News & Events


Energy in the News: Friday, January 26

ICYMI: See Faculty Affiliate Daniel Raimi’s Ford School talk on his new book, The fracking debate: The risks, benefits, and uncertainties of the shale revolution, at the link:

Bartlett named interim director of U-M Energy Institute

U-M University Record, feat. Bart Bartlett and Mark Barteau

Bart Bartlett has been named interim director of the University of Michigan Energy Institute while the U-M Office of Research mounts a search for the institute’s next director.

Bartlett is the Energy Institute’s associate director for science and technology, and an associate professor of chemistry in LSA.

Energy Institute Director Mark Barteau will join Texas A&M University as vice president of research effective Feb. 15.

A unit of UMOR, the Energy Institute builds on U-M’s strong energy research heritage to develop and integrate science, technology and policy solutions to pressing energy challenges. With more than 130 faculty affiliates conducting more than $50 million in research each year, UMEI initiatives span 19 disciplines, several countries, and a range of industries.

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Record jump in 2014-2016 global temperatures largest since 1900

University of Michigan News, feat. Jonathan Overpeck

Global surface temperatures surged by a record amount from 2014 to 2016, boosting the total amount of warming since the start of the last century by more than 25 percent in just three years, according to a University of Arizona-led team that includes a University of Michigan scientist.

“Our paper is the first one to actually quantify this jump and identify the fundamental reason for this jump,” said lead author Jianjun Yin, a University of Arizona associate professor of geosciences.

The study was published online in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

The Earth’s average surface temperature climbed about 1.6 degrees F (0.9 C) from 1900 to 2013. By analyzing global temperature records, Yin and his colleagues found that by the end of 2016, the global surface temperature had climbed an additional 0.43 degrees F (0.24 C).

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Issues of the Environment: The state of researching sustainable vehicle technologies

WEMU, feat. Anna Stefanopoulou

The North American International Auto Show is underway in Detroit, and automakers have used this to announce major developments in advancing cleaner automotive technology.  In this week’s “Issues of the Environment,” WEMU’s David Fair talks to Anna Stefanopoulou, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Automotive Research Center Director at the University of Michigan, about what she thinks about these developments.


Low-pressure ammonia production could cut fertiliser energy cost

Chemistry World, feat. Levi Thompson

Rather than relying on ammonia made by the energy-hungry Haber–Bosch process, local fertiliser synthesis could soon be possible with a catalyst that can break the nitrogen–nitrogen triple bond at ambient pressure.

Ammonia, one of the key ingredients in fertilisers, is made on a huge scale by the only reaction that can reliably break the strong dinitrogen bond: the Haber–Bosch process. However, the reaction needs extreme conditions – pressures of around 20MPa and temperatures of at least 400°C – which requires specialised equipment and a lot of energy. Currently, the Haber–Bosch process makes around 140 million tonnes of ammonia per year, consuming around 2% of the world’s energy output in the process.

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America is outsourcing innovation, and we need to bring it back

The Hill, feat. Sridhar Kota

In early 2018, the White House is slated to start work on the congressionally-mandated National Strategic Plan for Advanced Manufacturing. While manufacturing issues — including trade, tax, and regulation — have been a major focus for U.S. policymakers in recent years, there’s one crucial aspect of manufacturing policy that’s in need of serious strategic thinking: Innovation.

While America has seen its production facilities offshored for four decades, we’re now seeing top U.S. firms in fields from automotive to pharma to semiconductors to aerospace also move their innovation centers overseas. Outside of the software space, America’s tech innovators are finding it hard to find scale-up funding at home.

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Pancakes: In battle of maple syrup versus climate change, the sweetener may lose, study shows

Newsweek, feat. Ines Ibanez and Donald Zak

Climate change could threaten breakfast. According to a new study, sugar maples that provide sap for syrup may not survive the hot and dry climate caused by global warming.

Sugar maples in the northern hardwood forests across eastern North America are particularly drought-sensitive. As global temperatures rise, the lack of enough water could stunt their growth, a new, decades-long study found. The number of sugar maple trees will decrease, diminishing the amount of maple syrup available and eliminating the stunning colors of these forests during autumn.

“This is probably the most striking species in these forests,” Inés Ibáñez, forest ecology professor at the University of Michigan, told Newsweek. “When people go to see the foliage, they pretty much go to see the sugar maples because they are the ones that have these incredible colors—almost like the forest is in flames.”

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The electrification era moves closer for cars

Consumer Reports

Automakers are seeing the future, and increasingly it’s more high voltage than high octane.

At this year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit, just under the sheet metal and hoods of new models, it was apparent that electrification is becoming a reality—especially with the introduction of 48-volt mild hybrids in models coming in the next year.

For months now, companies have been promising more “electrified” models, turning their business plans into a kind of battery-powered arms race.

Ford and GM are among car companies worldwide that are making proclamations about investing huge sums of money into hybrid, plug-in, or fully electric models.

