MIT Energy Council Update

Preparing to Announce External Advisory Committee, Establish Long Term Goals

Approximately five months after its formation, the MIT Energy Council is gearing up to release a "comprehensive communication for faculty, students, and staff" early next month, according to Ernest J. Moniz, the director of the MIT Energy Initiative.

In the coming weeks, the Energy Council will also likely announce the formation of an external advisory committee made up of members of academia, industry leaders, and government, according to Claude R. Canizares, vice president for research. The external advisory committee will "provide guidance, advice, and direction" to the Council and Canizares, whom the Council reports to, according to a November 2006 MIT News Office article.

The communication, which the Council will discuss at their meeting this week, will be an update for the MIT community on the progress of the Council, which has created a number of task forces that will focus on and coordinate energy research, education, and campus energy management.

According to Economics Professor Paul L. Joskow, a member of the current Energy Council, the work on campus management and sustainability is farthest along. The "Walk the Talk" committee is focused on "developing a program for improving energy efficiency and reducing emissions, especially greenhouse gases on campus," Joskow said.

The committee, according to Architecture Professor Leon R. Glicksman, a member of the Council and chair of the Walk the Talk task force, is made up of a cross-section of the MIT community, including students, faculty from all five schools, and Theresa M. Stone, executive vice president of the MIT Corporation, among others.

The Walk the Talk task force is working on determining short-term and long-term campus energy management goals for MIT while working with MIT Facilities on making some changes now, said Glicksman.

Those changes, according to Glicksman, include renovations that have been done in the East Campus dormitory parallels that has reduced the amount of steam energy wasted in radiators. Other changes include adding more occupancy sensors which automatically shut off lights when no one is in the room and replacing fluorescent lights so that they are more efficient, Glicksman said.

Glicksman also brought up the Chemistry Department as another example of a change that could help campus energy management and sustainability. According to Glicksman, an undergraduate who was studying energy usage in Building 18 found that almost half of the laboratory fume hoods, which are high air-flow containment areas that vent to the outside, were left open at night.

Based on some simple estimates, Glicksman said, the energy necessary to heat the air in a single fume hood that is left open all the time "is about the energy needed to heat a single family home in Boston." "The electricity for the fan in one hood is equal to the electricity used in a single family home in Boston," Glicksman said.

"The Chemistry Department has a very aggressive campaign to get people to keep the hoods closed when they are not using them," Glicksman continued.

In terms of long term goals, Glicksman said the task force is trying to determine "what goals make sense." "We really want to set an example for other people," Glicksman said. The committee is putting together a proposal on what MIT should be doing in 30–40 years in terms of energy efficiency, he continued. This may include expanding the William R. Dickson Cogeneration Plant, which supplies power to a large portion of MIT.

Glicksman and Management Professor Rebecca M. Henderson, another member of the Council, are working to put that proposal together. Glicksman said that it would likely take a couple of years.

Improvements in campus energy requires funding and investment. Glicksman said the task force was looking into setting up a loan fund.

In addition to campus sustainability, the Council has also established a task force to look at education. According to the ERC's May 2006 report, one of the top priorities for this Energy Education task force is to create an energy minor for undergraduates.

Heading the education task force, Biological Engineering Professor Angela M. Belcher said in an interview in February that the task force was being formed at that time and that they would be addressing both undergraduate and graduate education and outreach.

Joskow said that the task force is working on "trying to organize and understand the education programs that we have … identify where we don't have adequate courses and where there are opportunities to move courses together."

Additionally, on the educational side of the Initiative, a Web site was formed in January 2006 which listed classes that have a significant focus on energy. The EnergyClasses site ( highlights graduate and undergraduate classes with a significant focus on energy.

The Council is also working toward setting up a number of symposia each year with speakers such as Sir Nicholas Stern, economist, author of the recently released and much-publicized Stern review on climate change and former senior vice president of the World Bank, Joskow said.

Aside from the Council itself, student energy and sustainability groups have been involved in the Energy Initiative since it first began. The MIT Energy Club, in September 2005, launched a campus-wide survey, tabulated the results, and submitted it to the ERC, which was collecting information to write what would be the May 2006 energy report.

Similarly, energy conferences and poster presentations over the last two years, as well as this week's various energy activities, were coordinated by students. Glicksman and Canizares specifically brought up the student-led MIT Generator, an event that brought together various student sustainability groups to "generate" ideas on how to improve campus energy management. According to Jason J. Jay G, the first Generator event was held in November, the second in Feburary. Both events had approximately 100 people attend, Jay said.

"We're trying to touch base with students groups, sort of coordinate what we're doing," Glicksman said.

"The idea is not to over-centralize this, to encourage students to do their own thing, but also to make sure that everyone knows what's going on," Joskow said.

This type of coordination has the added benefit of getting groups together to invite speakers, some of whom individual groups might not be able to attract or afford, Joskow added. "Clubs bring people to campus to talk about energy and environmental issues. They contribute to the education of everyone on campus."

"The challenge for students is that students are here for a short time and some of these projects take a long time, so we want to engage students as quickly as we can, as productively as we can," Joskow said.

First announced by President Susan Hockfield in her inaugural address in May 2005, the MIT Energy Initiative officially began in September 2006 after Hockfield accepted the recommendations of a May 2006 energy report, the culmination of eight months of information gathering by the Energy Research Council (not to be confused with the current Energy Council, which is tasked with implementing the recommendations of the ERC, which concluded its work with the report).

The end result of the Initiative would be the establishment of an inter-departmental laboratory or energy center, Hockfield stated in her September 2006 message to the MIT community. The ERC's report states that this permanent research space should be completed within the next five years.

The latest MIT energy news and Energy Council update can be found at The May 2006 ERC report is available online at