Sweeping Climate Bill Encourages Engineering Innovation

Sweeping Climate Bill Encourages Engineering Innovation

By Lucas Baker

Sweeping Climate Bill Encourages Engineering Innovation

By Lucas Baker
The Inflation Reduction Act passed by the Senate aims to meet aggressive sustainability goals. College of Engineering researchers weigh in on how this can be achieved.

The United States Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act on Aug. 7. The legislation made its way through the House of Representatives on Aug. 12 and will become signed into law by President Joe Biden.

In addition to the health care and tax reform measures in the bill, it represents the largest investment in American environmental sustainability in the country’s history. Proponents on Capitol Hill have advocated that this is a big step toward the 2030 goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 2005 levels.

“This bill aligns with many of the strategic initiatives being undertaken by the College of Engineering,” said Pratim Biswas, dean of the College of Engineering and professor in the Department of Chemical, Environmental and Materials Engineering. “Our innovative efforts include battery materials, renewable energy generation, carbon dioxide capture and conversion, materials synthesis, fabrication with a low carbon footprint (such as next generation concrete), and autonomous mobility.”

Action on climate change involves developing rigorous scientific standards to set and meet sustainability goals.

“This bill directly benefits the engineering world and the researchers working in the engineering field who are inventing novel ways to address this global issue,” said Nurcin Celik, associate professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering.

Moving forward, Celik added that “engineers, researchers, and environmental scientists must determine which metrics should be used to measure greenhouse gas emissions, what tools are appropriate to collect data and how to construct a progress report that is ubiquitous across most industries.”

Electric Vehicles

To help reach the nation’s 2030 target, the bill will incentivize mass adoption of electric vehicles (EV) by providing almost $400 billion in tax credits over the next 10 years. Through 2032, buyers of new EVs could receive a $7,500 tax credit, while buyers of used EVs could be granted a $4,000 tax credit.

While necessary to meet climate goals, mass adoption of EVs in the next 10 years presents unique hurdles for engineers and policymakers alike.

“The mass adoption of EVs into the existing power grid presents grid stability issues that must be solved concurrently as consumers migrate from gas to electric,” said Joshua Darville, a Ph. D. candidate working closely with Celik.

Celik and Darville recently published a paper relevant to the topic, in which they “present a framework to model an energy system and obtain a solution to a given scenario in real-time.”

Celik’s simulation and optimization research lab SimLab at the University of Miami specializes in coordinating distributed energy resources (DERs) to ensure the power grid remains efficient, resilient, and stable.

Manufacturing

In addition to transportation, manufacturing represents another key area for researchers focused on sustainability.

“By expanding equitable access to clean and efficient technologies, the Inflation Reduction Act will have a significant impact on energy analytics, efficiency, and electrification investment,” said Ramin Moghaddass, associate professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering.

The bill sets aside $10 billion to support manufacturing facilities for green technologies like EVs and solar panels, as well as providing a $500 million critical minerals processing and heat pumps.

Moghaddass leads the Industrial Assessment Center (IAC) at the University, part of a U.S. Department of Energy program dedicated to decarbonizing manufacturing which was recently expanded by the Biden administration.

“The IAC, in collaboration with local partners,” Moghaddass added, “supports local manufacturing businesses as well as commercial and residential building owners to increase their energy efficiency and bring down energy costs. Comprehensive data collection and analytics help us better monetize available tax credits and evaluate the return on investment from energy efficiency technologies and upgrades.”

Clean Energy

The bill makes available $1.5 billion to oil companies to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, instituting penalties for noncompliance.

“Oil companies can improve their existing procedures–fracking, preventing spills, swift remediation–making them more efficient and passing along the savings to both consumers and the environment,” Darville added.

To boost adoption and viability of clean energy solutions, the bill provides $30 billion in tax credits to ramp up production of solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, and critical minerals processing, the bill provides $30 in tax credits.

Antonio Nanni, professor and chair in the Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering, and Francisco De Caso, scientist in the Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering, are working with Andrea Irarrazaval Olavarria and Jorge A. David from Carbon BioCapture on providing cost-effective mitigation services by capturing gaseous and water-borne pollutants through microalgae cultivation. Irarrazaval gave a presentation on campus about the company’s goals at the Premios Verdes, an annual conference highlighting noteworthy sustainability efforts from across the world.

The inflation Reduction Act also aims to cut carbon emissions. Recently, the Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering led a historic accord between industry heavyweights such as the Interamerican Cement Federation (FICEM) and the American Concrete Institute (ACI), ASTM International, and the Global Cement and Concrete Association (GCCA) that commits to carbon neutrality by 2050.

The Year Ahead

Building on this momentum, the College of Engineering has already planned exciting initiatives for this fall. The Clean Energy Symposium on Sept. 22 will be open to the community and will highlight the importance of clean renewable energy. This interactive symposium will be led by Celik and will include industry and faculty experts, as well as presentations from students.

The College of Engineering will also launch a Center for Clean Energy, led by faculty experts Moghaddass and Hongtan Liu, professor of mechanical engineering. Some Initiatives under this effort include battery materials, generation and recycle, renewable energy, autonomous mobility, and energy analytics.

The College is also hosting a Workshop on Autonomous Mobility on Oct. 13 and 14 with several industry partners to address the challenges and scientific gaps to making surface-air transportation a reality.

On November 4, John Anderson, President of the National Academy of Engineering, will preside over a Symposium on Engineering and Technology addressing Global Challenges to be held at the University of Miami. Other speakers include the Holden Thorp, Editor of Science, Kimberly Prather, founding Director of the NSF Center for Aerosol Impacts on Chemistry of the Environment (CAICE), and Raj Reddy, University Professor of Computer Science and Robotics and Moza Bint Nasser Chair in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University.