Competing Policy Choices at the Intersection of Energy and Climate Change – An Engineer’s Role

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A widely circulated story last year in the New York Times (“African huts far from the grid glow with renewable power,” Dec 24, 2010) spotlighted the need to improve access to electricity and the opportunities provided by new technologies. But what does access to energy really mean? It is a complex issue that extends over different scales ranging from basic, off-grid subsistence levels to bulk power for cities, factories and transportation networks. Providing electricity to the 1.5 billion people around the world currently without access is a daunting development challenge. It also poses urgent questions regarding unprecedented increases in greenhouse gas emissions. I will explore the tension between the seemingly contradictory but equally critical needs of energy security and climate change mitigation, and discuss the potential of renewable sources. I will highlight the role of engineers and scientists in informing this confusing policy landscape.


Suresh Garimella is Associate Vice President for Engagement, and the Goodson Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering, at Purdue University where he is Director of the National Science Foundation Cooling Technologies Research Center. He received his PhD from the University of California at Berkeley in 1989. His areas of interest include micro and nanoscale thermal engineering and energy efficiency in computing and electronics, and renewable and sustainable energy systems technology and policy. Dr. Garimella is a Fellow of the Center of Smart Interfaces at the Technical University of Darmstadt, Honorary Guest Professor at Xi’an JiaoTong University in China, and was Honorary Visiting Fellow at the University of New South Wales in 1995.

Dr. Garimella served as Jefferson Science Fellow at the U.S. Department of State over the past year. As a part of this Fellowship, he explored pathways to a clean energy future, analyzing cross-cutting issues at the intersection of energy security and climate change. Most recently, he was appointed Senior Fellow of the State Department’s Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA), a regional partnership announced by President Obama at the April 2009 Summit of the Americas to promote clean energy, advance energy security, fight energy poverty, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, support strategies for sustainable landscapes and build capacity for climate change adaptation.

His efforts in research and engineering education have been recognized with the 2011 NSF Alexander Schwarzkopf Prize for Technological Innovation, the 2010 ASME Heat Transfer Memorial Award, the 2010 Distinguished Alumnus Award from IIT Madras, the 2009 ASME Allan Kraus Thermal Management Award, the 2004 ASME Gustus L. Larson Memorial Award, the 2011 College of Engineering Mentoring Award, the 1995 Graduate School/UWM Foundation Research Award for Outstanding Research and Creative Activity, the 1997 UWM Distinguished Teaching Award, and the 1992 Society of Automotive Engineers' Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award, among others.

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  • Suresh V. Garimella (2012), "Competing Policy Choices at the Intersection of Energy and Climate Change – An Engineer’s Role,"

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