University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
Energy Transition Lab

Ten things we learned about the energy transition

October 21, 2014grafe014ETL Blog, FeaturedComments Off on Ten things we learned about the energy transition

energy transition solar panel

Energy Transition Lab executive director Ellen Anderson and Energy Transition Lab faculty director Hari Osofsky explored the “Top 10″ key areas of energy transition and the Energy Transition Lab’s role in them. This story originally appeared on the Institute on the Environment blog.

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10.  Treat energy as a system. Instead of seeing energy as a technological process, we need to view it as an intertwined system involving politics, finance and social innovations.

9.    Bring renewable energy to scale. Given time, technology can improve and prices can drop. We may be underestimating the growth and potential of renewables.

8.   Address the risks of unconventional energy in new energy frontiers. Oil and natural gas in the Arctic could shift the energy focus away from the contiguous United States. With new locations comes new challenges; addressing topics such as risky procurement (for example, hydraulic fracturing and deep-water drilling) will be important to the new energy world.

7.  Create 21st century utility models. Traditional energy systems reward energy companies based on their reliability, stability, rates and capital investment. To create a stronger system, companies need to be given credit for innovation, environmental performance, flexibility and encouraging customers to use less energy.

6.  Stop wasting energy. Conventional energy systems waste a lot of energy, particularly from waste heat. There are a lot of opportunities to improve upon this if we can overcome laws that hamper innovation.

5.  Capture economic opportunity and use market tools. The energy transition represents not only an environmental opportunity, but an economic one as well. For many companies, the cost of continuing with business as usual may be higher than the costs of taking action on climate change.

4.  Think locally and act locally. Since a significant portion of the world population lives in cities, cities must play a crucial role in the energy transition. University of Minnesota’s Energy Transition Lab is working to provide tools to help urban centers make this shift.

3.  Education, collaborate and innovate for impact. Planning for the energy transition now will help guide its future. The Energy Transition Lab is working to help plan Minnesota’s energy future and use this information to understand and shape the energy future on a regional and global level.

2.  Make progress in a partisan political environment. Pairing energy transition goals with economic development goals could help create common ground for progress. Working at a smaller scale where partisanship is less intense than at larger scales may also provide fertile ground for moving forward on needed energy transitions.

1.  Ride the wave: Capitalize on positive trends. Universities value innovation, a vital tool to solving the challenge of an energy transition. Another bonus? Universities are full of members of the Millennial generation, 93 percent of whom believe continued dependence on fossil fuels has weakened the economy and stifled innovation.

Like to learn more? Watch a video of the presentation.


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