Fall 2010


Professor Fuels Energy Efficiency on a Global Scale

ENERGY EFFICIENCY MIGHT BE the easiest and most effective way to fight climate change – and HSU Professor Arne Jacobson is playing a major new role in helping developing nations ratchet up their progress.

Jacobson, who is on sabbatical in Washington, D.C., for the 2010-2011 academic year, will help implement the Department of Energy’s Climate REDI initiative. It’s a $100 million project to export renewable energy and energy efficiency measures to rising economic powers like China and Brazil, as well as developing nations. The project will provide policy support and technical assistance, and underwrite capital costs.

“Refrigerator, lighting and air conditioning efficiency standards are things we have a lot of experience with here in the U.S. and especially here in California,” says Jacobson, who is co-director of HSU’s Schatz Energy Research Center.

While in Washington, Jacobson will also work to expand Lighting Africa  – a World Bank project that assists rural Kenyans in switching from fuel-based lighting to electricity-based lighting – into a global effort.

With the price for fuel-based lighting estimated at $38 billion annually, transitioning roughly 1.7 billion people away from kerosene and wood for light could produce substantial cost savings. The DoE, partnering with the World Bank, is allocating $50 million over five years to provide investment capital for companies eager to tap into this emerging market. The money will also go to develop a set of quality standards to direct consumers to companies producing reliable products. Helping set those standards is where Jacobson comes in.

“People are frustrated with what they have now, both the kerosene and the low-quality LED products. It’s a pretty tough nut to crack, because low-quality products are so widespread,” says Jacobson.

The challenge in establishing quality standards for the lighting systems, according to Jacobson, is to know where to draw the line between over-regulation and having no standards whatsoever. 

“You don’t want to set standards so high that only BMWs are available when all the consumer can afford is a bicycle – you just want to help make sure that the bicycle won’t break down in two months.”