New Energy: Conversations with Early-Career Energy Researchers

Dates and Speakers at a Glance

  • July 15: Rebecca Ciez, Columbia University: "Designing Energy Storage for Climate Goals" | Co-sponsored by the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment at Princeton University
  • July 29: Michael Craig, University of Michigan, "Electric Power in a Changing Climate"
  • August 12: Destenie Nock, Carnegie Mellon University: "In-depth Analysis of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Air Pollutants From Electric Transmission and Distribution (T&D) Systems"
  • August 26: Jesse Jenkins, Princeton University
  • September 9: Stephanie Lenhardt, Boise State University
  • Septmber 23: Erin Mayfield, Princeton University
  • October 7: Steffi Muhanji and Wester Schoonenberg, Dartmouth College

About the Series

New Energy: Conversations with Early-Career Energy Researchers is a new online series featuring graduate, post-doctoral, and other early-career researchers sharing their discoveries and perspectives on energy-related topics. From policy to analysis to emerging research, this bi-weekly series will give anyone interested in energy the opportunity to learn from the rising stars in the field. 

This series is a collaborative effort between professors at Dartmouth College's Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society and the following colleges and universities:

Arizona State University

Penn State University

Carnegie Mellon University's Wilton Scott Institute
for Energy Innovation

Princeton University's Andlinger Center
for Energy and the Environment

Cornell University

Stanford University

Columbia University

Technical University of Denmark

Duke University's Nicholas Institute for 
Environmental Policy Solutions

 Tufts University's Center for Environmental and Resource Policy

ETH Zurich

University of Cambridge

Indiana University's Paul H. O'Neill School of
Public and Environmental Affairs

University of Vermont's Gund Institute for Environment

Northeastern University  

View past talks here. 

12 p.m. EDT

July 15: Rebecca Ciez, Columbia University

"Designing Energy Storage for Climate Goals"
Co-sponsored by the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment at Princeton University

Rebecca Ciez
Postdoctoral Student, Columbia University
Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering and Earth and Ecological Engineering, Purdue University (starting fall 2020)

About the Speaker
Rebecca Ciez is a Postdoctoral Researcher at Columbia University and incoming Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering and Earth and Ecological Engineering at Purdue University. Her research focuses on how energy systems, including transportation, electricity, and industrial systems, can work together to transition to a decarbonized future. Using a systems-analysis approach, her work draws upon methods from engineering, policy analysis, and economics. She holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Columbia University and a Ph.D. in Engineering and Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University.

About the Talk: Transportation and electricity systems are two of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions globally. Energy storage technologies, especially batteries, are poised to play a substantial role in both of these sectors. Given the scope of the challenge, and the diversity of applications, it is imperative that we design storage technologies that are suitable for vehicles and the changing demands of the electricity grid. Storage must also be inexpensive enough to be widely adopted while minimizing the environmental impacts of manufacturing and disposal. Focusing on lithium-ion batteries—the incumbent energy storage technology—this talk will discuss methods and outcomes to analyze technologies with these competing goals. Process-based cost modeling methods and results show which attributes are most significant to reducing the cell-level battery cost. Life cycle assessment highlights the limitations of current battery recycling methods, and the tension between incentives for low upfront cost technology and profitable recycling methods.


12 p.m. EDT

July 29: Michael Craig, University of Michigan

Michael Craig
Assistant Professor in Energy Systems, University of Michigan
"Electric Power Systems in a Changing Climate"

About the Talk: Climate change might impact various components of the bulk electric power system, including electricity demand; transmission; and thermal, hydropower, wind, and solar generators. Most research in this area quantifies impacts on one or a few components and does not link these impacts to effects on power system planning and operations. In his talk, Michael Craig will present his recent collaborations on how climate change will affect bulk power system planning and operations. Those collaborations include quantifying compounding effects of climate change on thermal plant availability, wind and solar resources, and electricity demand in Texas; and optimizing generator investment decisions given atmospheric and hydrological impacts in the Southeast United States. 

About the Speaker: Michael Craig primarily researches how to reduce global and local environmental impacts of electric power and other energy systems. In prior work, he quantified the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reduction potential of new technologies, such as rooftop solar, grid-scale batteries, and carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). He focuses on system-level analysis to understand the deployment potential and operations of new technologies given the constraints and features of the larger system in which they are embedded. Through system analyses, his research also illuminates how the operations and evolution of energy systems respond to new technologies and other factors, e.g. nonstationary environmental conditions induced by climate change. He loves collaborations with other disciplines, and has worked with economists, climate scientists, and others.

