Energy Paradox: Crisis in the Midst of Plenty

The world is facing a crisis in terms of energy security, affordability, and sustainability. Abundant and affordable energy is required for continued economic growth, a path that seems to directly contradict what we have to do at a societal level to attain sustainability. The goal of achieving economic growth while avoiding climate change seems paradoxical, and does not seem to have a viable and realistic solution. Yet, solutions are available. This site provides the Sustainability Energy and Resource Model (SERM), a tool for users to explore alternative energy scenarios for prosperity, resource use, and emissions – thus helping to identify solutions that are economical, scalable and sustainable. In particular, the ability to meet IPCC 2030 emission goals and drive future economic growth, are explored.

To skip ahead to a possible solution, select the Solutions Tab.

For additional resources, select the Resources Tab.

To use the Sustainable Energy and Resource Model (SERM) to build an energy future and examine its scalability, Click Here

Challenges with Current Initiatives:

Major initiatives underway include biofuels, increased adoption of renewable energy generation, and electrification of automotive transportation. All these initiatives face challenges for scaling and in terms of overall cost. The Sustainable Energy and Resource Model (SERM) allows evaluation of trade-offs between resource use, prosperity levels and emissions.

  • Existing Resources: Petroleum, coal, nuclear, natural gas, hydro and other resources are modeled in SERM. Business As Usual (BAU) is seen to have a finite runway and is not seen to be sustainable. SERM provides a tool to analyze energy options under constraints of prosperity, natural resource use and effluents.
  • Biofuels: Promising technology with price parity between Gen 2 biofuels and petroleum in 18-24 months. Will trigger a surge in use across the world. Sustainable for the US at about 20%, but poses scalability problem if market wants to adopt at wider scale than sustainability allows. Use SERM to find the scaling limits.
  • Renewable Resources: The land and water requirements for wind and solar energy show the scalability of the technology. Use SERM to find resource requirements.
  • Electrification of Automotive Sector: Gasoline consumption accounts for 50% of US oil consumption. Powering light vehicles by electricity, in particular using renewable resources such as wind and solar, can reduce fuel imports and reduce carbon emissions substantially. Use SERM to find impact on emissions.
  • Prosperity Levels: Global resource use depends on prosperity levels assumed. To project a long-term future without sufficient resources to allow emerging economies to attain their aspirational prosperity levels would not be acceptable to them. Further, in today’s flat world, technology solutions migrate instantaneously across the world. All solutions need to be tested using a metric of global scalability. Use SERM to test for solutions for scalability.
  • Sustainability: Resource use and emissions are computed to test for sustainability of the solutions being examined.

To skip ahead to a possible solution, select the Solutions Tab.

For additional resources, select the Resources Tab.

To use the Sustainable Energy and Resource Model (SERM) to build an energy future and examine its scalability, Click Here

Examining the limitations of existing energy delivery systems, energy use, and renewable energy sources shows significant synergistic opportunities in the transportation system. These synergies along with modest energy efficiency improvements allow today’s dominant fuels (coal, natural gas, and petroleum) to serve alongside emerging sources (biofuels, wind, solar) to meet IPCC 2030 emissions targets and save $2.9 Trillion over 20 years relative to current initiatives.

For additional resources, select the Resources Tab.

To use the Sustainable Energy and Resource Model (SERM) to build an energy future and examine its scalability, Click Here

Sustainable Energy and Resource Model (SERM)

Create your own energy-world, test for resource use and sustainability, and post your comments on-line. Click Here


IEEE Spectrum Publication Nov. 2009 Biofuels Aren't Really Green Click Here

Download a copy of the 3/12/10 presentation to the Southeast Climate Action Network Click Here


Video: A Smart Grid for Intelligent Use

What is the connection between Sustainability and the Smart Grid? This IEEE video will explain the basics in a summary format.


Dr. Deepak Divan

Deepak Divan is currently Professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Founding Director of the Intelligent Power Infrastructure Consortium (IPIC), and Associate Director of the Strategic Energy Institute, all at Georgia Tech. He is Founder, Chairman and Chief Innovation Officer for Innovolt, Inc. From 1995-2004, he was Chairman and CEO/CTO of Soft Switching Technologies, a company in the industrial power quality market. He was Professor at the University of Wisconsin - Madison from 1985 to 1995. He is a Fellow of the IEEE and was the recipient of the 2006 IEEE William E Newell Field Award for contributions in power electronics. He is President of the IEEE Power Electronics Society for 2009 and 2010. He has over 200 papers and 28 issued and 4 pending patents. His research interests are in the application of power electronics for power quality, power reliability, utility and industrial applications.

For more on Deepak: Please Click Here

Mr. Frank Kreikebaum

Frank Kreikebaum is pursuing a PhD in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology.   In the initial years of his PhD research, he examined the energy space in light of new and expected policy and technology developments.  Having identified the potential and challenges of inorganic energy, his current work aims to develop commercially viable power flow control techniques using fractionally rated power electronic devices.  Said techniques will facilitate the adoption of intermittent inorganic resources like solar and wind.  Before joining Georgia Tech in 2006, he was a project engineer for AWS Truewind, a utility-scale wind energy consultancy.  He holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and a B.A. in Philosophy from Santa Clara University.

Ms. Patty Durand

Patty Durand has been with Georgia Tech since early 2010 to pursue an interest in smart grid technology as a solution to climate change, and to collaborate on ways to bring energy research into the mainstream community. Prior to that she was the State Director of the Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club from 2005 – 2009, the state’s largest grassroots environmental nonprofit. Under her leadership the Georgia Chapter developed a multi-year strategic plan with a focus on climate change and energy policy, implemented online activist tools, and deepened outreach into diverse communities. Prior to the Sierra Club, Patty worked at the Sandy Springs Conservancy as Program Director working on greenspace programming. She has a combined business and nonprofit background, and holds an MBA from the College of William and Mary in Virginia and a BS in Business at Virginia Commonwealth University. Patty worked as an IT Consultant before entering nonprofit management.

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