The past 3 days I was busy with the Smart Energies Strategies Conference coordinated by the Energy Science Center of the ETH here in Zürich. It was tiring, but an overall excellent conference!! I learned a ton, which made the early mornings and late evenings setting up and closing down the conference definitely worthwhile.
The first day involved a panel discussion with several well known climate scientists, including as I mentioned in a previous post, Dr. Pachauri, who is the IPCC Chairman. You can read an interview with him from the conference here- but unfortunately I think it is only in German- and you can also find a link to a podcast of his talk (in English) at the bottom: http://www.ethlife.ethz.ch/archive_articles/080908_Pachauri/index/
The first session was on global challenges that we face today, such as climate change and access to resources. I particularly enjoyed the talk by Justin Adams of BP, who stressed the fact that not all solutions to climate change would address all the challenges, and that separate solutions are needed depending on if the challenge is global, regional, or local. A poster session followed this first panel of talks. The poster entitled, “Integrated Assessment of Swiss CO2 mitigation policies- focus on the residential sector” was of great interest to me. The research combines an energy model with an economic model, and analyzes the effects of introducing a policy or economic measure, such as a carbon tax, on carbon emissions, and offers suggestions for current policy. I was able to ask a few questions, as I am sure I could find this information helpful for my further research here at the ETH. The second session of the day was on transportation systems…not something I am particularly interested in, but nonetheless informative and important to climate and environmental policy.
That evening was the conference dinner, at the Zunfthaus im Waag, downtown in Zürich. We had traditional Swiss food- Rösti and something that resembled the German Schnitzel- although I forget the correct name for it. Delicious!! My dinner table neighbors- a student at the EPFL in Lausanne, and a representative from the Swiss Federal Office for Energy- and I chatted all night about policy and models and feasible solutions, etc. It was great networking for me, and a great introduction into Swiss policy and politics on a national level, but also a canton (or state) level.
The second day began with a panel on Smart Conversion Systems, including a great talk by Dr. Larry Kazmerski of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado. A very entertaining presentation on the past, present, and future of the solar thermal and solar PV field- complete with videos and props! I spoke with Dr. Kazmerski afterwards on the possibilities of solar thermal in the US, which ties into some work I did on renewable heating and cooling policies back in the states this past year. The afternoon session was on Smart Grids, where Professor Goran Strbac spoke, among others, on the electrical grid system. This was very helpful for me, as I have never really been able to grasp a visual image of what the “grid” really is…but Professor Strbac succeeded! After this the second poster session began. I had a chance to look at all of the posters, and especially liked the one titled, “Thermally driven residential heat pumps based on integrated organic Rankine cycles.” There was an Apero at the end of this second day, but I was kind of tired, so I did not stay that long.
The third and final day was on Smart industries, services, and buildings, and energy economics and policy design. Professor Manfred Morari and Dr. Jürg Tödtli were my favourite presentations. Their talk was on how weather forecasts enhance comfort and save energy. The most surprising fact that I heard from the conference was in the talk from Dr. Richard Tol on the economics of climate change. He said that despite the thousands of scientific studies and analysis done on climate change, there have only been 13 economic studies and analysis done on climate change!! I could not believe this…With the potential for jobs and economic growth from the renewable industry alone, I thought surely more economists would be interested and have performed more than 13 total studies!!!
All in all, the conference was a huge success, and I hope to be able to come back and participate in 2 years when the conference will be held again.
So much for now,