Google Scholar Link



12 p.m. EDT | 9 a.m. PDT

August 12: Destenie Nock, Carnegie Mellon University

Destenie Nock
Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering and Engineering & Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University
"In-depth Analysis of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Air Pollutants From Electric Transmission and Distribution (T&D) Systems"


About the Speaker: Dr. Destenie Nock is an Assistant Professor in Civil & Environmental Engineering (CEE), and Engineering and Public Policy (EPP). Her research is focused on applying optimization and decision analysis tools to evaluate the sustainability, equity, and reliability of power systems in the US and Sub-Saharan Africa. One of her current projects include developing a framework for understanding the sustainability and equity trade-offs for different power plant investments. Another project involves quantifying the air pollution emissions associated with electric transmission and distribution systems. Dr. Nock holds a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she was an NSF Graduate Research Fellow, and an Offshore Wind Energy IGERT Fellow. 

Google Scholar Link

About the Talk: Electricity generation is one of the largest contributors to global greenhouse gas and air pollution emissions. Without systematic views of the electricity system the environmental impacts of the electricity sector could worsen due to the trend for increased electrification of different sectors (i.e. transportation and heating). The unintended consequences of failing to build efficient transmission and distribution (T&D) systems include higher greenhouse gas emissions, added costs due to oversizing of generation fleet, and a host of environmental impacts. Mismanagement, pilferage, and improper maintenance also contribute to increased losses on the T&D system. Previous mitigation strategies have primarily focused on reducing emissions generated at the power plant level, rather than looking at the impact of emissions from inefficiencies in the delivery of electricity. Here we quantify the overall sustainability losses of inefficiencies on the power grid. In our work we combine power generation life cycle assessments with uncertainty analysis to put a bound on the potential air pollution emissions from compensatory generation associated with technical and non-technical T&D losses. In this paper, we estimate the compensatory air pollutants associated with T&D losses under a fixed electricity generation profile in 142 countries. 

Previous research suggests that nearly 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions are released due to grid inefficiencies.  This research results in two novel contributions.  First, we quantify SO2, NOx, and PM2.5 emissions in addition to greenhouse gas emissions that result from grid inefficiencies, quantifying the co-benefits of mitigating these emissions. Second, we conduct an in-depth analysis of the USA and India to illuminate the environmental trade-offs in established and expanding power systems.  For both countries, we examine compensatory emissions at the subnational scale, providing greater insight into how both technology and policy can be better designed to reduce air pollution and climate impacts.  We conclude with policy implications and the level of international cooperation needed for environmentally sustainable energy transitions. Our work comes at a time when countries must deploy existing technologies (i.e. solar, wind, hydro, and nuclear) at a rapid pace to keep up with industrialization and growing demand in developing countries.  By decreasing T&D losses countries will be able to reduce compensatory emissions, lessen expenditures and capital investment in generation facilities, and ensure that more electricity from low-carbon generation facilities will reach the intended consumers.



August 26: Jesse Jenkins, Princeton University

About the Speaker: Jesse Jenkins is an assistant professor at Princeton University with a joint appointment in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and Environment and courtesy appointments at the Woodrow Wilson School and Princeton Environment Institute. He is a macro-scale energy systems engineer with a focus on the rapidly evolving electricity sector, including the transition to zero-carbon resources, the proliferation of distributed energy resources, and the role of electricity in economy-wide decarbonization. Jesse leads the Princeton ZERO Lab (Zero-carbon Energy systems Research and Optimization Laboratory), which works to improve and apply optimization-based energy systems models to evaluate low-carbon energy technologies and generate insights to guide policy and planning decisions in national and sub-national jurisdictions transitioning to net-zero emissions energy systems. Jesse earned a PhD in Engineering Systems and a Masters in Technology & Policy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and worked previously as a postdoctoral Environmental Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School. His work has been recognized and supported by competitive fellowships from the National Science Foundation, MIT Energy Initiative, Martin Family Society for Fellows in Sustainability, and Harvard University Center for the Environment.


Google Scholar

Talk title and registration link will be posted soon.

September 23: Erin Mayfield, Princeton University

Erin Mayfield is an environmental systems engineer and public policy researcher, with expertise in sustainable systems, multiobjective modeling, and environmental economics.  She is a postdoctoral scholar at Princeton University, where her research focuses on modeling net zero energy system pathways, assessing the multi-attribute conversion potential of existing thermal assets in the U.S., and evaluating the air quality and labor market effects of net zero energy systems.  She completed her Ph.D. in Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University (2019), where she developed a macro-energy systems model that optimizes for both cost objectives and sustainability objectives (i.e., climate, air quality, employment, social equity) with respect to sequential decisions regarding the timing, magnitude, and location of energy infrastructure and investments across regional supply chains.  She previously worked as an environmental scientist on natural resource damages litigation, land use planning, and valuation of ecosystem services.  Dr. Mayfield has also held positions at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Congress, and Environmental Law Institute. She received her bachelor's degree in environmental science from Rutgers University (2008) and master's degree in environmental engineering from Johns Hopkins University (2011).

Google Scholar

Talk description and registration will be posted soon.