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Recent Workshop

Net Energy Analysis Workshop
March 31 - April 1, 2015
Stanford University

Cyclotron Team
(l-r) Michael Carabajales-Dale, Matt Pellow, Sally Benson and Charles Barnhart at GCEP Net Energy Analysis Workshop.

GCEP hosted a Net Energy Analysis Workshop on March 31 - April 1, 2015, at Stanford University. More than 90 people participated in the event, which featured a diverse array of 21 speakers from the scientific, economics, policy and business communities.

Net energy analysis assesses the energy cost of providing energy services, such as renewable electricity, grid storage or biofuels. This approach compares the quantity of energy a service produces over its lifetime to the quantity of energy required to install and maintain it.

The two-day workshop was the latest initiative in GCEP’s ongoing analysis effort to develop a net-energy life cycle approach for evaluating energy technologies. Core sessions included:

  • Energy and the economies
  • Early technology appraisal
  • Environmental impacts of energy production and consumption
  • Managing the transition to a sustainable energy infrastructure
Steven Chu
Stanford physicist and former U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu gave keynote talk.

Stanford physicist and former U.S. Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, opened the workshop with a keynote talk highlighting opportunities for new technologies to address energy challenges. Other speakers included:

  • Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and Palantir Technologies, who shared his perspective on the challenging economics of energy investments.
  • Adam Usadi, section head of emerging energy sciences at ExxonMobil, who discussed the role of life cycle assessment, including energy-flow analysis, in guiding technology R&D strategy.
  • Howard Gruenspecht, deputy administrator of the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), who explained differences between the net energy analysis approach and conventional economic assessments from the EIA.

Cyclotron Team
PayPal Co-Founder Peter Thiel talks about the paradox of peak oil.
Cyclotron Team
ExxonMobil's Adam Usadi provides insights from life cycle assessment of energy systems.
Cyclotron Team
Howard Gruenspecht shares his perspective as deputy administrator of the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Workshop participants expressed strong agreement that net energy analysis is an important aspect of technology evaluation, alongside other measures such as financial analysis and environmental impact.

Cyclotron Team
Workshop participants listen to the latest in net energy analysis.
Participants also identified several opportunities for future research collaborations and called for a more consistent definition of “energy return on investment” (EROI), a key metric used by net energy analysts.

Matt Pellow, a GCEP postdoctoral scholar, led the workshop organizing committee, which included researchers from Stanford, the University of Texas-Austin, Clemson University and Western Washington University. Pellow and GCEP researchers Sally Benson, Charles Barnhart, Michael Carabajales-Dale and Adam Brandt have recently conducted a series of net energy analyses on the photovoltaic industry and various energy-storage technologies. Their findings have been published in several leading journals, establishing net energy analysis as a valuable tool for technology assessment.

By Matt Pellow

May 7, 2015


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