effect on getting the university closer to this goal. ASU’s current solar generating capacity is 23.5MWdc which avoids 21,991 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions per year. This generating capacity is roughly equivalent to the annual emissions of over 4,000 passenger vehicles. The estimated annual production of 40,504 megawatt hours is also equivalent to the energy required to power 3,181 homes for one year. Brixton noted that the ASU Solarization project plans to continue their effort in demonstrating ASU’s commitment to carbon neutrality goals while also educating the student body about the benefits of renewable energy generation. “By 2025 we will hit this goal,” Brown said during his closing point. “I am confident in that.”

Mark Wilhelm explained his optimism in the partnership between Ameresco Inc. and ASU to achieve the university’s climate neutrality goals. Wilhelm provided a quote by American architect, systems theorists, and futurist Richard Buckminster Fuller which is provided below:

 “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”—Buckminster Fuller

Wilhelm commented that Ameresco’s goal is to provide a cutting-edge game plan for ASU to work with in reaching their climate neutrality and zero waste goals. Daniel Hunter also provided more insight on Ameresco and ASU’s partnership by explaining current developments in their game plan. Hunter believes it is important for ASU to integrate and work across the university in order to reach zero waste by 2025. Currently Ameresco is working with developing ways to improve infrastructure, integration across the university, and public awareness to ASU’s goal. Hunter also added that Ameresco plans to utilze their real-time energy management solution, xChange Point ® to calculate emissions data and determine the best-suited alternative energy options. Hunter added that Ameresco will have a full climate action plan set for ASU by May 2014.
Full video coverage of the event is below:

Last week ASU  published its annual Sustainability Operations Review for 2013 which highlighted the university’s accomplishments in zero waste and climate neutrality goals. The publication included achievements such as LEED Gold certification for ASU’s newest research center, ISTB4, ASU, in collaboration with Waste Management, achieving a 27% waste diversion rate, and  ASU making the “Sustainable 16” list in the Enviance, Inc. 2013 Environmental March Madness Tournament. With this list of impressive achievements for the year 2013, the year 2014 is certainly off to a great start.

Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

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Selling Sunshine: History of Solar Energy at Arizona State University

published January 21, 2014, 1:30 pm

In the fall of 2013, ASU Libraries hosted the exhibit Selling Sunshine, which showcased early solar energy research and steps made to solidify Arizona as a national player in solar energy development. The materials in the Selling Sunshine exhibit included technical papers, early reports, photographs, drawings, and much more. The exhibit inspired a conversation about the history of solar energy research and development at ASU and was recorded by ASU Libraries as a featured podcast.

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Selling Sunshine Podcast Photo. Photo retrieved from ASU Libraries website.

The podcast was hosted by Fred Mcllvain and University Archivist Rob Spindler, who spoke with Dr. Charles Backus, a national pioneer in photovoltaics research at ASU in the 1970’s, and Dr. Harvey Bryan, an ASU Professor of Design and Senior Sustainability Scientist. The conversation first started with the beginnings of solar energy research at ASU. Backus made note of an ASU course on direct energy conversion which began in 1968, just 10 years after ASU became an official state university. Backus taught the course for over 16 years to students from all over the country. He believes that the national visibility and steady stream of students enrolling in this course attributed to the public associating advanced energy with Arizona State University. Bryan also discussed early solar energy research at ASU by noting the contributions of ASU Professor Jeffrey Cook and Professor John Yellot. Bryan noted that Yellott contributed pioneering work in the field particularly in active solar thermal systems. He explained that Yellot began by opening a solar consulting company, Yellot’s Solar Laboratories, and ran informal classes on solar energy to interested ASU students. These informal classes were not redeemable for credit but Bryan believes it was a great educational experience from a notable ASU professor. Yellot would go on to become the first Chairman of the ASME Solar Energy Applications Group and head of Arizona State's College of Architecture solar program. He continued to teach at ASU until his retirement at age 70.

The first solar photovoltaic testing laboratory in the United States was established in the 1990s at Arizona State University. Backus reflected on the progress that ASU has made since its establishment to present day. He believes that ASU’s Solar Power Lab has made significant strides, particularly in the national community for their knowledge of how to incorporate solar at the university, examine what the problems are, and reveal what we need to be concerned about for the future. Backus believes that solar power research and development at ASU has only become more broad-based since President Michael Crow came to the university in 2002. He believes that President Crow has done an amazing job in the last 10 years and has made solar energy more of an important issue than previous university presidents. An example of ASU’s accomplishments in solar energy is the growing number of solar power installations on campus. ASU saw its first large solar installation in 2004 when the university placed a 34-killowat project on the top deck of the Tyler Street Parking structure. According to ASU’s solar website, “the energy generated by this system provided more than enough electricity to power the structures daytime lighting and shade 44 parking spaces.” This is in part of the university’s Campus Solarization program which aims to implement solar power on all ASU campuses while also teaching students about its positive environmental impact.

