The Institute for Sustainable Energy focuses on four research areas:
As the world’s population continues to urbanize, new methods of urban planning, infrastructure development and service delivery, mobility, and built environment energy use are essential. In collaboration with BU’s Initiative on Cities and the Center for Information & System Engineering’s Smart Cities project, we lead work in this area.
- More Urgency, Not Less: The COVID-19 Pandemic’s Lessons for Local Climate Leadership
- Carbon Free Boston
- Cities and Climate Change: Strategic Options for Philanthropic Support
Utility of the Future
The electric power industries of the world are shifting from centralized, fossil-based production to more distributed and entirely carbon-free networks. Along with colleagues in the Questrom School of Business, the College of Engineering, and the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future and the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies, the Institute plays a global leadership role in this area.
- Power after Carbon
- Still Charging: Energy Storage Commercialization in Massachusetts
- Bringing Power and Progress to Africa in a Financially and Environmentally Sustainable Manner
- Assessing the Potential for U.S. Utility Green Bonds
- Multi-User Microgrids: Obstacles to Development and Recommendations for Advancement
- Assessment of Haiti’s Electricity Sector
As the electric grid becomes steadily cleaner, electrification of transportation can play a central role in reducing emissions of heat-trapping gases. BU ISE in collaboration with Columbia University and Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization (GEIDCO) are exploring electric vehicle (EV) adoption and charging infrastructure across cities around the world.
- Multi-modal Travel
- Integrating Electric Mobility Systems with the Grid Infrastructure
- Melting the ICE: Lessons from China and the West in the Transition from the Internal Combustion Engine to Electric Vehicles
- Long-term U.S. Transportation Electricity Use Considering the Effect of Autonomous-Vehicles: Estimates & Policy Observations
- Pooling Stated and Revealed Preference Data in the Presence of RP Endogeneity
BU-Columbia U-GEIDCO Partnership Research on the Global Sustainable Energy Transition
is jointly conducted by Boston University, Columbia University, and Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization (GEIDCO). Together these institutions are exploring barriers to expanding clean electricity systems and how to overcome them. One of the current key studies is on Electric Vehicle (EV) adoption and charging infrastructure across cities around the world. They will also evaluate the clean energy potentials of key regions, the technical attributes of transmission systems capable of delivering this potential and economics and governance issues crucial to progress in this area.
Long-term Transportation Electricity Use: Estimates & Policy Observations
Can the electric grid accommodate a future with autonomous electric vehicles? What are the GHG emission implications of this future? How should policy makers grapple with these new technologies?
These are the questions posed by Boston University’s ISE director Peter Fox Penner and researchers Will Gorman and Jennifer Hatch in their new paper published in Energy Policy. The team found that the light-duty vehicle fleet will likely increase electricity demand by 570-1140 TWh. Based on historic power plant expansion, the researchers believe the U.S. grid should be able to adequately expand to meet this future demand even as autonomous vehicles begin to roam our streets. Furthermore, the researchers found that electrification combined with a carbon-free grid could dramatically reduce emissions, though their calculations suggest that even without significant grid decarbonization, the shift to EVs will still slightly reduce GHG emissions. The team advises that in the near term, the combination of vehicle electrification and grid decarbonization should remain the cornerstone of policy focused on GHG emission reduction in the transportation sector. In the long-term, however, policy should turn to alleviating concerns that result from autonomous vehicles’ potential to increase driving mileage, suburban sprawl, and road congestion.
Sustainable Water Management
The BU ISE team’s research focuses on approaches to overcome the environmental, legal, financial, and demographic barriers to sustainable water management, and to maintain affordability of water. We have worked in Texas and identified opportunities for utilities to integrate One Water strategies into urban water management, including considering demand management and incorporating new approaches to water rate-making to promote affordability and water conservation while managing utility revenue.
- Measuring and Addressing Water and Waste Water Affordability in the U.S.
- One Water Demand Management: Rethinking Ratemaking
- Water Management in Texas
- One Water Strategies For New Braunfels Utilities
- Water Utility of the Future: A Case Study of Conservation as a Service
The Water Utility of the Future: Ensuring a Sustainable and Affordable Water Supply
What are we doing?
Across the world, the risk and complexity surrounding water management practices are mounting, with pressures from urban densification, water scarcity and flooding, aging infrastructure, and management systems that do not reflect the true cost of water. In recent years, water stakeholders have begun to consider fundamental changes to management practices that increase water use efficiency and enhance conservation of limited freshwater resources for people and the environment. Integrated urban water management approaches, such as One Water, emphasize the interconnectedness of water throughout the water cycle and focus on opportunities that arise from this holistic viewpoint. In order to meet the water needs of growing urban populations in rapidly developing cities, water utilities need to undertake long-term planning that accounts for the risk and uncertainty of droughts and flooding while also ensuring that sufficient water reserves are maintained to refresh groundwater supplies and provide sensitive, critically important freshwater ecosystems with adequate flows.