MIT Climate Nucleus
Wednesday, December 14, 2022
The meeting began with a brief announcement from Environmental Solutions Initiative (ESI) director John Fernández that ESI is in the process of launching a program on climate justice.
MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) update
MITEI’s director, Bob Armstrong, presented an update on MITEI and its Future Energy Systems Center (FESC). MITEI is MIT’s hub for energy with the mission of transforming the world’s energy systems by bringing MIT’s many disciplines together, “linking science, innovation, and policy.” Launched in 2006, the initiative leads efforts in research, education, and outreach, encompassing all aspects of the energy system i.e., from energy sources to production, conversion, distribution and end use – including environmental impacts of energy production and use.
MITEI has partnered with more than 100 industry and public sector organizations; has sponsored approximately 900+ projects; and has supported hundreds of post-docs and graduate and undergraduate students.
MITEI has deployed more than $920 million to date in energy research, education, and outreach; this includes a set of seed fund projects, which often lead to additional government-funded research, industry-sponsored research, and startups.
The Future Energy Systems Center builds on the previously established Low-Carbon Energy Centers to understand how future energy systems can meet societal energy needs in a net-zero global economy. It focuses specifically on six areas to analyze how future energy systems might be shaped and how the design is likely to vary regionally around the world. The six focus areas include:
- Electric Power
- Energy Storage & Low-Carbon Fuels
- Carbon Management
FESC is managed by a Faculty Steering Committee and by Faculty and Research Leads from each focus area. New projects are selected twice a year, with projects lasting 1-2 years each. Member companies put forward key questions (29 in the most recent funding round) to stimulate project ideas from faculty across the institute. Final project selection is done by the Faculty Steering Committee.
Carbon Footprint Working Group update
The MIT Fast Forward Climate Action Plan, released in 2021, called for the creation of a Carbon Footprint Working Group to offer ideas and advice on how to accelerate MIT’s transition to net zero by 2026 and complete decarbonization by 2050. (The MIT Office of Sustainability oversees all 14 charges of the Climate Action Plan related to MIT operations and the community’s path to decarbonization and its director, Julie Newman, serves as a co-chair of the Working Group along with Prof. Franz-Josef Ulm.) Newman updated the Nucleus on the working group’s activities.
The Group has met six times, reviewing existing campus actions and providing feedback on upcoming initiatives, including DLC-level climate planning and food, water, and waste impact goal-setting.
In the next semester, the Carbon Footprint Working Group will work to:
- Endorse and socialize Impact Goals for food, water, and waste.
- Discuss, workshop and convene focus groups to consider how DLCs can develop and implement climate plans.
- Create a culture of a “Fast Forward” community committed to the Fast Forward Plan’s sweeping charges.
- Host panel events to publicize Fast Forward activities and inform the MIT community; collaborate with other Fast Forward working groups on activities.
- Meet with the decarbonization consultant that will be selected to advise on the Institute’s plan for decarbonization by 2050.
The Nucleus then discussed how to enhance the culture of Fast Forward at MIT and enhance participation from individuals in the community.
One member emphasized the Nucleus should leverage partnerships with DLCs to advocate for urgency on big operational and physical changes such as buildings, HVAC systems, and equipment changes. Another member added that cultural change will also eventually have to include a “culture of disruption” among faculty, DLCs, and students, who should also be engaged. Other members made parallels between the urgency of this issue with the urgency of planning during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the need to ensure campus continuity. Lastly, members discussed how best to utilize the Nucleus in these conversations and what kind of governance structure is most productive.
Following the discussion, the Working Group agreed to share additional information via the slide deck presented during the meeting. The Group will also seek feedback on its Draft Impact Goals for Food, Water, and Waste in the coming weeks.