Destenie Nock

August 12: Destenie Nock, Carnegie Mellon University


Destenie Nock
Destenie Nock

View a recording of this talk. 

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"

Moderator: Pauline Jaramillo, Professor of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University

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. 


Pualina Jaramillo
Paulina Jaramillo

About the Moderator: Dr. Paulina Jaramillo has a bachelor's in civil and environmental engineering from Florida International University (2003), as well as a master's and PhD in civil and environmental engineering with an emphasis in green design from Carnegie Mellon University (2004 and 2007, respectively). Her past research has focused on life cycle assessment of energy systems with an emphasis on climate change impacts and mitigation research. As a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, she is involved in key multi-disciplinary research projects to better understand the social, economic and environmental implications of energy consumption and the public policy tools that can be used to support sustainable energy development and consumption. She is now the Co-Director of the Green Design Institute and has started pursuing research about infrastructure systems for global development.

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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.