Introducing Energy and Climate Partnership for the Americas Fellow Daniel M. Kammen

Posted by Tina Huang
July 8, 2010
Wind Turbine in Shadow of Boston City Skyline

About the Author: Tina Huang serves in the Office of Public Diplomacy in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.

Daniel M. Kammen is one of three Senior Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA) Fellows named by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on April 15, 2010, at the Energy and Climate Ministerial of the Americas in Washington. The Senior ECPA Fellows program is part of the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas, which was announced by President Barack Obama in 2009. ECPA convene Western Hemisphere nations together to share and find scientific, technical, and policy avenues to produce and use energy, and cooperate on climate change.

Dr. Kammen is a coordinating lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. He brings a wealth of expertise to the U.S.-Latin American dialogue on clean and renewable energy. Dr. Kammen is currently the Class of 1935 Distinguished Professor in UC Berkeley's Energy and Resources Group, Goldman School of Public Policy, and the Department of Nuclear Engineering. He is founding director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) and co-Director of the Berkeley Institute of the Environment. Dr. Kammen received his undergraduate (Cornell B.A. '84) and graduate (Harvard M.A. '86, Ph.D. '88) training in physics. Read more about his work here.

I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Kammen about his upcoming ECPA trip to the Southern Cone.

1. What does ECPA mean to you? As an ECPA Senior Fellow, how do you hope to contribute to U.S.-Latin American discussions on renewable energy science and policy?

First, I am tremendously appreciative of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the remarkable State Department team for developing this program. The need to develop a new ecologically and economically sustainable energy system may take decades to complete, but will not be possible if scientific, technical, economic, and policy innovations -- and regional as well as global collaborations -- are not developed, shared, and implemented. As someone who has run a basic research and applied implementation laboratory and who has worked in Africa, Latin America, and Asia for almost two decades, I think the ECPA program is a wonderful innovation and partnership that moves to regional scale, initiatives I have long thought were needed. I have worked with colleagues in Brazil, the Caribbean, Mexico, Nicaragua, and elsewhere on a range of solar, biomass, and other projects. I look forward to expanding that network of both science/engineering and policy efforts.

I would hope that I personally, and my laboratory more generally, can be a node in a network that develops, tests, and partners with university, government, private sector, and community groups working on these topics throughout Latin America and the Western Hemisphere more generally. If my laboratory can be a resource for programs in solar, wind, sustainable bio-fuel, and energy efficiency initiatives, I will be delighted. I can also share how the United State is addressing similar challenges, but at much larger scale due to our energy demand, at home. This is why I have made the website of my research team an interactive resource that lists publications, projects, interviews, data sets, and online carbon and other calculators so that anyone can use these tools.

2. In your first visit to Argentina, Chile, and Paraguay as an ECPA Senior Fellow what renewable energy development do you think is ripe for regional cooperation and expansion?

There are many exciting technical developments in both energy efficiency and in renewable energy taking place in the Hemisphere, and I see the most important opportunity for this learning visit -- which should be my first of three this year -- to establish a set of discussions where we could share innovative ideas that contribute to urban and rural clean energy development, and to sustainable transportation solutions.

One particular innovation that I am very pleased to see spreading very rapidly is that of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing to enable residential, commercial and community property owners to invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects without any up-front capital. This effort -- of which I have been very pleased to form part of the initial development team -- has been named by Scientific American one of (in fact the top) sustainable innovation for 2010. I describe this idea on my laboratory website.

The PACE financing model has already spread to over 10 U. S. states, and is part of the clean energy implementation strategy supported by the Obama Administration. We continue to develop new aspects of this model in my laboratory, and in work I am doing with the city of Berkeley, the state of California, and at the federal and international level.

3. What are some successful models of energy innovations in the United States? What is the potential for replicating them in Latin America?

There is a tremendous amount to learn, adapt, and replicate throughout the Western Hemisphere from innovations -- from the national to the village and household level -- that have origins around the world. The PACE model discussed above is one such effort I hope to discuss on this visit, but so are programs already in place in parts of Latin America. These include Feed-in tariff models, regional or city sustainability or carbon management efforts, and the development of clean energy innovation centers. I hope to see discussions of job-creating, community-supporting research and development efforts take place in Argentina, Chile and in Paraguay. My students and I have tracked many of the cost-effective and innovative research and development programs in clean energy design in a series of papers on the RAEL website.

I would also like to see a focus on household and rural clean energy initiatives that support local empowerment for a clean energy future. My laboratory is eager to participate and assist in these efforts.

I am one of several resources governments and civil society may use under ECPA. I really welcome governments asking me any questions. I may not have all the answers, but am pleased to share my expertise and experiences with them, something ECPA promotes -- sharing of best practices and lessons learned so that countries of the Americas may benefit from this knowledge as they undertake very difficult challenges related to economic growth, energy security, and climate change.

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