Members of the Notre Dame community gathered on March 20 for the 2nd annual ND Energy Research Symposium, GLOBAL TRANSFORMATION: Ensuring Access to Affordable, Reliable, and Sustainable Energy for All. The daylong event, held in the Notre Dame Conference Center at McKenna Hall, focused on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7). The agenda featured some of the world’s leading advocates for developing long-term global energy solutions.
Peter C. Burns, Henry Massman Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering & Earth Sciences and Director of ND Energy, opened the event with remarks on the state of ND Energy. Burns gave a brief overview of the research, education, and outreach programs conducted by the center. He then set the stage for the rest of the day by outlining the expanded vision of ND Energy and its commitment to international research.
Burns noted that the Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development (NDIGD) has become a partner for ND Energy in this new research area, and gave the floor to Tom Purekal, Program Director of Applied Innovation of NDIGD. Purekal discussed the initiative’s sustainability projects, most notably their work empowering disconnected communities in South Africa and Uganda with Accenture Development Partnerships.
Raymond Offenheiser, Director of NDIGD, then provided the introduction for the symposium’s keynote speaker, Rachel Kyte. Kyte is Chief Executive Officer of Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All, Co-Chair of UN-Energy, and Professor of the Practice of Sustainable Development in The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
In her address, "Cooling, Cooking, Moving and Manufacturing: The Challenges and Opportunities in Limiting Warming to 1.5 Degrees and Ensuring Everyone has Access to Sustainable Energy," Kyte argued that the pace at which we decarbonize our energy systems must increase dramatically. While she acknowledged the political and institutional challenges that may slow us down, Kyte struck a more optimistic tone about the opportunities that new technologies and business models provide.
“It is within our grasps, and your work will help us get to that point on the horizon,” Kyte said, addressing the researchers in the audience.
Following the keynote, Patrick Regan, Associate Director of the Notre Dame Environmental Change Initiative (ND-ECI), examined measurements and implications of climate vulnerability assessments at country and city levels using the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative (ND-GAIN) suite of tools.
The morning session concluded with ND Energy International Sustainable Development Researcher Abigail Mechtenberg discussing the Energy E3 program, which collaborates with local technicians and engineers on how to prototype, design, build, install, maintain, and create a business venture for renewable energy devices, using local materials and resident technical expertise. After ten years in Uganda, the program has spread to Rwanda, Nigeria, and Haiti.
In the afternoon, invited speakers from other universities across the country shared the work of their energy centers and sustainability schools.
Vijay Modi, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Columbia University, spoke on how the combination of small-scale generation, mobile telephony, digitization and finance are providing us with a nuance understanding of how we can best serve the small emergent consumer.
Shelie Miller, Jonathan W. Bulkley Collegiate Professor of Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan, considered a holistic approach to the sustainable development goals by explaining the food-energy-water nexus and the interdependencies of those systems.
Luciano Castillo, Kenninger Professor of Renewable Energy and Power Systems in Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University, shared his proposal to create a US-Mexico ‘energy-water corridor’ in lieu of a border wall. Castillo led a consortium of 28 scientists, including ND Energy affiliated faculty members Kenneth Christensen and Harindra Joe Fernando, which recently outlined the plan in the white paper, “Future Energy, Water, Industry and Education Park (FEWIEP): A Secure and Permanent US-Mexico Border Solution.”
Jun Chen, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University, discussed the work of the Purdue Global Engineering Program in Africa to develop the low-cost micro-hydropower system for providing basic electricity needs in rural communities.
Following the presentations of the invited speakers, a networking reception and poster session was held to allow Notre Dame graduate students and postdoctoral scholars to share their energy-related research projects. Twelve ND Energy associated researchers participated, with the top three presenters receiving awards:
- Feng Gao, Elucidating Effects of Pattern Geometry on Ion Transport through Charge Patterned Membranes (Phillip Lab)
- Sara Gilson, Synthesis and Characterization of Neptunium Metal-Organic Frameworks (Burns Lab)
- Rebecca Scheidt, Interfacial Charge Transfer between Excited CsPbBr3 Nanocrystals and TiO2: Charge Injection versus Photodegradation (Kamat Lab)
Companion Event: An Evening with Rachel Kyte
After the conclusion of the symposium, ND Energy partnered with the “With a Side of Knowledge” podcast to provide an opportunity for the public to hear from Rachel Kyte. The evening featured a conversation between Kyte and Ted Fox, executive administrator in the Office of the Provost and host of the podcast. The event was recorded for an episode released on April 4.