The future of clean energy technology development lies in funding not only existing technologies, but also research into future innovations and the workforce that will bring those innovations to life.
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) signed into law earlier this year takes what Alexis Abramson, dean of the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College, describes as a holistic approach to many facets that will enable the future of clean energy. Abramson called the IRA “monumental clean energy legislation,” putting its importance on par with the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, both passed decades ago.
Before joining Dartmouth, Abramson worked as chief scientist and manager of the Emerging Technologies Division at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Building Technologies program during the Obama administration. She also worked in the private sector in 2018, serving as technical adviser for Breakthrough Energy Ventures, which Bill Gates launched to address climate change issues.
In this Q&A, Abramson touches on the benefits of the IRA, how Dartmouth is preparing the future workforce and what technologies she’s most excited about for enabling a clean energy future.
How is the IRA impactful in advancing clean energy technologies and initiatives?
Alexis Abramson: To solve the climate change problem, to move clean energy forward, we need to think about three pieces of the puzzle. One is, of course, renewables that will save us from burning fossil fuels. Wind and solar fall into that category. The issue with wind and solar is that they’re intermittent, so when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining, we can’t generate electricity.
The second key solution to help with that are balancing-type resources to offset the problem we encounter because renewables are intermittent. The legislation is not only funding wind and solar but also looks at batteries and smart charging and demand response — hardware and software to help balance those resources and provide electricity when not available from renewables.
The third piece of the puzzle that the legislation addresses is more of these firm resources, which we’ve lived with for decades now with the ability to burn natural gas, coal — nuclear, even — at any time of day 24/7. It is looking at new firm resources as well. That’s additional nuclear and geothermal that could be tapped into. It’s robust legislation because it’s looking at that whole story.
How will the IRA impact actual clean energy technologies?
Abramson: There is money in the IRA for …….