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Trump’s tariffs on solar mark biggest blow to renewables yet


President Donald Trump dealt his biggest blow to the renewable energy industry yet.

On Monday, Trump approved duties of as much as 30 percent on solar equipment made outside the U.S., a move that threatens to handicap a $28 billion industry that relies on parts made abroad for 80 percent of its supply.

The tariffs are the latest action by Trump to undermine the economics of renewables. The administration already decided to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, sought to roll back Obama-era regulations on power plant-emissions and signed sweeping tax reforms that constrained financing for solar and wind. The import taxes are the most targeted strike on the industry yet and may have larger consequences for the energy world.

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Corporations purchased record amounts of clean power in 2017

Bloomberg New Energy Finance

Corporations signed a record volume of power purchase agreements, or PPAs, for green energy in 2017. The increase in activity was driven by sustainability initiatives and the increasing cost-competitiveness of renewables, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) finds in a comprehensive new report on corporate procurement activity globally.

A total of 5.4GW of clean energy contracts were signed by 43 corporations in 10 different countries in 2017, according to BNEF in its inaugural Corporate Energy Market Outlook. This was up from 4.3GW in 2016 and a previous record of 4.4GW in 2015, and came despite question marks about how evolving policy could affect corporate procurement in the U.S. and Europe, the two largest markets.

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Wind expected to surpass hydro as largest renewable electricity generation source

US Energy Information Administration

As one of the first technologies used to generate electricity, hydroelectric power has historically provided the largest share of renewable electricity generation in the United States. However, this year EIA expects wind power to surpass hydroelectricity, based on forecasts in the latest Short-Term Energy Outlook. Different factors lead to uncertainty about the forecast level of electricity generation from each energy source.

Because few new hydro plants are expected to come online in the next two years, hydroelectric generation in 2018 and 2019 will largely depend on precipitation and water runoff. Although changes in weather patterns also affect wind generation, the forecast for wind power output is more dependent on the capacity and timing of new wind turbines coming online.

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Trump’s failing war on green power


President Donald Trump and Republicans have tried again and again during the past year to turn back the clock on energy — pushing policies that would help fossil fuels stave off advances by solar and wind.

But they have repeatedly come up short.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s proposal to force electricity customers to subsidize ailing coal plants ran aground early this year. The Senate rebuffed efforts to water down tax credits for solar and wind power. And Trump’s move this week to impose a tariff on imported solar panels should put only a crimp in the growth of sun-powered energy, analysts have said, despite the outcry it’s generated from most of the U.S. solar industry.

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Plug wars: the battle for electric car supremacy


German carmakers hope a network of high-power charging stations they are rolling out with Ford will set an industry standard for plugs and protocols that will give them an edge over electric car rivals.

At the moment, Tesla and carmakers in Japan and Germany use different plugs and communication protocols to link batteries to chargers, but firms building the charging networks needed for electric vehicles to become mainstream say the number of plug formats will need to be limited to keep costs down.

Carmakers behind the winning technology will benefit from having an established supply chain and an extensive network, making their vehicles potentially more attractive to customers worried about embarking upon longer journeys, analysts say.

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Tanker hauls Russian LNG to U.S.

E&E Energywire

A tanker carrying the first-ever import of Russian-sourced liquefied natural gas to the U.S. is back on its way toward Boston, days after it stopped and turned back in the middle of the Atlantic.

The ship’s French owner, Engie, said bad weather had interrupted its trip from the United Kingdom’s Isle of Grain terminal to an LNG import facility in the U.S.

Wood Mackenzie’s head of global LNG, Frank Harris, called the ship’s trajectory unusual.

“Generally, if you load an LNG cargo, you’re heading for a specific destination as quickly as possible,” he said.

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Can we make a nuclear reactor that won’t melt down?


Yes we can. It’s called a small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) and NuScale Power is the company that will build the first one in America. Last year, they submitted to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission the first design certification application (DCA) for any SMR in the United States.

Just two months later, NRC accepted their design certification application. By accepting the DCA for review, the NRC staff confirmed that NuScale’s submission addresses all of NRC’s initial concerns and requirements.

Now, less than a year later, the NRC approved NuScale’s walk-away-safe concept. That means just what it sounds like – the reactor doesn’t need the complex back-up power systems that traditional reactors require and which traditionally add a lot of cost as well as some uncertainty.

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Fighting climate change? We’re not even landing a punch

The New York Times

In 1988, when world leaders convened their first global conference on climate change, in Toronto, the Earth’s average temperature was a bit more than half a degree Celsius above the average of the last two decades of the 19th century, according to measurements by NASA.

Global emissions of greenhouse gases amounted to the equivalent of some 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year — excluding those from deforestation and land use. Worried about its accumulation, the gathered scientists and policymakers called on the world to cut CO2 emissions by a fifth.

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