Applied Complexity Roundtable
  US Mountain Time
Seth Blumsack

This event is private.

Achieving zero carbon emissions in energy distribution is an inherently complex problem; it involves multiple interdependent complex systems running in radically different time scales. In a recent SFI working group, Seth Blumsack, Paul Hines, Cris Moore, and Jessika Trancik considered this challenge in the context of New Mexico.

In the video below, as part of our ongoing series on the Complexity of Sustainability, Seth Blumsack reported out on that Working Group and led a discussion with two of his working group co-organizers, Jessika Trancik and Cris Moore, exploring the policy implementation process for transitioning the power grid to zero-carbon sources of energy, which is essential for avoiding or minimizing climate change. Many technologies such as solar photovoltaic systems continue to improve, and states and regions now routinely generate a significant fraction of their electricity from renewable sources, at least intermittently. Many of the needed technologies for low-carbon or zero-carbon power grids already exist and continue to decline in cost. A successful transition process, however, requires additional innovation in how we think about encouraging technology deployment, the models that we use in making investments, and how formulating clean energy goals to think beyond just the power grid.

Seth Blumsack, "Complexity of Sustainability: Beyond the Power Grid" - July 30, 2020


Seth Blumsack is an associate professor in the Leone Family Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering at Penn State University, the co-director of the energy and environmental economics and policy initiative at Penn State, and an External Professor at SFI. He teaches undergraduate courses and advises students in the energy business and finance program. He also teaches public policy and economics courses to graduate students in science, engineering and other technical fields across the university. He has strong interests in helping professionals and students address policy-relevant problems related to energy and environmental systems and technologies.


Cristopher Moore received his B.A. in Physics, Mathematics, and Integrated Science from Northwestern University, and his Ph.D. in Physics from Cornell. From 2000 to 2012 he was a professor at the University of New Mexico, with joint appointments in Computer Science and Physics. Since 2012, Moore has been a resident professor at the Santa Fe Institute; he has also held visiting positions at École Normale Superieure, École Polytechnique, Université Paris 7, École Normale Superieure de Lyon, the University of Michigan, and Northeastern University. He has written 150 papers at the boundary between physics and computer science, ranging from quantum computing, to phase transitions in NP-complete problems, to the theory of social networks and efficient algorithms for analyzing their structure. He is an elected Fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Mathematical Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. With Stephan Mertens, he is the author of The Nature of Computation from Oxford University Press. 


Jessika Trancik's research focuses on the evolution of technologies and on decomposing performance trajectories of energy systems. She is particularly interested in understanding the dynamics and limits of costs and carbon intensities of energy technologies, in order to inform climate change mitigation efforts. A subset of projects centers on nanostructured energy technologies and their potential to reach very low costs and carbon intensities. Jessika received her B.S. in materials science and engineering from Cornell University and her Ph.D. in materials science from the University of Oxford, where she studied as a Rhodes Scholar. She has also worked for the United Nations, and as an advisor to the private sector on investment in low-carbon energy technologies.

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