On the Ground: Research on the Future of Energy
At the College of Natural Resources, researchers are investigating ways to meet the world’s energy needs through renewable-electricity access, clean-power storage solutions, and more.
Documenting grid access in Tanzania
Veronica Jacome, a doctoral student in the Energy and Resources Group (ERG), investigates the relationship between unreliable electricity, the physical properties of the electric grid, and how people access power. Working in Tanzanian communities that face intermittent and unstable electricity services, Jacome gathers information through both qualitative and quantitative methods—speaking with community members, surveying households, and monitoring electricity at transformer and household levels.
Tracking vehicle-emissions policies
Agricultural and resource economics (ARE) assistant professor James Sallee studies energy, environmental, and tax policies, with a focus on evaluating policies aimed at mitigating greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector. A recent study that he co-authored revealed that European cars emit dramatically more carbon dioxide than their official ratings suggest.
Exploring bioenergy through fungi
Plant and microbial biology professor N. Louise Glass studies the mechanisms of plant biomass deconstruction and their implications for the production of biofuels and specialty chemicals. Utilizing genetics, genomics, and biochemical tools, her lab focuses on fungal enzyme-secretion pathways and fungal regulatory networks to understand possible applications of fungi to bioenergy.
Integrating renewable energy into the grid
Duncan Callaway, an ERG associate professor, leads a Department of Energy–funded effort to improve the way rooftop solar and electric vehicles are integrated into the grid. His lab studies how to reliably and cost-effectively operate the grid utilizing rapidly changing technologies such as rooftop solar panels, electric vehicles, wind turbines, and battery storage.
Charting the politics of energy innovation
Jonas Meckling, an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, studies climate and clean-energy policy and the political forces that drive it. His current research examines carbon regulation, innovation in solar power and electric vehicles, and China’s role in global renewable energy trade.
Incentivizing smarter energy consumption
ARE professor Meredith Fowlie and her co-authors in a recent study demonstrate how a small nudge can influence individual consumer decisions that add up to big social impacts. When an electric utility defaulted consumers into a time-varying electricity-pricing program, participation dramatically increased. All participants, including those defaulted into the program, significantly reduced their electricity consumption during critical periods when supply costs are typically highest.
Analyzing pathways to low-cost electricity
ERG PhD student Noah Kittner studies the environmental impacts of new storage systems and the potential for storage technologies to contribute to low-carbon and low-cost electricity. A recent study he co-authored with ERG professor Dan Kammen, published in Nature Energy, analyzed the rapidly falling cost of lithium-ion battery technologies and how these storage methods can be utilized in the transition toward solar and wind electricity on the grid.