Scott Institute for Energy Innovation

Arun Majumdar on Navigating the Turbulence of the Global Energy System

November 29, 2017

12:00 p.m. - 1:20 p.m.

Marquis Conference Room, Scott Hall 5201

Join the Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation for a Distinguished Lecture by Arun Majumdar, Founding Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), the Jay Precourt Professor at Stanford University, a faculty member of the Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering (by courtesy) and Co-Director of the Precourt Institute for Energy, which integrates and coordinates research and education activities across all seven Schools and the Hoover Institution at Stanford.

Majumdar will speak on "Navigating the Turbulence of the Global Energy System." His lecture will be followed by a fireside chat with Scott Institute Director Jay Whitacre.

This is a free event that is open to the public. Lunch will be available 15 minutes before the start of the lecture.


After more than a hundred years of historic success, the fundamentals of the energy industry are rapidly changing driven by three “Ds,” namely: (i) Decarbonization, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, especially in view of the Paris Agreement; (ii) Diversification, to offer more choices for fuels, electricity generation and options for mobility as well as national security; and (iii) Digitization, to automate, increase efficiency and lower costs.

The world still faces three big energy challenges, namely: (a) How can one continue the exponential economic growth while decarbonizing the economy cost-effectively?; (b) How can the energy system be made resilient, adaptable and secure against various threats  climate, cyber...?; and (c) How can one provide access to affordable modern energy to every human being in the world, noting that there are about 1.2 billion people who don’t have access to modern energy and another 1 billion people who have marginal access?

History has taught us that for our energy policies to be truly sustainable for the long term, they must maintain a balance between three securities - economic, national and environmental—while also ensuring social equity. The paramount question can be summarized as: What pathways or approaches should a business, an industry, nation or a region adopt to address the future challenges while navigating, leveraging and shaping the three “D” landscape? This talk will provide a snapshot of various trends in the 3Ds and offer some thoughts on addressing this paramount challenge. It will also highlight the need to innovate – to experiment with new ideas, knowing some of them will fail, but hopefully fail quickly, and more importantly, teach a lot in the process.


Dr. Majumdar's research in the past has involved the science and engineering of nanoscale materials and devices, especially in the areas of energy conversion, transport and storage as well as biomolecular analysis. His current research focuses on using electrochemical reactions for thermal energy conversion, thermochemical redox reactions, understanding the limits of heat transport in nanostructured materials and a new effort to re-engineer the electricity grid.

In October 2009, Dr. Majumdar was nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate to become the Founding Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E). He served till June 2012 and helped ARPA-E become a model of excellence for the government with bipartisan support from Congress and other stakeholders. Between March 2011 and June 2012, he also served as the Acting Under Secretary of Energy, enabling the portfolio that reported to him: Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Office of Electricity Delivery and Reliability, Office of Nuclear Energy and the Office of Fossil Energy, as well as multiple cross-cutting efforts such as Sunshot, Grid Tech Team and others that he had initiated. Furthermore, he was a Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Energy, Dr. Steven Chu, on a variety of matters related to management, personnel, budget, and policy. Learn more about Majumdar.


Scott Hall is located on the east side of Carnegie Mellon's Pittsburgh campus between Hamerschlag Hall and the FMS building, and adjacent to the east wall of Wean Hall. Scott Hall is accessible from entrances in Wean Hall, on Hamerschlag Plaza, and on Hamerschlag Drive. 


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