News & Events


Energy in the News: Friday, February 8

Today at 3:30, don’t miss Shelie Miller’s EWRE seminar: Future Scenario Modeling to Evaluate the Environmental Impacts of New Technology

Or if nuclear is more your style, check out today’s visitor from LLNL at 4 PM.

Congratulations to faculty affiliates Alec Gallimore and Sharon Glotzer, both elected to the National Academy of Engineering! Individuals in the newly elected class will be formally inducted during a ceremony at the NAE’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 6, 2019.

MTRAC grant applications are due on March 15; learn more here.

Energy UROP Summer applications are due March 1; get this pdf to your students!

The Global CO2 Initiative, led by Volker Sick, announced its board today.

U-M President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality
University of Michigan, featuring many UMEI faculty affiliates
On February 4, 2019, U-M President Mark Schlissel announced the members of the core team responsible for developing recommendations for how to achieve carbon neutrality for U-M, as well as develop scalable and transferable strategies that can be used by other institutions and larger communities to achieve the same goal.
Read the announcement

Read more about the announcement at:
The Daily Record
Click on Detroit

Stateside: MI’s energy infrastructure; mother of modern office design; pushback on Title IX changes
Michigan Radio, featuring Johanna Mathieu
We also hear from Johanna Mathieu, Assistant Professor in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan. Mathieu tells us about what we learned about the state’s energy infrastructure this week, and what Michigan could do to avert a similar situation in the future.
Listen ( at the link, scroll down to the second player window to go straight to the energy story)

Electric Cars Really Do Hate the Winter, Says AAA Study
Fortune, featuring Anna Stefanopoulou
Not too hot and definitely not too cold–that’s when electric car batteries work best.
“Batteries are like humans,” Anna Stefanopoulou, director of the University of Michigan’s Energy Institute told Wired: they do best at temperatures between 40°F and 115°F.
In results that are unlikely to shock the many frustrated EV owners who vented on social media during the polar vortex, Stefanopoulou’s claim is backed up by the results of a new AAA study, which says that electric car batteries lose as much as 41% of their potential driving range when the outside temperature is 20°F (and when the heater is turned on).
Read more
Related in Inside EVs: Why Electric Cars Don’t Like Cold Temperatures, And How To Fix it

How air conditioners could advance a renewable power grid
University of Michigan News Service, featuring Johanna Mathieu
More strategic control of air conditioners could improve the overall efficiency and reliability of the power grid and make it easier to transition to renewable energy, and that’s the goal of a $2.9 million grant University of Michigan researchers have received from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.
Utilities maintain customers’ energy supply through a process called “load balancing.” Load is the amount of electricity supplied at any given time, and that load is balanced as power plants continuously ramp up and down to produce enough electricity to meet demand.
However, renewable energy sources such as solar and wind are highly variable, and that can make it difficult for traditional power plants to maintain this supply-demand balance.
Read more

Perceptions play big role in how residents feel about wind energy
University of Michigan News Service, featuring Sarah Mills
When local residents feel the planning process for building wind turbines is fair and open, their perceptions of the often-controversial energy source remain steady or improve with time, according to a University of Michigan study.
In fact, the openness with which the planning process is handled is more important in shaping residents’ perceptions of wind energy than receiving a payment, researchers say.
Likewise, if residents feel that their voices are ignored, their perceptions of wind turbines become less positive and, more importantly, erode over time.
“This finding shows that residents want to be heard,” said lead author Sarah Mills, senior project manager and researcher at the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy at U-M’s Ford School of Public Policy.
Read more

Night-time satellite imagery can measure electricity provision
The Economist, featuring Brian Min
For years American satellites have circled the Earth, measuring light levels at night and estimating how much is man-made. One straightforward use of such data is to see whether a place has electricity. Take India. Brian Min of the University of Michigan has shown that the government’s ambitious plan to connect every village to the grid is less dazzling than it appears. Many newly connected villages do not quickly light up, perhaps because the power supply is so unreliable. Indian states do, however, get brighter shortly before elections, suggesting politicians lean on power companies to minimise blackouts. The effect is strongest when the governing party is defending a slim majority.
Read more

