Saturday, March 25, 2023

Michael E. Webber, Drew Kassel, Joshua D. Rhodes and Matthew Skiles

Dr. Michael E. Webber is the Josey Centennial Professor in Energy Resources at the University of Texas at Austin and CTO of Energy Impact Partners, a $3 billion cleantech venture fund. From September 2018 to August 2021, Webber was based in Paris, France where he served as the Chief Science and Technology Officer at ENGIE, a global energy & infrastructure services company. Webber’s expertise spans research and education at the convergence of engineering, policy, and commercialization on topics related to innovation, energy, and the environment. His book Power Trip: the Story of Energy was published in 2019 by Basic Books with an award-winning 6-part companion series that aired on PBS, Amazon Prime and iTunes starting Earth Day 2020. His prior book, Thirst for Power: Energy, Water and Human Survival, which addresses the connection between earth’s most valuable resources and offers a hopeful approach toward a sustainable future, was published in 2016 by Yale Press and was converted into an hourlong documentary. He was selected as a Fellow of ASME (the American Society of Mechanical Engineers) and as a member of the 4th class of the Presidential Leadership Scholars, which is a leadership training program organized by Presidents George W. Bush and William J. Clinton. Webber has authored more than 400 publications, holds 6 patents, and serves on the advisory board for Scientific American. Webber holds a B.S. and B.A. from UT Austin, and M.S. and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Stanford University. He was honored as an American Fellow of the German Marshall Fund and an AT&T Industrial Ecology Fellow on four separate occasions by the University of Texas for exceptional teaching. Drew comes from the north, i.e., Wisconsin. He grew up in Milwaukee and graduated high school in 2017. He moved out to Madison for undergraduate studies and then graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2021 with a Bachelor’s of Science in mechanical engineering. During his undergrad years, he began his research career as an undergrad assistant in a lab that studied fluid dynamics and the heat transfer properties of two-phase flow. Once graduated, he moved to Austin in the summer of 2021 to begin working toward a Ph.D. at The University of Texas at Austin within the Webber Energy Group. Drew’s research interests are in big picture energy systems and cleaning up the power grid. Currently, he is researching grid resilience scenarios in extreme weather events by studying what efforts are needed to prepare for increasingly probable extreme weather. The methods involved in this research are robust capacity expansion models of the ERCOT power grid infrastructure that can be modified to explore specific resilience plans. These plans typically involve grid interconnections, distributed energy resources, and storage options at utility and distributed scales. Ultimately, Drew will study the interactions between these three options on a case by case basis to determine what combinations of them might work in practice. Joshua D. Rhodes, Ph.D. is a Research Scientist at The University of Texas at Austin, a non-Resident Fellow at Columbia University, and a Founding partner and the CTO of IdeaSmiths LLC. His current work is in the area of smart grid and the bulk electricity system, including spatial system-level applications and impacts of energy efficiency, resource planning, distributed generation, and storage. He is also interested in policy and the impacts that good policy can have on the efficiency of the micro and macro economy. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes and is an AXIOS Expert Voice. He also sits on the boards of Catalyst Cooperative. He holds a double bachelors in Mathematics and Economics from Stephen F. Austin State University, a masters in Computational Mathematics from Texas A&M University, a masters in Architectural Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin and a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin. He enjoys mountain biking, backpacking, and a good cup of coffee. As an NSF Graduate Research Fellow, Matt has conducted systems analysis research as it relates to power grid operations and sustainability. Currently, he is focused on assessing the role of energy efficiency and demand response in increasing power grid resiliency during extreme weather events. As part of this research, Matt characterizes electricity demand profiles using the ResStock building energy model developed by NREL. He uses the ResStock model to generate building stock that is statistically representative of current residential housing and apply efficiency retrofits and equipment upgrades to investigate different development scenarios. He has also focused on investigating the impact that weather conditions have on electricity demand for historical severe weather events and future climate change scenarios. Before joining The University of Texas at Austin, Matt earned a B.S. in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin where he worked for several organizations conducting research to inform environmental and energy policy-making processes. After graduating, he worked as an engineer in the energy services industry implementing energy optimization projects at commercial and industrial facilities.


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