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OSU receives $500,000 grant to prepare Ohio for energy policy changes

Through a $500,000 grant, Ohio State is working with Ohio University to help the state create energy policies.

The American Recovery Act State Energy Program gave the grant to Ohio University and OSU in April to look at greenhouse gas emissions and possible policies regarding the energy industry and climate change. The work began Monday in response to global warming concerns.

“Everything is working fine, except we have this major global warming problem,” said Joseph Fiksel, executive director of OSU’s Center for Resilience in the College of Engineering. “People are not going to make dramatic changes in their business if no one else is doing it.”

The universities are working together to divide tasks.
Ohio University can track greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide, and OSU will look at policies and develop a modeling tool for them, Fiksel said.

Fiksel is the deputy director for the project and is in charge of the
modeling tool used to evaluate the policies. The base he has developed is supported by existing technology, which needed to be adjusted for the project.

“Initially, we will use [the policy-modeling tool] to generate different scenarios and we will present our results to the state,” said Fiksel, whose team includes OSU graduate students.

The modeling tool will be turned over to policy makers to help them develop plans for energy and climate control.

Fiksel’s team will work closely with a group from OSU’s John Glenn School of Public Affairs that is led by Andy Keeler. Keeler is an expert on climate policy, Fiksel said.

The modeling tool is an Internet-based system called T21-Ohio. OSU has used a version of the software to model recycling.

T21-Ohio will take into consideration environmental, economic and social effects of different policies. It will weigh them and show possible outcomes, Fiksel said.

Ohio has both traditional energy industries, which use fossil fuels such as coal, and newer energy industries, which involve solar and wind power.

The energy industry is shifting from coal to wind and solar power, Fiksel said.

The state-adopted policy requires 12.5 percent of electricity to come from renewable energy sources and 0.5 percent to come from solar power by 2025. Power companies must also have 25 percent of their power coming from renewable resources by 2025.

Ohio uses more coal than other states. The state wants to reduce the use of coal and other fossil fuels and create jobs in the alternative energy industry, Fiksel said.

Economically, the coal and fossil fuel industry is not failing even though the government had to step in to enforce energy and global warming rules. Companies are given incentives to reduce their carbon emissions, he said.

Ohio is not alone in creating energy policies to combat greenhouse gases. California and New England have created their own policies.

A problem with the diverse policies is that it is difficult for companies to track them all. The energy industry has been asking for a consistent nationwide policy, Fiksel said. And the modeling tool could help create consistent regulations.

Ohio is trying to conform to federal climate change policies.

The policies look at greenhouse gas levels in 2005. The plan is to have the levels reduced 3 percent by 2012, 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050, according to the U.S. Department of State website.

The money for the grant came from a partnership between the Ohio Department of Development and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, according to a statement from the Ohio Department of Development.

Ohio University is in charge of the money and is going to give about $200,000 to OSU.

In addition to Ohio University, there are other consulting firms on the project, such as Millennium Institute of Washington, D.C.  

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