Tyler Street Parking structure with solar panels Photo retrieved from ASU Solar website.

Campus Solarization—Innovation and Education in the Valley of the Sun. Retrieved from ASU Video Production on Vimeo.

Most recently in November 2013, ASU achieved another solar milestone by reaching a total of 23.5 MW of solar-energy capacity, which provides more than 40 million kilowatt hours annually. This amount of clean and renewable solar energy is enough to power more than 3,500 Arizona homes for one year and reduces the university’s carbon footprint by 8.7 percent. Arizona State University’s solar portfolio is currently the largest of any university in the United States. That being said, solar energy is not just a thing of history at ASU; it is the way of our future. To see real-time tracking information of ASU’s current solar energy production, visit the Campus Metabolism website.

Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

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Energy education made fun through LightWorks’ “Dr. Energy” Platform

published December 27, 2013, 10:08 am

The need for future innovators in the energy field is becoming increasingly important to our day and age. In August 2013, LightWorks and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University launched a platform aimed to encourage students and educators to become more involved in energy education. The “Ask an Energy Expert” program is an integral part of ASU’s “Ask An Expert” Program and is hosted by LightWorks. The Dr. Energy platform aims to bring awareness and clarity around energy topics for K-12 students and educators by offering a platform where users can submit questions that are answered by ASU faculty and researchers. Dr. Energy also launched a social media presence that provides a consistent stream of energy-related educational material, games, and news available online.

A picture of ASU’s Dr. Energy. Retrieved from ASU LightWorks.

More than 30 years ago, President Jimmy Carter presented his “Address to the Nation” on Energy and National Goals which stressed the need for energy education in schools, a reduction of our dependence on fossil fuels, and an increase of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. This speech founded the National Energy Education Development Project (NEED) which aims to provide a curriculum to teach educators and students about energy. NEED’s work also extends to professional development and training for school districts’ around the country interested in energy efficiency and new energy technologies, afterschool programs, student clubs, and more. The availability to access energy curriculum and resources online helps spread energy education to more classrooms increasing the potential for future energy leaders.

LightWorks’ Dr. Energy platform also intends to further energy education in the classroom by providing access to online resources and information. The sharing of energy-related online curriculum, classroom activities, puzzles, and games are distributed through the use of updates on Dr. Energy’s Facebook and Twitter platforms. To provide more specific information on energy topics, Dr. Energy can be accessed through a Q&A style. Through ASU’s “Ask An Energy Expert” website, students and educators can ask any energy-related questions by submitting them online and will receive answers from ASU energy experts in a 72 hour time frame. Questions can stem from technicalities such as “how do solar panels absorb energy from the sun?” to questions around the relationship between energy and the environment such as “why should we invest in clean energy?”. Dr. Energy aims to provide answers to questions that can be easily understood by a specific age group. The goal of Dr. Energy is to inspire students to become further interested and invested in energy systems as it is crucial to our changing world.

Arizona State University has met soaring success with its “Ask An Expert” program especially with its “Ask A Biologist” platform. “Ask A Biologist,” hosted by ASU’s Dr. Biology, has become an invaluable resource for teachers, students, and other curious minds. LightWorks aims for Dr. Energy to also become a useful resource for educators and students across the nation. Increasing interest in energy education from K-12 students is part of LightWorks’ overall effort to encourage research and development of energy solutions for the future. To submit a question to Dr. Energy click here. Below are the links to Dr. Energy’s social media platforms.

Dr. Energy Facebook:
Dr. Energy Twitter:

Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

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Shell GameChanger: Investing in energy innovation for the future

published December 5, 2013, 3:17 pm

Since its foundation in 1996, Shell GameChanger has practiced its open invitation to innovative ideas that have the potential to impact the future of energy. On November 13, GameChangers Henk Mooiweer and Hans Haringa visited Arizona State University to discuss how the program is working toward increasing innovation at Shell by turning ideas into reality. The lecture was made possible by the co-sponsoring of ASU LightWorks and the Center for Science and the Imagination.

Shell GameChanger header image. Photo retrieved from Shell GameChanger homepage.

