Sustainable Energy Solutions

November 13, 2009 by Dean Shankar Sastry

Next month, representatives from around the world will convene at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in hopes of providing the broad outline for a new agreement that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions to sustainable levels. It is critical that, unlike Kyoto, the new agreement simultaneously provide for sustainable growth and energy utilization.

At a preparatory meeting cosponsored by CITRIS and the Copenhagen Climate Council in June 2008, then-LBNL director Steven Chu and I—drawing on experience from the semiconductor industry—made the argument for a carbon roadmap with all nations at the table. We suggested that the roadmap follow the three major sectors of buildings, transportation and industry.

For example, U.S. commercial and residential buildings now account for 40 percent of our annual carbon dioxide emissions and by 2030 will consume 16 percent more energy if we do nothing. This message was brilliantly articulated by ME/MSE professor Arun Majumdar, who also served as director of LBNL’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division. In testimony before the U.S. Senate earlier this year, Majumdar argued that buildings need to go on an energy diet and provided a roadmap for how we can do it. He is now serving as director of ARPA-E, the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy, a new division of the U.S. Department of Energy tasked with developing game-changing solutions to sustainable energy problems while reducing  greenhouse gas emissions.

On campus, we’re putting Majumdar’s message about the building sector to work. Professor Claire Tomlin has received a major NSF grant to work on reducing the carbon footprint of campus buildings—beginning with the engineering quadrant—through a process of measurement, modeling and mitigation. Based on the California Energy Commission’s pilot project on demand response, an engineering team including CITRIS director Paul Wright, LBNL’s Mary Ann Piette and EECS professor Costas Spanos has begun outfitting Cory, Soda and Sutardja Dai Halls to enable continuous monitoring for a reduction of their energy usage and overall carbon footprints. EECS professors David Culler, Randy Katz and Seth Sanders are leading LoCal, another initiative to implement a low-calorie diet of energy for campus buildings based on intelligent interaction with the grid.

As national and world policymakers wade through difficult issues next month, Berkeley engineers are providing the roadmaps and transformative solutions to ignite new sustainable growth and create new jobs while saving the planet.

I welcome your thoughts and ideas.

S. Shankar Sastry

Dean, College of Engineering
Roy W. Carlson Professor of EECS, BioE & ME
Director, Blum Center for Developing Economies
Email Dean Sastry

Topics: EECS, Environment