COVID-19’s Impact on Energy and Environment Perceptions

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This conversation with Peter Fox-Penner, Founder and Director of the Boston University Institute for Sustainable Energy, will be hosted by Varun Rai, Director of the UT Energy Institute and Associate Dean for Research at the LBJ School of Public Affairs.

Abstract: Deep-decarbonization of the energy system by 2050 will require unprecedented rate and scale of change to the electricity system infrastructure. In his new book Power After CarbonPeter Fox-Penner argues that while small-scale, distributed energy generation has a role in the ongoing energy transition, large-scale low-C power generation and storage will be indispensable. This final installment of this summer’s Energy@UT Summer Energy Talks will spotlight the necessary steps to achieve this scale within the next few decades. Specifically, what are the weakest links in the chain to make this a reality? What are the tradeoffs between radically reducing energy demand vs. supplying all demand through low-C generation? The conversation will also examine whether recent developments due to COVID-19 are changing the perceptions of investors, energy businesses, and policymakers in a way that could alter the course of the energy transition in the U.S.

Guest Bio: Dr. Peter Fox-Penner is Founder and Director of the Boston University Institute for Sustainable Energy and Professor of Practice at the Questrom School of Business, where he teaches courses on sustainable energy and electric power. His research and writing interests are in the areas of electric power strategy, regulation, and governance; energy and climate policy; sustainable finance; and the relationships between public and private economic activity. Prior to BU, he served for over two decades as principal and chairman of the Brattle Group, an economic consulting firm where he remains an academic advisor. Before this he served as a senior official at the U.S. Department of Energy and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Dr. Fox-Penner is a frequent speaker on energy topics and the author of numerous published articles and books, including the highly acclaimed Smart Power: Climate Change, the Smart Grid, and the Future of Electric Utilities (Island Press, 2010) and its sequel Power after Carbon (Harvard University Press, 2020). His research has been widely cited, including in one Supreme Court decision. Full bio here.

Host Bio: Dr. Varun Rai is Director of the Energy Institute and an Associate Professor in the LBJ School of Public Affairs and in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, where he directs the Energy Systems Transformation Research Group (aka “Rai Group”). His interdisciplinary research – delving with issues at the interface of energy systems, complex systems, decision science, and public policy – focuses on studying how the interactions between the underlying social, behavioral, economic, technological, and institutional components of the energy system impact the diffusion of energy technologies. Since 2017, he has served as Associate Dean For Research at the LBJ School. Full bio here.

Related Materials: Power after Carbon website

Dr. Fox-Penner's webinars and presentations on decarbonization 

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Date and Time
Aug. 11, 2020, noon to 1 p.m.