Mooiweer first began by explaining Shell’s progress in research and development compared to other large energy companies. The company invests in more R&D than any other international oil company and hires the top engineers and scientists to focus on energy challenges. Although technology innovation is a core investment at Shell, Mooiweer said that getting ideas to the table can sometimes be a challenge. Mooiweer explained that some of Shell’s challenges are communicating and connecting with the public and investing in innovation from outside sources. These challenges are answered by the mission of Shell GameChanger, which is to identify unproven ideas submitted to them from the public and create a proved concept plan for those ideas.

Anybody can submit a project proposal. If the project is promising, Shell GameChanger contacts the innovator right away. To date, the program has worked with over 1,500 innovators and turned more than 100 into reality. “GameChanger projects mostly fail about 90% of the time,” Mooiweer explained. “But that’s okay, because the point is to continuously refresh the R&D portfolio and testing out of new ideas.” Shell GameChanger works with innovators from a variety of different fields. Haringa noted connecting with ASU faculty and students at the first Herberger Institute for Design and Arts Emerge event in 2012. Shell GameChanger hosted a workshop at the event that encouraged attendees to imagine alternative futures and then build artifacts on a 3D printer to capture the material makeup. The workshop generated a plethora of ideas which gave Shell GameChanger a sense of where innovation is heading. Haringa believes that innovation is ultimately found on the edge. In other words, innovative ideas do not necessarily come from energy experts, making interdisciplinary perspective all the more necessary
Shell GameChanger aims to boost the future development of Shell’s energy resources. One project proposal that Shell GameChanger funded was SWELLFLEX®, which is a “synthetic rubber seal that swells on contact with water and can withstand enormous heat and pressure from underground by swelling as soon as water appears.”  Shell uses this seal to prevent water from entering the well and keep the oil flowing, which ultimately lengthens a well’s life. By lengthening a well’s life, the company has more opportunity for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) which increases the amount of crude oil that can be extracted from a field. This can be perceived as positively benefiting the environment because the company can focus on tapping fewer wells, although it is still a non-renewable fuel technology and should eventually be replaced by new innovations in renewable energy. Below is a video explaining the project further.

Although Shell primarily focuses on oil and gas projects, through Shell GameChanger the company is making steps toward making this process more efficient and sustainable. Shell GameChanger also welcomes ideas that do not necessarily focus on combustible energy. The point of GameChanger is to welcome innovation as progress and recognize that change at Shell will be inevitable. Haringa quoted Marshall McLuhan, Canadian philosopher of communication theory, who wrote, “It is the framework which changes with each new technology and not just the picture within the frame.” The future of energy will be shaped by people presenting their innovative ideas to progress us forward. If you have an idea to benefit our energy future, visit Shell GameChanger’s website to submit your idea.

Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

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Economics for energy in Spain: Xavier Labandeira says, “We’re well on our way.”

published November 22, 2013, 10:11 am

On October 30, 2013, Xavier Labandeira, professor of the Department of Applied Economics at the University of Vigo and Director of Economics of Energy, presented a lecture at ASU Global Institute of Sustainability. Labandeira discussed Spanish policies to promote renewable energy and assessed their effectiveness within a wider energy public-policy context.

Photo of Xavier Labandeira retrieved from Labandeira’s personal Twitter account.

Labandeira first gave a picture of Spain’s reasons for renewable energy development. He explained that Spain’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions were 15% higher in the early 2000s from 1990. Implementation of the EU's Integrated Energy and Climate Change Package from the year 2007 greatly helped decrease that level by presenting three key targets, known as the “20-20-20” targets, for 2020.

  • A 20% reduction in EU greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels
  • Raising the share of EU energy consumption produced from renewable resources to 20%
  • A 20% improvement in the EU’s energy efficiency

Spain also developed green certificates, feed-in tariffs (FIT), and created a market for wind and solar. Spain experienced a balanced and consistent growth with wind energy. The country also experienced successes in solar PV development. In 2008, Spain held the title of the world’s highest capacity and most efficient solar PV plant. “Spain was an early achiever in renewable energy promotion,” Labandeira said.

Although generally optimistic, Labandeira did recognize the criticism Spain received on their feed-in-tariffs program. Labandeira explained that problems were created by the difficulties to transmit costs to consumers during an economic crisis. Still, there is hope for the future as Labandeira pointed out lessons learned. He ultimately believes implementing stable renewable energy policies will keep Spain from another large imbalance and boom and bust episode. He said that Spain’s overall interest in energy dependence, industrial development, and environmental benefits will push renewable energy policy forward. Below is a video of Labandeira and his colleague Klaas Würzburg discussing the relationship between economics and the environment, as part of their research in Europe and Spain.

