“We all stand at the threshold of a major energy transformation at a colossal scale. . . . This transformation will shape the economy, the environment, and the international security and geopolitics of the 21st century. Every nation, region, business and industry ought to pay close attention to this, because it will affect everyone.” Arun Majumdar, co-director with Sally Benson of the Stanford Precourt Institute for Energy, delivered this call to action in his opening address at the inaugural Stanford Global Energy Forum, a gathering of policymakers, technology entrepreneurs, scientists and other energy thought leaders.
The forum highlighted the critical juncture we have reached in energy and climate science—a moment that presents both complex problems and new opportunities. The interlinked challenges of tackling climate change and providing clean, reliable energy on a global scale are, without question, defining issues of the 21st century.
Stanford is leading the charge to develop new energy strategies and to confront climate change through our research and education missions and through the university’s own operations. Under Stanford’s long-range vision, our sustainability design team has been tasked with prioritizing initiatives that Stanford can undertake to develop sustainability solutions for our region, nation and world.
We will achieve one of the goals set out in our long-range vision when Stanford’s second solar power generating plant goes online in 2021. The new solar plant will enable Stanford to produce enough renewable electricity each year to equal the university’s annual electricity consumption. This change, combined with our existing solar generating systems, will allow Stanford to achieve an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. The university is also on track to be zero waste by 2030.
The ongoing work by experts here at Stanford and around the world gives me great hope in our ability to engage across sectors and find practical solutions to the challenges posed by global energy demand and climate change.
On the research front, Stanford scientists are exploring more effective strategies for carbon management, from growing more forests to locking carbon dioxide in deep geological formations. They are reenvisioning the electricity grid to accommodate growth in renewable energy, storage needs and electric vehicle use. Experts are also using our university’s interdisciplinary strength to address the secondary implications of climate change—everything from how to mitigate the impact on health and biodiversity to financial and policy solutions that accelerate decarbonization of both developed and developing economies.
While our experts are making progress, there will be work to do in energy and climate science for decades to come. That’s why Stanford is educating leaders who will be equipped to address both current and future energy and sustainability challenges. Stanford students and postdocs receive support for transitioning their entrepreneurial ideas from the laboratory to the marketplace, including through the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy’s Innovation Transfer Program and the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment’s Realizing Environmental Innovation Program. Both programs award grants to develop prototypes, refine business plans and conduct market research.
In fact, the Forbes 2019 “30 Under 30 in Energy” list includes two Stanford students and two recent alumni. One featured alumnus founded a company that helps utilities manage electric vehicle charging. A Stanford undergraduate has developed a low-cost, high-performance membrane for batteries that holds promise for storing renewable energy. He is working to commercialize the technology while pursuing his studies in computer science and math.
The ongoing work by experts here at Stanford and around the world gives me great hope in our ability to engage across sectors and find practical solutions to the challenges posed by global energy demand and climate change. The challenges are complex, but if we approach our energy future with intention, I believe we can get to solutions and create a future that is bright with opportunity.
Marc Tessier-Lavigne is the president of Stanford University.