Duke Launches Energy Initiative to Tackle Major Global Issues

Cross-university effort brings together scholars and students of six colleges.

November 16, 2011
Energy Hub meeting
The Energy Hub in Gross Chemistry will be the focal point of Energy Initiative engagement activities and some courses.

Durham, NC - Energy is essential to our mobile, connected, productive lifestyle, and the world's economic recovery and growth depend on it. But producing and consuming energy has also become the fundamental force behind some of our most pressing global issues, including economic competitiveness, security and the health of the planet's environment.

Duke University is launching an interdisciplinary, university-wide initiative to explore creative solutions to the problems surrounding energy and to help prepare tomorrow's leaders for a world in which producing and consuming energy will present ever greater challenges. 

"The energy path we're on now is creating growing pressures on both emerging and established economies," said Richard Newell, the director of the new energy initiative and a professor in Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. 

Last week, the International Energy Agency's 25-year energy forecast projected much higher gasoline prices and increasing environmental emissions unless something changes about the course of our energy system. 

"Energy is essential, but it also profoundly affects our local and global environment and political relationships,” Newell said. “We need a better grasp on our energy situation, fresh thinking and creative solutions, and a practical orientation to getting those ideas into practice." 

Duke's energy initiative brings together the faculty from six schools -- arts & sciences, business, engineering, environment, law and public policy -- to collaborate on education, research and engagement. The initiative will include new joint faculty positions, new course offerings, new collaborative research and engagement that brings all of these activities together with the wider world, according to Newell, who has just returned to Duke after two years as the head of the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the agency responsible for official U.S. government energy statistics and analysis. 

"No current global problem seems more difficult to encapsulate, nor more crucial to solve, than the pervasiveness of energy needs and costs," said Provost Peter Lange. "Duke hopes to address energy issues in creative and productive ways by melding the university's research and teaching in these six schools with the remarkable willingness of our scholars and students to collaborate across disciplines and look at problems in new ways. Will we be able to sustain energy’s role in economic growth in a way that will be less damaging to the planet and its resources? Can we ease the political and economic tensions that energy has  created? Duke University would like to find out."

Newell said students who participate in the initiative can expect to gain an integrated perspective on our current energy system and the potential alternatives for improving it. Regardless of their major course of study, they will be grounded in the science and technology of energy and its relationship to the environment, as well as the economics, policy and business of energy.

And through engagement programs, Duke students will have first-hand exposure to energy sector leaders and will gain experience in project management and teamwork.

"There are three pathways we will pursue for integrated solutions to these critical energy questions," Newell said. "The Duke University Energy Initiative will develop and evaluate innovative energy technologies that can provide clean and secure energy at competitive prices; efficient market and financing mechanisms for moving these innovations into commerce; and pragmatic policies and practices to catalyze beneficial changes."

Learn More: Energy.duke.edu.

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Contact: Karl Leif Bates
Affiliation: News & Communications
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