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UCLA’s Carbon Upcycling Team Advances to Semifinals of Carbon XPRIZE Competition

By Stan Paul

An interdisciplinary team of UCLA researchers has advanced to the semifinal round of a global competition to reduce greenhouse gases through groundbreaking scientific and technological innovation.

The UCLA team, Carbon Upcycling — representing a campuswide collaboration of chemistry, biochemistry, materials science, economics, public policy and engineering (mechanical, civil and environmental) researchers — is among 27 teams moving one step closer to a share of the $20-million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE.

“Advancing to the next round of the Carbon XPRIZE confirms the potential of our carbon upcycling technology, and further motivates the team toward its end goal, that is the realization of a carbon-neutral cementation solution at scale,” said Gaurav Sant, one of five UCLA faculty members leading the 13-member team. Sant is an associate professor and Henry Samueli Fellow in Civil and Environmental Engineering at UCLA.

J.R. DeShazo, director of the Luskin Center for Innovation and a professor of Public Policy in the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, is one of the leaders of the project. “The XPRIZE competition not only inspires innovation, but also provides an opportunity to showcase the talent at UCLA and the incredible power of collaboration,” DeShazo said. “We look forward to the next stage of discovery and development.”

The competition, which was launched in 2015, “addresses global CO2 emissions by incentivizing innovative solutions to convert CO2 from a liability into an asset,” according to a Carbon XPRIZE press release announcing the selection of teams moving forward in the competition.

Carbon Upcycling uses CO2 emissions from power plants and turns them into a replacement material for cement called CO2NCRETE. Common concrete, which is produced in countries around the globe, is responsible for nearly 5 percent of emissions worldwide. The UCLA team is among six teams vying in both competition tracks: Track A — coal, and Track B — natural gas. Other semifinal teams from the United States, Canada, China, India, Switzerland and Scotland have focused on turning the climate-changing gas into products ranging from toothpaste to fish food.

According to the Carbon XPRIZE announcement, the semifinals will work as follows:

  • Teams will demonstrate their innovative technology at pilot scale at a location of their own choosing, using either real flue gas or simulated flue gas stream.
  • Over a 10-month period, teams must meet minimum requirements and will be scored on how much CO2 they convert and the net value of their products.
  • Following judging scheduled for November and December 2017, up to five teams in each track that score the highest will share a $2.5-million milestone purse and move onto the finals of the competition, demonstrating their technology at real-world power plants.

Read the full Carbon XPRIZE release online at:
http://carbon.xprize.org/press-release/27-teams-advancing-20m-nrg-cosia-carbon-xprize

For more information about the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, visit carbon.xprize.org

For more information about UCLA Carbon Upcycling team, please visit: http://www.co2upcycling.com/members/

Read the earlier UCLA story: http://luskin.ucla.edu/2016/03/14/carbon-upcycling-turning-co2-into-a-new-sustainable-co2ncrete/

UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation Releases Solar Feed-in Tariff Report Informing Renewable Energy Policy in Los Angeles The Luskin Center for Innovation at the UCLA School of Public Affairs unites the intellectual capital of UCLA with the Los Angeles Business Council to publish a report on an effective feed-in tariff system for the greater Los Angeles area

By Minne Ho

The UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation and the Los Angeles Business Council has publicly released the report, “Designing an Effective Feed-in Tariff for Greater Los Angeles.” The report was unveiled yesterday at the Los Angeles Business Council’s Sustainability Summit, attended by hundreds of the city’s elected officials and business, nonprofit, and civic leaders.

J.R. DeShazo, the director UCLA’s Luskin Center for Innovation, has long studied how governments can promote and help implement environmentally friendly energy policies. His recent research on solar energy incentive programs, conducted with Luskin Center research project manager Ryan Matulka and other colleagues at UCLA, has already become the basis for a new energy policy introduced by the city of Los Angeles.

On Monday, March 15, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced an ambitious program to move the city’s energy grid toward renewable energy sources over the next decade. Included in the plan is a provision — based in large part on the Luskin Center research — for a “feed-in tariff,” which would encourage residents to install solar energy systems that are connected to the city’s power grid.

The overall plan would require ratepayers to pay 2.7 cents more per kilowatt hour of electricity consumed, with 0.7 cents of that — a so-called carbon surcharge — going to the city’s Renewable Energy and Efficiency Trust, a lockbox that will specifically fund two types of programs: energy efficiency and the solar power feed-in tariff.

Under the feed-in tariff system, homeowners, farmers, cooperatives and businesses in Los Angeles that install solar panels on homes or other properties could sell solar energy to public utility suppliers. The price paid for this renewable energy would be set at an above-market level that covers the cost of the electricity produced, plus a reasonable profit. “A feed-in tariff initiated in this city has the potential to change the landscape of Los Angeles,” said DeShazo, who is also an associate professor of public policy at the UCLA School of Public Affairs. “If incentivized appropriately, the program could prompt individual property owners and businesses to install solar panels on unused spaces including commercial and industrial rooftops, parking lots, and residential buildings. Our projections show that the end result would be more jobs and a significant move to renewable energy with no net cost burden to the city.”

Feed-in tariffs for solar energy have been implemented in Germany and several other European countries, as well as domestically in cities in Florida and Vermont. The programs have moved these regions to the forefront of clean energy. And while these programs have necessitated slight increases in ratepayers’ monthly electricity bills, they have also generated thousands of new jobs. The mayor estimated that under the program announced Monday, 18,000 new jobs would be generated over the next 10 years. “For Los Angeles to be the cleanest, greenest city, we need participation from every Angeleno,” Villaraigosa said. “We know that dirty fossil fuels will only become more scarce and more expensive in the years to come. This helps move us toward renewable energy while at the same time creating new jobs.”

