President's Sustainability Symposium: Transitioning Our Energy Infrastructure From Old to New

Wednesday, September 30 2009

Written by Ken Kingery

MOSCOW, Idaho – Transitioning to a smarter, sustainable energy system based on renewable technologies is one of the greatest challenges facing the U.S. The University of Idaho is helping lead the way by bringing together experts, policy makers and the general public to ask the difficult questions and further the discussion.

The theme for the university's third annual President's Sustainability Symposium is "Transition to Sustainable Energy Systems." The two-day event, Oct. 22-23 in Idaho Falls, will focus on electricity, including issues with generation, transmission and utilization in a carbon-constrained economy. Decision makers, researchers and industry leaders will gather to explore the nation's energy future through lectures and panel discussions, and conclude with a session of the Princeton Stabilization Wedges game.

"Creating a new energy infrastructure will require the foresight of policy makers, the ingenuity of researchers, and the understanding and support of the general public," said University of Idaho President Duane Nellis. "The University of Idaho's goal is to facilitate the interaction between these groups in an effort to move our state and our nation toward achieving these goals."

The symposium features five presentations on topics ranging from carbon markets to energy legislation, a panel discussion on sustainable electric energy, and an innovative, educational game designed to stress the trade-offs required to reduce carbon emissions.

Speaker highlights include: Steven Aumeier, chair of the Idaho Strategic Energy Alliance board of directors, who will discuss the alliance's mission in relation to developing Idaho's energy future; and Mark Allen Bernstein, managing director of the University of Southern California Energy Institute, who will speak about water and energy, how the two issues are intertwined and what further information is needed to understand that relationship.

The lectures will be capped by a panel session that features experts in hydropower, economics, public affairs, carbon sequestration, geothermal energy, building efficiency and nuclear engineering. After each panelist presents information on their area of expertise, the entire panel will engage symposium participants and audience members in an open forum for dialogue on the advantages, disadvantages, trade-offs and ideal mixes of strategies available to meet the demand for a growing electric infrastructure.

The symposium concludes with a facilitated session of the Princeton Stabilization Wedges game designed to help participants better understand the trade-offs and limitations of technologies and policies to both increase electricity and reduce carbon emissions. This innovative teaching tool challenges teams composed of symposium participants to choose among available technologies that could be scaled-up to reduce carbon emissions by 7 billion tons per year over the next 50 years. The task is made more challenging – and realistic – by the need to balance costs, politics and public perception.

"I hope to see many students and citizens join this unique gathering of energy experts," said Bob Smith, associate vice president for the University of Idaho, Idaho Falls. "Moving towards a sustainable energy future requires the participation of all of us. This symposium offers a wonderful opportunity to become informed on the issues and help shape the discussion."'

Learn more about the symposium:  
# # #

About the University of Idaho
Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state's flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university's student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 130 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. For information, visit  

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit