Flax Lecture Series Event Highlights Sustainability Research by Public Policy Graduate Students

The School of Public Policy recently hosted its latest installment in the Meg and Sam Flax Lecture Series. The event was titled “Research to Action: Three Climate Solutions for Georgia” and featured three graduate students or recent graduates of the School of Public Policy discussing their research sponsored by the Drawdown Georgia project. Each talk was followed by comments from leaders in the energy field.

“Having three graduate students talk about climate solutions – with all their energy, training, and conviction – made for a powerful seminar,” said Marilyn Brown, moderator of the event and Regents Professor and Brook Byers Professor of Sustainable Systems in the School of Public Policy. “Having business leaders comment on the students' views, offering encouragement as well as alternative perspectives, made for a valuable learning experience.”

The event opened with Valentina Sanmiguel, a graduate of the Master of Sustainable Energy and Environmental Management program, presenting her research on cogeneration, or the co-production of electricity and useful heat. She showcased the findings from her co-authored paper, titled “Combined Heat and Power as a Platform for Clean Energy Systems.” Ken Duvall, CEO of Sterling Energy, followed with comments.

In the article, Sanmiguel and co-author Brown perform a cost-benefit analysis on combined heat and power (CHP) systems in Georgia. They find that, while the benefits largely outweigh the costs, the systems are still difficult to host. They close by offering possible suggestions for how to make CHP more accessible across the state.

Next to present was Ph.D. student Vincent Gu, who talked about rooftop solar. He presented on an article that he co-authored titled “Rooftop Solar for All: Closing the Gap Between the Technically Possible and the Achievable Potentials.” James Marlow of Velo Solar was the discussant.

Gu and his co-authors highlight the need for an equitable transition to rooftop solar, where households can adopt the technology regardless of their income. The researchers do so by analyzing several factors that lead to the lack of rooftop solar in Georgia, including utility business models, policy interventions, and behavioral factors.

Finally, Ph.D. student Oliver Chapman presented on demand response, which uses smart thermostats and real-time rates to help trim down expensive energy demand during peak hours of the day. Chapman discussed a paper he co-authored titled “The Size, Causes, and Equity Implications of the Demand-Response Gap,” and comments were given by Ronny Just of Georgia Power, which has its own demand response programs.

Chapman’s paper, also co-authored by Brown, outlined the reasons that Georgia under-invests in demand response. They find that the demand response gap exists less because of a lack of technology and more because of issues such as a lack of proper infrastructure, financing initiatives, and socio-economic inclusion in its implementation.

A full recording of the event is available online.

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  • Research to Action: Three Climate Solutions for Georgia

  • Three Climate Solutions for Georgia Poster

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