The new program had its genesis last year, when Villaraigosa announced a long-term, comprehensive solar plan intended to help meet the city’s future clean energy needs. The plan included a proposal for a solar feed-in tariff program administered by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. In September 2009, the Los Angeles Business Council created a Solar Working Group consisting of leaders in the private, environmental and educational sectors in Los Angeles County to investigate the promise of the feed-in tariff for Los Angeles and commissioned the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation to lead the investigation. In addition to DeShazo and Matulka, the working group also included Sean Hecht and Cara Horowitz from the UCLA School of Law’s Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment. The first phase of their research examined current models operating in Germany, Spain, Canada, Vermont and Florida to propose guidelines for a feed-in tariff design. The second phase looks at the potential participation rates in a large-scale solar feed-in tariff program in Los Angeles and its impact on clean energy in the Los Angeles basin.

The Luskin Center for Innovation at the UCLA School of Public Affairs unites the intellectual capital of UCLA with forward-looking civic leaders in Los Angeles to address urgent public issues and actively work toward solutions. The center’s current focus in on issues of environmental sustainability.

Carnesale joins high-level commission exploring storage of nuclear waste Albert Carnesale, chancellor emeritus and professor of public policy and of mechanical and aerospace engineering at UCLA, has been selected to serve on a high-ranking commission to devise strategies on how to manage nuclear waste

By Joe Luk

Chancellor Emeritus Albert Carnesale has been selected to serve on a high-level national commission that will study and make recommendations for developing a safe, long-term solution to the serious problem of managing the nation’s nuclear waste.

Albert Carnesale commented on his appointment to a commission regarding long-term management strategies for nuclear waste in the United States

President Obama directed the U.S. Department of Energy to form the 15-member Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future to conduct a comprehensive review of policies for managing the country’s current and future stockpile of nuclear waste after the administration decided not to proceed with the Yucca Mountain (Nevada) nuclear waste repository.

“The decision to pursue the Yucca Mountain plan was made 20 years ago,” Carnesale said. “From a scientific and technological perspective, much has been learned since then about radioactive waste and how spent nuclear fuel can be treated. And much has also been learned about the Yucca Mountain site itself.” The residents of Nevada also vehemently opposed the plan for a number of reasons.

The question of what to do with the country’s nuclear waste has grown in urgency because of climate change and the nation’s search for a cleaner source of fuel.

Currently, spent nuclear fuel is being stored at more than 100 nuclear power plants throughout the United States. These plants provide about 20 percent of the nation’s electricity.

“I don’t think there are many people who think that is a very good long-term solution to the waste problem,” Carnesale said.

“The commission is not being asked to identify an alternative site to replace Yucca Mountain,” Carnesale said. “There are many other avenues of inquiry to pursue. For example, are there new designs for nuclear rectors that might mitigate the problem? Should the spent fuel be processed differently? How might the spent fuel or processed waste be stored to minimize the risk to current and future generations?”

“The solution won’t be found in science and technology alone,” Carnesale said.

“If you look at the commission, these are not simply experts on nuclear power or nuclear waste,” he said. “They are primarily strategic thinkers, people who understand issues that have substantial technological dimensions, but cross many high-priority areas for the country, everything from climate change to reducing American dependence on foreign sources of fuel. It’s clear that the commission has been asked to take a strategic look at this problem.”

The commission is co-chaired by former Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton and Brent Scowcroft. Hamilton is a member of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board and the President’s Homeland Security Advisory Council, and he previously served as vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission (National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States). Scowcroft, a retired lieutenant general in the U.S. Air Force, served as National Security Advisor to both Presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush.

Carnesale, who has a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering, holds professorial appointments in UCLA’s School of Public Affairs and Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science. Earlier in his career, he represented the United States in high-level negotiations on defense and energy issues, including the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, SALT I. He has been increasingly called upon by the government for his expertise on public policy issues that have scientific and technological dimensions.

Since leaving Murphy Hall as chancellor, he has led committees formed by the National Academies, the nation’s science advisors, to analyze, make recommendations and brief policymakers and Congress on vital issues. In 2008, he chaired a committee that looked at whether the nation needs a non-nuclear weapon with the ability to strike a target anywhere in the world within one hour after the president gives the order.

Recently, he has been holding classified briefings with representatives from the departments of Energy, Defense and Homeland Security as well as others on Capitol Hill on the findings of a committee he chairs on nuclear forensics.

Carnesale is also chair of the Committee on America’s Climate Choices, a nationwide project launched by the National Academies at Congress’ request for policy-relevant advice, based on scientific evidence, to help guide the nation’s response to climate change. That project, which involves some of the country’s leading researchers on climate change, is scheduled to release its report in September.

Public Policy Students Return from U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen Two public policy students were commended by the Los Angeles City Council for developing recommendations on how Los Angeles can face and minimize the impacts of climate change

By Joe Luk

Recently returning from the international conference in Copenhagen on climate change, two public policy students, Alexa Engleman (JD/MPP) and Dustin Maghamfar (JD/MPP) along with four of their Law School classmates were commended by the Los Angeles City Council for their work in developing recommendations for the City of Los Angeles.  These recommendations will be used in the City’s advocacy initiatives for state and national legislation to reduce global warming.

As reported in the Daily Bruin:

Dustin Maghamfar, a fourth-year law and public policy student, was one of the six students who attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, and he said the delegation of students was very fortunate to have taken the trip. “It’s an incredible honor and immensely flattering,” Maghamfar said of the recognition given to the group.

Read the complete article here.

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