Engineers: your decisions shape our energy future

4th May 2017
Lanna Cooper


First expressed by Jeffery Sachs, Director The Earth Institute of Columbia University: "The politicians have done their job; now it’s up to the engineers," was the sentiment that followed the signing of the Paris Agreement, as it is resonating with engineers worldwide.

The Paris Agreement calls for the world to limit global warming to less than 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels, and its political unity reflects a broad consensus on addressing climate change.

In these global efforts focused on climate change, designers and engineers in the electrical ‘circuit’ are expected to play an important and crucial role changing the way the world operates.

“It’s up to electrical engineers in particular because it is the generation of electricity that is primarily responsible for greenhouse gasses, accounting for about 30% of the US total,” observers note. Meanwhile, greenhouse gas emissions from electricity have increased by about 12% since 1990 as demand has grown and fossil fuels have remained the dominant source for generating electricity, according to the EPA.

Electrical engineers can look forward to a multi-disciplined energy future, one that combines study and work in advancd power electronics; new materials for power transistors; magnetic materials for power applications; new materials such as silicon carbide and gallium nitride; and wider bandgap semiconductors.

But it’s not just engineers working in electronics who are hearing the call to take on climate change and lead their profession - and the world - in a technology-driven green energy revolution.

In a recent letter to ‘fellow engineers,’ Sara Harari, a first-year joint degree candidate in energy systems and entrepreneurship at Yale University urges engineers in all disciplines to 'approach each design as if it could fundamentally change the way our world operates'.

All engineers “have an important role to play in developing a sustainable energy future,” Harari asserted, he added: “I believe in a better future…and I truly believe in the power of engineers and designers to take us there. We have an important role to play in developing a sustainable energy future.”

Read Harari’s personal appeal to professional colleagues to 'back sustainable solutions to pressing needs'. It lists five things engineers can do to advance a green, sustainable future, and to shift their 'sphere of influence'.

For more on the way electrical engineers are reshaping the energy future, read and follow The Energy Imperative 2017.

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