Cli-fi (climate fiction) on the big screen changes minds about real climate change
CNN, featuring Jonathan Overpeck
Once upon a time, back in 2004, there was a blockbuster called “The Day After Tomorrow,” starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Dennis Quaid. It’s about a polar explorer who warns the world that the Gulf Stream will shut down. It does, triggering dramatic weather events, including a new ice age.
It was “based on a short-term variation in ocean circulation that was in the news at the time,” said another climate change expert, Jim Fleming. “Some of my apocalyptically oriented colleagues loved it, and one, a polar explorer, was even a model for the main character. I could not suspend disbelief, however.”
While the science made it hard for some experts to enjoy, like a lot of sci-fi, “the film goes beyond the science,” another climate expert, Jonathan Overpeck, wrote in an email. He explains that although the ocean circulation can slow, change wouldn’t happen overnight, and it’s unlikely to spark a new ice age. Rather, it means less warming in the North Atlantic, like what we see now. Overpeck, who is a paleoclimatologist and a dad, adds that it’s a personal favorite since its main character is a paleoclimatologist dad who speaks truth to power.
Read more

Michigan commission vacancies a ‘big deal’ for state’s clean energy transition
Energy News Network
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has an early chance to greatly impact the direction of clean energy policy in Michigan after eight years of “meager” gains under the previous administration, advocates here say.
While Whitmer announced this week an environmental department reorganization that includes a focus on clean energy and climate change, the Democratic governor will also have an opening to appoint two new members to the Michigan Public Service Commission by July.
The three-member body makes crucial decisions on energy policy and decides regulated utilities’ proposals that impact ratepayers. For example, the MPSC last year approved DTE Energy’s plan for a $1 billion natural gas plant to replace retiring coal units, over environmental groups’ objections.
Read more

House votes to reject Whitmer’s environmental executive order
Detroit Free Press
The state House voted 58-51 on Wednesday to reject a sweeping environmental executive order signed Monday by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, in a move Whitmer denounced as an irresponsible vote against clean drinking water.
The party-line vote in the House followed an earlier 3-2 vote in the Government Operations Committee.
The resolution now moves to the Senate, which could take it up as early as Thursday but is not expected to do so before next week. If the Senate also votes to reject the order, that would kill it.
Read more
Related: Original DEQ restructuring announcement

Liberal Democrats Formally Call for a ‘Green New Deal,’ Giving Substance to a Rallying Cry
The New York Times
Liberal Democrats put flesh on their “Green New Deal” slogan on Thursday with a sweeping resolution intended to redefine the national debate on climate change by calling for the United States to eliminate additional emissions of carbon by 2030.
The measure, drafted by freshman Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Senator Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, is intended to answer the demand, by the party’s restive base, for a grand strategy that combats climate change, creates jobs and offers an affirmative response to the challenge to core party values posed by President Trump.
Read more

Lyft offers electric options for riders, drivers
E&E News
Lyft passengers will soon be able to request a ride in an electric or hybrid vehicle when they’re planning a trip.
The ride-hailing company is launching the feature first in Seattle and then in other cities. The option will show up when passengers are choosing between available Lyft vehicles, and it will not cost more for riders than traveling in a car with an internal-combustion engine.
Lyft is also rolling out electric vehicles in Seattle and Atlanta in the fleet of cars that it rents to Lyft drivers who don’t own their own vehicles.
The company met with driver and rider groups in the Pacific Northwest, and “the No. 1 thing on the list for passengers and for drivers was green vehicles,” said Jon McNeill, chief operating officer of Lyft.
Read more

Moniz: ‘A 100% renewable system is not realistic’
E&E News
Driving deep reductions in U.S. carbon emissions by midcentury requires accelerated investment in a wide range of advanced energy technologies, from battery storage to new nuclear reactors and photosynthetic fuels, according to a study led by former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and energy historian Daniel Yergin.
The study, released today, was commissioned by the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, a group of private investors and global corporations organized by Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates. It was prepared by Moniz’s research nonprofit, the Energy Futures Initiative, and the IHS Markit Ltd. consulting group, of which Yergin is vice chairman.
The study concludes that “the need to address climate change is the challenge that calls most urgently for accelerating the pace of clean energy innovation.”
Read more