Labandeira works on transmitting useful energy research to Spanish society through Economics for Energy, a private research center that specializes in the analysis of current and complex energy issues. Economics for Energy transfers knowledge through reports and organization of seminars and workshops to engage representatives of companies, institutions, and academics. Arizona State University has a similar program called the Energy Policy and Innovation Council (EPIC). EPIC aims to inform and educate policymakers on energy policy issues to advance Arizona’s energy industry potential. These research centers are important to creating clean energy policies that will work for our world today and into the future.
Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

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Making good: Solar Mosaic’s Billy Parish inspires future “changemakers”

published November 5, 2013, 4:21 pm

On October 2, ASU’s Changemaker Central hosted Billy Parish, founder and president of Solar Mosaic, The Energy Action Coalition, and Rolling Stone Magazine’s “Climate Hero”. Parish led a student engagement brunch and followed up with an evening lecture in which he shared his inspiring life experience. Parish designed his lecture in a workshop format leaving behind resonating lessons for the audience.

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Billy Parish speaking to the audience. Photo by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

Lesson #1—Follow your purpose

Parish explained that he found his purpose in the summer of his sophomore year of college when travelling abroad in India. He had been there to study the country’s economic development, but instead found an interest in the Gaumukh glacier. This glacier is the source of the Ganges River that provides more than 400 million people with drinking water. Parish found that this glacier has been retreating for years and that by the year 2030, it could disappear altogether.

Shortly after his travels, Parish dropped out of Yale to help build what would become the largest youth organization in the world focused on clean energy and climate solutions. The Energy Action Coalition helped create over 50 diverse, youth-led environmental and social justice organizations dedicated to advancing a clean and just energy future.

Combating climate change is Billy Parish’s purpose in life. He then asked the audience to reach for the index cards on our seats and write down ours. He explained that our purpose changes through the years, but to write down the first thing that came to mind. As the audience grew silent thinking and writing, I looked up to see Parish also writing down his own statement of purpose. He then asked for all audience members to collectively stand up and shout out their aspiration. This was to solidify our commitment to our purpose just like he had done.

Lesson #2—Build with the best

In 2005, Parish helped the Energy Action Coalition launch the Campus Climate Change, “a three-year campaign to unite students and young people in achieving clean energy policies on thousands of campuses and communities”. Parish explained that none of their work would be possible without receiving the best support. Parish even said that one of the first people the coalition connected with was ASU President Michael Crow. It was important for their group to engage with the “changemakers” of these universities.

As of December 2011, the Energy Action Coalition has inspired 685 campuses to commit to the President’s Climate Commitment, a campus carbon neutrality pledge. Parish warned about the myth of the entrepreneur. “It’s not just one that makes it happen,” Parish said. “Networking people, that’s how it works!” Parish then asked the audience to write down five people that could get us closer to fulfilling our purpose. This was to get the audience thinking of collaborating with other people who share similar goals.

Lesson #3—Go to the root

It wasn’t until Parish watched a TED talk by Bill Gates that he found out the root to combating climate change. Gates explained in his lecture that the world will need to get to zero carbon emissions by 2050. Gates provided a time frame, equation, and steps for the world to get there.

Video: Bill Gates: Innovating to zero! via TED Talks.

Parish explained that breaking down climate change to the root allowed him to establish his company Mosaic. Parish believes that climate change can be combatted through harnessing capitalism. His company functions like a renewable energy bank, by soliciting investments for solar projects and making loans to be paid back, typically, over 10 years. It ultimately aims to be the number one investment platform for clean energy. Parish believes that bringing small-scale decentralized solar projects to investors is his way of building a path to zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Parish explained that he has found the intersection between work and doing good. Every day Parish goes to work and steps closer toward his purpose of creating a cleaner world. He explained that planning the next steps to fulfill your purpose is important—whether that be continuing education, joining an organization, working within an institution, or becoming an apprentice. He asked the audience to write down what next step that we plan to take. He then asked how this step can provide an opening toward their intersection of work and good in a changing world. Below is a video of Parish speaking about finding your place in the universe.

Video: Find Your Place in the Universe: Billy Parish via TED Talks.

Parish is a “changemaker” because he applies his expertise and passion for positive social and environmental progress. Parish’s lecture not only highlighted his incredible journey of working toward a clean energy future, but it also empowers ASU students and faculty that we could do the same with our own interests. To learn more about what Parish is currently working on, visit his blog here.

Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

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