The Rutgers Energy Institute is engaged in four principal areas of activity: education of undergraduate and graduate students; pioneering research; outreach to the community to share information and engage the public; and policy advice to government, business, and civic leaders who require current knowledge about energy use, alternatives, and innovations to guide decision-making and public planning.
Each of these four areas is critical to the overall mission of the institute: to foster both fundamental and applied scientific research and policy research to develop sustainable energy production compatible with economic growth and environmental vitality.
Five Year Strategic Plan for Rutgers Energy Institute
Access to affordable clean energy is indispensable to the economic vitality of the nation, the health of its inhabitants, and the biodiversity of the planet. Its pervasive influence on all aspects of human activity, determines the range of opportunities in which citizens can participate, from local to global. The paths forward towards decarbonizing our energy sources require participation from scientists, engineers, economists, policy researchers, businesses, as well as an informed public.
Over the past decade, the Rutgers Energy Institute (REI) has provided a forum for discussion of issues and seed money for faculty, students and professional staff (from facilities, transportation, and procurement) to collaboratively work together to foster new research and educational experiences. The result has been a phenomenal growth of the University’s research portfolio on energy writ large. However, the value of the REI is not simply monetary – it has developed an interactive forum across the schools that has enabled new collaborations to blossom, and both new energy policy frameworks and technological advances to be achieved. The REI has been instrumental in developing new courses and providing information about energy-related curricula for undergraduate and graduate students. Through seminars, symposia and virtual media, the REI also helps the broader community to understand the complexities of transforming our nation’s energy generation in coming decades.
Clean Energy - The grand challenge of the 21st century
The REI was designed to meet this challenge through innovative basic and applied research, education, outreach and advice to policy makers.
The REI has five core, interlinked themes, cutting across school boundaries. These themes do not represent the breadth of the expertise of REI faculty; rather, they are areas of crosscutting strengths and opportunities that are fertile ground for collaborations and are critical to decarbonizing energy supplies in the coming decades.
These themes are:
2. Nanomaterials, Photovoltaics, and Storage
3. Bioenergy and Bioproducts
4. Carbon-Negative Technologies
5. Energy Economics, Environment, and Policy Systems
The five themes represent current strengths and are topics in which REI has invested, and will continue to invest resources with reasonable expectation of fostering successful external funding.
The REI Five Year Strategic Plan 2017-2022 document outlines a vision for the Institute that will help build upon our existing strengths and promote Rutgers’ faculty to becoming global leaders in these areas.
Rachael Shwom named New Associate Director of the REI
We are pleased to announce the appointment of associate professor Rachael Shwom as an associate director of the Rutgers Energy Institute (REI). Professor Shwom will be taking the place of Professor Robert Kopp, who will be assuming a new position as director of the Institute of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences (EOAS) at Rutgers. Both Rachael and Bob will begin in their new roles July 1.
As associate professor in the School of Environmental and Biological Science’s Department of Human Ecology, Rachael conducts research that links sociology, psychology, engineering, economics, and public policy to investigate how social and political factors influence society’s responses to energy and climate problems. Since arriving at Rutgers eight years ago, Professor Shwom has actively participated in the REI and has served as a key member of its Energy Economics, Environment, and Policy Systems strategic planning committee. Rachael has also served on the Rutgers Climate Institute’s advisory committee and is currently a Co-PI on a multi-university, $1.5 million National Science Foundation grant on “Reducing Household Food, Energy and Water Consumption: A Quantitative Analysis of Interventions and Impacts of Conservation.” Since 2003, she has served on the American Statistical Association’s Advisory Committee to the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration. She served on the American Sociological Association (ASA)’s Task Force on Climate Change from 2011-2015 and of the Research and Publications Committee of ASA’s Environment, Technology and Society Section from 2015-2016. Prior to coming to Rutgers, Rachael was a Christine Mirzayan Science Technology and Policy Fellow at the National Academies of Sciences and a Michigan State University Environmental Science and Policy Fellowship recipient (Ph.D., Sociology 2009). From 2001-2004, Rachael worked in the utility demand side management sector.
