Energy in the Context of Climate Policy: Strategic Challenges and Opportunities
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This course will review the economics and policy issues regarding global climate change, and will survey the energy technology options for mitigating climate change. The primary objective of the course will be to present the participants with a complete picture of the potential opportunities and challenges under any mandatory policy of greenhouse gas reductions. Nearly half the course will be spent reviewing the different options for meeting greenhouse gas reduction targets, including energy supply options (carbon capture and sequestration from coal or natural gas, wind, solar, biofuels), energy efficiency improvements, alternative transportation technologies, and adaptation to climate change. In addition, the course will review the basic science behind climate change, including where significant uncertainties remain, and will discuss the current state of climate policy, including international negotiations, EU climate policies, and prospects for legislation in the US. Participants will engage in active learning through the use of computer modeling tools to illustrate the key ideas in each module, and will use these models to analyze alternative technology and policy options. This course will leverage active research at MIT within the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research (CEEPR), and the MIT Energy Initiative.
Fundamentals: Core concepts, understandings and tools (40%)
Latest Developments: Recent advances and future trends (30%)
Industry Applications: Linking theory and real-world (15%)
Other: Decision making and tradeoff analysis (15%)
Lecture: Delivery of material in a lecture format (40%)
Discussion or Groupwork: Participatory learning (30%)
Labs: Demonstrations, experiments, simulations (30%)
Introductory: Appropriate for a general audience (50%)
Specialized: Assumes experience in practice area or field (40%)
Advanced: In-depth explorations at the graduate level (10%)
The participants of this course will be able to:
- Understand the scale of greenhouse gas reductions that would be required to meet a concentration stabilization target.
- Identify the potential barriers – technical, economic, and political – to deployment of each of several energy technologies.
- Analyze economic and technological tradeoffs between different energy and climate strategies.
- Use a simple economic-climate computer simulation tool to explore the uncertainty in benefits and costs of greenhouse gas mitigation.
- Design robust climate policy for the United States, using a computer simulation tool to support the analysis.
- Evaluate the potential viability of one of several alternative technologies.
Who Should Attend
This course is aimed at all professionals, but is likely to be particularly useful to those in energy supply or energy-intensive industries, as well as officials in federal and state government involved in efforts to design climate policies.
Day 1: Introduction to Climate Change: Science and Economics
Participants will be introduced to the key issues that drive the climate change policy debate, including the basic science behind climate change, and the economics of greenhouse gas control. Topics will include:
- How bad could climate change be?
- How are future climate change impacts projected?
- What is the uncertainty in future projections?
- Exercise 1: Projecting future climate change
- Introduction to environmental economics
- Exercise 2: Projecting the cost of mitigation
Day 2: Energy Supply Options 1
Participants will be introduced to different potential strategies in the energy sector for mitigating greenhouse gases. For each fuel/technology type, we will explore in detail the technical, economic, and political barriers to large scale deployment. Topics will include:
- Natural Gas
- Carbon Capture and Sequestration
- Nuclear Energy
- Solar Energy
- Wind Energy
- Hydrogen Fuel Cells
- Exercise 3: Barriers to future energy options
Day 3: Energy Supply Options 2
Participants will learn how to integrate the different energy technologies into a single analysis framework. Focus will be on how different technologies will compete, and on how prices in the economy will provide a feedback to supply and demand. Topics will include:
- Integration: the electricity sector
- Integration: the transportation sector
- Integration: the economy and price signals
- Exercise 4: Projecting energy technology shares
Day 4: Climate and Technology Policies
Participants will learn about the different types of policy instruments that are intended to influence energy and supply decisions by consumers and producers. We will overview the different types of policies that could be utilized, and explore the differential impacts of each policy type. Topics will include:
- Emissions Trading
- Banking and Borrowing
- Safety Valve
- Intensity Targets
- Carbon Tax
- Performance standards (e.g. CAFÉ)
- Renewable Portfolio Standards
- Technology Subsidies
- R&D policies
- Exercise 5: Evaluation of alternative policy instruments
Day 5: Design under Uncertainty
Participants will explore the performance of alternative policies and technology strategies under uncertainty. Topics will include:
- Introduction to risk and decision-making under uncertainty
- Exercise 6: Climate policy design under uncertainty
- Exercise 7: Technology strategy under uncertainty
Note: Participants who are able to bring laptops to the class will have the opportunity to perform several exercises during the course to enhance their learning through use of a Windows PC-based tool that will be provided. The computer model is a simplified version of computer models used at MIT and elsewhere to project climate change impacts and costs of climate policies.
Associate, Structural Integrity Associates
"The course materials didn't just echo what was said in class, but were well suited for being the basis of further study. The students were very diverse, representing many different professions, interests, and countries. The interplay of the various viewpoints was a particular strength of the course."
President, Patch Services LLC
"The organization, knowledge and the ability of Prof. Webster to get the information across in a very dynamic way kept class participation levels high and the course fresh and interesting."
CEO, Holy Cross Energy
"The material is extremely timely. As the CEO of a utility the impact of CO2 legislation is extremely important subject. This class gives a great prospective on how one should look at the risks associated with climate change and proposed methods of capping carbon. This class should be taken on the road and made available to policy makers."
About The Lecturers
Mort D. Webster
Prof. Webster is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Systems, with a focus on energy and environmental systems. Prof. Webster specializes in risk analysis, uncertainty analysis, and decision-making under uncertainty. He has published numerous peer-reviewed articles in energy and environmental science, economics, and policy, and has served on several national and international panels, including the US Climate Change Science Program. Current research projects include risk tradeoffs in long-term climate targets, modeling technological change as a stochastic process, evaluation of cost-containment provisions for climate policy under uncertainty, and integrated economic/energy/chemistry modeling for regional air quality policy design. Prof. Webster is active in several research centers at MIT, including the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research (CEEPR), the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, and the MIT Energy Initiative. He received a Ph.D. (2000) in Engineering Systems and a M.S. (1996) in Technology and Policy from MIT, and a B.S.E. (1988) in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to returning to MIT, Prof. Webster was an assistant professor of public policy in the Department of Public Policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
For more information on the MIT Engineering Systems Division (ESD), please visit http://esd.mit.edu/; for information on CEEPR, please visit http://web.mit.edu/ceepr/www/; for information on the Joint Program, please visit http://globalchange.mit.edu/ and for information on the MIT Energy Initiative, please visit http://globalchange.mit.edu/.
This course takes place on the MIT campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We can also offer this course for groups of employees at your location. Please contact the Short Programs office for further details.
Please note that laptops are required for this course.