December 3, 2020: IRES Faculty Seminar with Inês Azevedo (Last Seminar in Term 1)

IRES Seminar Series

Time: 12:30pm to 1:30pm (every Thursday)

Via Zoom

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Transitioning to sustainable energy systems while considering environmental justice and distributional effects

In this talk I will cover three related recent papers:

1) Comparing the Health Damages from Air Pollution to the Value Added in the U.S. Economy (PNAS, 2019): We use integrated assessment models to compute economy-wide gross external damages (GED) due to premature mortality from air pollution. We note 4 key findings: First, economy-wide, GED has decreased by more than 20% from 2008 to 2014. Second, while much of the air pollution policies have focused to date on the electricity sector, damages from farms are now larger than those from utilities. Third, 4 sectors, comprising less than 20% of the national GDP, are responsible for ∼75% of GED attributable to economic activities. Fourth, uncertainty in GED estimates tends to be high for sectors with predominantly ground-level emissions because these emissions are usually estimated and not measured.

2) Fine Particulate Air Pollution from Electricity Generation in the US: Health Impacts by Race, Income, and Geography (ES&T, 2019): Electricity generation is a large contributor to PM2.5 air pollution. However, the demographic distribution of its resulting exposure is largely unknown. We estimate the health effects from air pollution from electricity generation in the US, for each of the seven Regional Transmission Organizations, for each US state, by income and by race. Exposures are higher for lower-income than for higher-income, but disparities are larger by race than by income. Geographically, we observe large differences between where electricity is generated and where people experience the resulting air pollution health consequences: for 36 US states, most of the health impacts are attributable to emissions in other states.

3) What are the best combinations of fuel-vehicle technologies to mitigate climate change and air pollution effects across the United States? (ERL, 2020) The transportation sector is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and a major source of criteria air pollutants in the U.S. Spatially explicit evaluations of the effectiveness of alternative fuels and advanced vehicle technologies in mitigating both climate change and air pollution are lacking. In this work, we estimate the life cycle monetized damages due to GHGs and criteria air pollutant emissions for different types of passenger-moving vehicles in the U.S. We find substantial spatial variability in the monetized damages for all fuel-vehicle technologies studied. None of the fuel-vehicle technologies leads simultaneously to the lowest climate change damages and the lowest air pollution damages across all U.S. counties. Instead, the fuel-vehicle technology that best mitigates climate change in one region is different from that for the best air quality.

Inês Azevedo

Associate Professor, Department of Energy Resources Engineering, Stanford University


Inês M.L. Azevedo is Associate Professor in the Department of Energy Resources Engineering at Stanford University. She also serves as Senior Fellow for the Woods Institute for the Environment and is an Senior Fellow with the Precourt Energy Institute at Stanford University. Prior to that, she served as full Professor in the Department of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University, where she co-led the Climate and Energy Decision Making Center. Dr. Azevedo’s research interests focus on how to transition to a sustainable, low carbon, affordable and equitable energy system. She focusses on issues where a systems approach is needed, by combining engineering and technology analysis with economic and decision science approaches. She has published 90+ peer-reviewed publications and she has participated as an author and committee member in several National Research Council reports from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. She is now participating in the IPCC AR6 as one of the lead authors for the Energy chapter. Dr. Azevedo has received the World Economic Forum’s “Young Scientists under 40” award in 2014, and the C3E Women in Clean Energy Research Award in 2017.