Long-term Energy Solutions Sought By CU-Boulder Expert On Renewables, Electric Utilities

Published: Aug. 3, 2005

While legislators are forced to consider short-term energy needs and budget constraints, a University of Colorado at Boulder energy expert is hoping he and his students can clarify long-term options to counter growing energy needs and costs in Colorado and across the country.

Paul Komor, a lecturer in environmental studies and civil engineering, focuses his research on energy efficiency, renewable sources of electricity and methods to meet future energy demands.

Komor said that while rising oil and natural gas prices are a reminder that fossil fuel supplies are limited, lawmakers often are forced to make decisions to meet short-term energy demands.

"Many legislators don't have the luxury to think long term," Komor said. "What about 10 years, 50 years from now? At the university, we don't have to worry about being re-elected. We can think about what we want our electricity system to look like in the long term.

"We intend to come up with useful ideas and communicate them back to lawmakers," he said.

Komor will continue looking for energy solutions at Stanford University this spring, where he has been appointed the 2006 Map/Ming Visiting Professor of Energy and Environment. He will be at Stanford from January to June 2006 to teach a course on renewable energy policy and a new course called "Electricity Futures."

Komor and his Stanford students will look at energy policy at both state and national levels.

"We are aiming for findings that clarify the tradeoffs," he said. "In other words, 'If we rely on coal, here are the consequences. With renewables, here are the likely costs and benefits.' Our intent is to come up with a final presentation that doesn't advocate one technology or answer, but instead clarifies the options."

Komor plans to teach similar courses at CU-Boulder, where in 2003 he spearheaded an effort to create an energy specialization within the environmental studies master's degree program. The program includes core courses and electives in classes such as "Solar Technology," "Environmental Economics" and "Renewable Energy Policy."

Before coming to CU-Boulder, Komor was a project director at the U.S. Congress' Office of Technology Assessment. He also was a visiting academic at the Environmental Policy Group at Imperial College in London in 2001. His 2004 book, "Renewable Energy Policy," compares policies in the United States and the European Union.

"Thus far, Europe has been much more aggressive in renewables and much more concerned about carbon emissions," he said.

Komor's appointment at Stanford is an endowed position that annually brings in a leading senior scholar in a selected field of energy and environment. The scholar is in residence for six months and works with faculty and students in areas related to the science, technology and management of energy.

"We are thrilled at the prospect of hosting Paul next year," said Pamela Matson, dean of Stanford's School of Earth Sciences. "Given his outstanding credentials and achievements in the energy domain, we greatly look forward to his joining us as a visiting professor."