Making Good Energy Choices: The Role of Energy Systems Analysis

Singapore Theatre
The Melbourne School of Design Building 133
The University of Melbourne, Parkville


2017 MCA Distinguished Lecturer: Dr Sally M Benson

Driven by concerns about global warming, air pollution, and energy security, the world is beginning a century-long transition to a decarbonised energy system. Building blocks for decarbonisation include dramatic efficiency improvements, renewable energy, electrification, nuclear power, natural gas as a substitute for coal, and carbon capture and storage. Given the long-term nature of the energy transition, the question becomes, how do we make good energy choices?

Energy systems analysis can augment economic analysis and by proving additional perspectives for answering questions such as:

  • Is storing renewable energy in batteries a good idea and which batteries are best?
  • How fast can the PV industry grow before it consumes more energy than it produces?
  • What's better, a battery electric vehicle or a fuel cell vehicle?
  • For new technologies, what aspects need to improve the most: efficiency, lifetime, materials, or cost?

This talk will provide examples of the important role energy systems analysis plays in revealing good energy choices.

RSVP required.

Presenter: Dr Sally M Benson

Co-Director, Precourt Institute for Energy
Director, Global Climate and Energy Project
Professor, Energy Resources Engineering, Stanford University

Sally M Benson joined Stanford University in 2007. She holds three appointments at Stanford: professor of energy resources engineering in the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences; co-director of the Precourt Institute for Energy, the campus-wide hub of energy research and education; and director of the Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP). An internationally recognized scientist, Benson is responsible for fostering cross-campus collaborations on energy and guiding the growth and development of a diverse research portfolio.

Prior to Stanford, Benson was at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a leading research center supported by the U.S. Department of Energy and managed by the University of California. There she held a variety of key positions, including deputy director of operations and director of the Earth Sciences Division.

A groundwater hydrologist and reservoir engineer, Benson is regarded as a leading authority on carbon capture and storage, and emerging energy technologies. In 2012, she served as a convening lead author of the Global Energy Assessment, a multinational project coordinated by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.

Benson and her GCEP colleagues have conducted a groundbreaking series of net energy analyses calculating the energetic costs of wind turbines, solar photovoltaics and grid-scale renewable energy storage. She also leads a research laboratory that studies geologic carbon dioxide (CO2) sequestration in saline aquifers. In 2005, she served as a coordinating lead author of a special report on CO2 capture and storage published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Professor Benson contributed to the reports of the IPCC, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

The author or co-author of over 160 scientific publications, she has delivered more than 200 invited talks and has testified at U.S. Congressional hearings on climate change technology and CO2 sequestration.

Benson received a B.S. in geology from Barnard College at Columbia University, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in materials science and mineral engineering from the University of California-Berkeley.