We also want to acknowledge the dedicated efforts of the outgoing associate director, Professor Robert Kopp. A professor in the School of Arts & Sciences’ Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences, Bob has served as an associate director of REI since arriving at Rutgers in 2011 and has played a crucial role in shepherding and developing the institute over the last six years. The REI is extremely grateful for Bob’s tireless commitment to understanding and solving our energy and climate challenges and educating the next generation. Our members and larger Rutgers community wish Bob the best and look forward to continuing to work with him in his new role as director of EOAS.
Rutgers Energy Institute Energy Contest Proposals Reduce Energy on Campus
Energy Institute Innovation Contest winners (Left to Right) Timothy Lee, Tara Viray, Syed Hyder, and Mackenzie George
The Rutgers Energy Institute (REI) annually challenges Rutgers undergraduates to develop innovative and implementable plans for reducing energy consumption on the New Brunswick campus with its Energy Innovation Contest.
The contest is in its tenth year, representing the REI’s longstanding commitment to education and outreach. REI Associate Director, Kevin Lyons, from Rutgers Business School Department of Supply Chain Management presented this year’s awards at the 2017 REI Annual Symposium on May 3rd.
First place winners, who received a $2,500 prize, were Syed Hyder (Mechanical Engineering major, minor in Economics) and Tara Viray (Public Health major, minor in Biochemistry) for “Power Stripping and Reducing Rutgers’ Energy Consumption.” Second place winner of $1,500 was Mackenzie George (Environmental, Policy, Institutions and Behavior major) for “Trash to Cash.” Third place winner of the $1,000 prize was Timothy Lee (Chemistry major) for “Go Electric: Analysis of an All-Electric Transportation Fleet at Rutgers University.
REI Associate Director Rachael Shwom, from Rutgers Department of Human Ecology, has seen many innovative and technically feasible ideas proposed for the contest. “This contest gives students the opportunity and incentive to explore unique solutions and really dig in and develop them. I’ve been very impressed with the quality of entries and the students always learn a lot from the process.”
The contest has provided students the unique opportunity to engage with their university environment and the experts around them as they research and conduct technical, economic, and policy analyses to provide viable solutions to energy consumption and carbon reduction in their local environment. Several of the student proposals have been implemented by the University, most notably tray-less dining and use of aerobic digesters. Students have also gained internships with corporations that produce the researched technology from their REI contest proposals.
Top prize winner Tara Viray commented on how the”… contest really changed my mindset on my ability to make an impact in the Rutgers community. Our plan was simple enough, and the thing that mattered most to us was incorporating the students on campus to reduce their overall energy consumption. Through this contest I have become more aware of my energy consumption, and I hope that the outcome of our project will allow other students to be aware as well.”
This year’s winning plan, “Power Stripping and Reducing Rutgers’ Energy Consumption”, proposed to implement smart/advanced power strips into all on-campus residence halls. Smart or advanced power strips prevent standby power consumption - which is the electricity a device consumes when it is “off”, but still plugged in. It is sometimes called “vampire energy” or “phantom energy”. At approximately $10 per power strip, they can potentially save around 5,000,000 kilowatt-hours and $540,000 per year. The goal is to educate and change how the average student consumes electricity, and the use of advanced power strips (APS) is a simple yet efficient way to save energy, money, and the environment. Learn more about standby power from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and advanced power strips (APS) from National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
Mackenzie George, 2017 second place winner, said “I recently became more interested in energy at Rutgers this past semester after taking Environmental Solutions with Professor Shwom… My main goal for the future of energy here at Rutgers is to increase public awareness and involvement. I think it is important to involve people in fun and innovative ways, which is partly what inspired my proposal in the first place; ’Trash to Cash' incentivizes recycling by turning it into a fun game where students compete against one another to reduce their impact. Overall, the entire experience was very thought-provoking, and I look forward to learning more about energy use and how I can help create a more efficient energy future during my time at Rutgers.“
2017 third prize winner Timothy Lee was also the 2016 first prize winner. Timothy said, “The energy contest is a great way to engage students and have them thinking about local improvement. There is a facet of energy or efficiency that can be improved in every corner of our lives as Rutgers students: buses, dining hall waste, residence halls, etc. Making energy-efficient changes doesn't have to make our lives harder or more conservative; it can instead improve our quality of life…”. Timothy recently graduated and is going to pursue a Ph.D. next fall at University of Pennsylvania in Materials Science Engineering to develop clean energy solutions while incorporating his chemistry knowledge. “I'm very excited about what the future of energy holds for us” said Lee, a sentiment echoed by the REI.