IRA invests in the future of clean energy technology, work

The future of clean energy technology development lies in funding not only existing technologies, but also research into future innovations and the workforce that will bring those innovations to life.

That Anti-Inflation Act (IRA), which signed into law earlier this year, is embracing what Alexis Abramson, Dean of Dartmouth College’s Thayer School of Engineering, describes as a holistic, multi-faceted approach that will enable the future of clean energy. Abramson called the IRA “monumental clean energy legislation,” equating its importance with the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, both passed decades ago.

Before joining Dartmouth, Abramson served as a senior scientist and manager of the Emerging Technologies Division in the US Department of Energy’s Building Technologies program during the Obama administration. She also worked in the private sector in 2018, serving as a technical advisor to Breakthrough Energy Ventures, which Bill Gates created to deal with them problems of climate change.

In this Q&A, Abramson explores the benefits of the IRA, how Dartmouth is preparing the future workforce, and what technologies they are most excited about to enable a clean energy future.

How is the IRA impacting the promotion of clean energy technologies and initiatives?

Alexis Abramson: To solve climate change and advance clean energy, we need to think about three pieces of the puzzle. One of them, of course, is renewable energy, which saves us from burning fossil fuels. Wind and sun fall into this category. The problem with wind and sun is that they are intermittent, so if the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining, we can’t generate electricity.

Headshot by Alexis AbramsonAlexis Abramson

The second key solution to help with this is balancing resources to offset the problem we are encountering because renewable energy is intermittent. As well as promoting wind and solar power, the legislation also addresses batteries and smart charging and demand response – hardware and software to balance these resources and provide power when it’s not available from renewable sources.

The third piece of the puzzle the legislation addresses is more of those solid resources we’ve lived with for decades, with the ability to burn natural gas, coal — even nuclear power — 24/7, any time of the day. It also searches for new fixed resources. That’s additional nuclear and geothermal energy that could be tapped. It’s robust legislation because it looks at all of this history.

How will the IRA affect current clean energy technologies?

Abramson: There is money for innovation in the IRA. If we think of some of the innovations that are on the market today, I mention the cold air heat pump… these have only become viable in the last few years. That came from research done decades ago but then refined over the years.

We must invest in innovation and research. It’s great to have universities that are very well positioned to see what’s on the horizon, so after 2030 we have new technologies and a new holistic approach to using and implementing those technologies. Things like advanced geothermal, more small modular nuclear power, more carbon capture, and clean hydrogen will be a big chunk after 2030. Even AI and machine learning. All these researches will help us with solutions in the future.

It’s really robust legislation because it looks at all of this history.

Alexis AbramsonDean of the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College

How to get students interested in technical courses that could lead to clean energy jobs?

Abramson: It’s absolutely critical that cutting-edge technology and technical learning, science and engineering, math, get into the curriculum. It is our job as universities to ensure that students are exposed to this. We’re constantly looking at the curriculum and thinking, “Do we have to teach all these things that were taught 50 years ago?” and trying to get our students into more data science, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. That’s a really important piece of the puzzle that brings all of this together.

I also think engineering schools make technical courses accessible to everyone. Sometimes there are students who say, “Oh, I’m bad at math,” so they never want to take a science, math, or engineering course in their college education. This is a disservice we are doing to these students. I’m not saying we need to force them to take these courses, but we as an engineering school have a responsibility to make courses like this accessible to these learners… to ensure everyone has STEM skills to help us move forward as a society.

Why is preparation important? next generation workforce for clean energy initiatives?

Abramson: You don’t just need engineers and scientists developing new battery technologies or improved carbon capture or thinking about efficiency solutions for buildings; We need these people to do this technical part, but we also need politicians because it’s complex to think about.

It’s not just political science or government majors that matter; it is also the psychologists, sociologists and people who study human behavior, including economists. People who think about the big picture, such as B. how do we actually get people to buy the electric heat pump and replace their natural gas or oil system? It is an opportunity for students interested in all different fields to get involved and play a part in this clean energy transition.

How do you prepare students to work in business and make clean energy decisions?

Abramson: It’s very important that we give real examples. Students are learning about these things that touch clean energy, but they may not be connecting. Thermodynamics has been taught for hundreds of years; It’s often one of those compulsory classes that most engineering students take. But rarely are real examples of thermodynamics brought into the classroom, and thermodynamics touches on heating and cooling. Heating is one of the biggest obstacles we face in the clean energy transition as we move from burning fossil fuels to electrified heating, which requires our power grid to be two to four times larger [than it is today].

Observe a technology that is having a significant impact on the Clean energy future?

Abramson: I’m most looking forward to artificial intelligence. If we can turn dumb buildings into smart buildings by adding some intelligence to them, you can save 20% to 30% energy right away. This idea of ​​smarter car charging and smarter building management and intelligent interaction with these clean energy technologies is a big optimization problem that requires machine learning, data analysis and AI.

Editor’s note: Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Makenzie Holland is a news writer covering big tech and state regulation. Before joining TechTarget, she was a general reporter for the Wilmington Star News and a crime and education reporter at the Wabash Plain dealer.


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