Energy News January 2023

Achieving Zero Emissions with More Mobility and Less Mining

Transportation is the number one source of carbon emissions in the United States– making the sector crucial to decarbonize quickly to limit the climate crisis. States like New York and California banned the sale of gas cars by 2035 and the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act made major federal investments in electrifying transportation. As a result, US consumers are embracing electric vehicles (EVs), with over half of the nation’s car sales predicted to be electric by 2030. This is a critical juncture. Decisions made now will affect the speed of decarbonization and the mobility of millions. Zero emissions transportation will also see the transformation of global supply chains, with implications for climate, environmental, and Indigenous justice beyond US borders.

A crucial aspect of electrified transportation is new demand for metals, and specifically the most non-replaceable metal for EV batteries– lithium. If today’s demand for EVs is projected to 2050, the lithium requirements of the US EV market alone in 2050 would require triple the amount of lithium currently produced for the entire global market. This boom in demand would be met by the expansion of mining.

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abstract, multi-colored grid painting

Moving Forward on Grid-Friendly Campuses

With over 150 public college and university campuses in California, there is significant potential to reduce statewide peak electrical demand and the need for carbon-intensive backup generation. The UC Office of the President (UCoP) encouraged EEI to submit a $10 million proposal that will create grid friendly campuses across California.  Alan Meier and Sarah Outcault, along with a 25-person team from colleges and universities around California, will match world-renowned UC experts on advanced controls with campus facility staff who can ground them in real-world implementation constraints.  At the same time, the project will develop training resources for higher education institutions across California to prepare students for careers in a world with a highly dynamic grid.

Aerosol spray nozzle in unfinished home

Aerosol Sealing of Existing Residences

WCEC’s novel method that automates the process of sealing building leaks has now been realized as a retrofit for existing buildings. Research for the DOE Building America project in collaboration with the Minnesota Center for Energy and Environment demonstrated the aerosol sealing approach on 34 existing homes in California and the Midwest. Overall, the project produced average leakage reductions of 53% and 64% for California homes and apartment units respectively, and 42% and 40% reductions for Midwest homes and apartment units.

This project also investigated a new strategy for addressing occupied homes. In this case, the nozzles are placed in the attic while setting the blower fan to negatively pressurize the space. WCEC tested this method on three townhouse apartments with very positive results showing the ability to seal over half of the leakage in all three cases. The attic sealing approach does not require extensive preparation of the home since the aerosol is produced in the attic space. This means the process no longer needs to spend valuable time either moving furniture out or placing protective plastic sheets on surfaces–significantly reducing the cost of total operation. WCEC is further developing this approach through work with the CalNEXT program which will look at applying the process to crawlspaces as well.

[Read the Conference Paper]