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Clean Energy Technologist Dr. Joe Nyangon on Unlocking Innovation and Polycentric Climate Renaissance

Climate change and the Fourth Industrial Revolution—a transformation in which the physical, biological, and digital worlds merge—are two global megatrends of the 21stcenturyshaping the future of economies, business, industry, and society. As a result, both the private and public sectors can play a vital role in understanding and addressing these megatrends.

However, while much about the future of the earth’s climate and the disruption of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are still uncertain, several facts are incontrovertible. The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen steadily since scientists began taking measurements in 1957.

Meanwhile, the scope, scale, and complexity of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and solutions needed to mitigate the climate crisis are unlike anything humankind has experienced before.

Bending the Carbon Curve

Capital markets are increasingly treating this challenge as a systemic financial risk that requires new and converging technologies to de-risk assets and mitigates climate change risks. For example, in the energy sector, this transformation requires massive investments in clean energy technologies and building and expanding electric distribution and transmission infrastructure.

But this transformation will not happen all at once or by a single “magic bullet” solution. Given the existence of the link between economic activity and carbon emissions, we need to “bend the curve” toward lower carbon dioxide emissions by supporting partnerships that unlock and scale innovation on emerging – and potentially game-changing – technologies in the way we produce and consume energy.

The increasing energy demand has continued to soar and will only increase more with time. To cope with the growing needs of decarbonization, decentralization, and digital transformation of the world’s energy systems, a trifecta of engineering, economic and policy solutions in energy generation, distribution, transmission, and storage are needed.

These innovations should prioritize poly-centric sustainable investments that are compatible with planetary limits. Among the individuals actively working toward fostering clean energy solutions for the climate crisis in polycentric settings is Dr. Joe Nyangon. With a multi-layered career as a scientist, engineer, energy economist, author, and clean energy technology expert, Dr. Nyangon’s research focuses on the hallmark of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

He works on improving the fusion of breakthrough technologies such as AI, ML, IoT, and renewable energy and their interaction across the digital, physical and biological domains—to improve utility operations, policy design, risk pricing strategies, and power system planning decisions.

A Sustainable Future

The climate crisis is an existential threat to human civilization. Climate-change-fueled disasters, including the growing threat of record-setting wildfires in the U.S. West, melting glaciers in the Arctic, and other extreme weather events. As alarming as it sounds, these impacts of climate change are widespread, rapid, and intensifying.

Understanding that stabilizing the climate will require strong, rapid, and sustained investment in low-carbon energy technologies, Dr. Nyangon decided to focus his research on the rapidly evolving electricity sector, including the rapid proliferation of distributed energy resources (DERs), electricity market transformation, and proactive regulatory reforms to support a net-zero future.

Passionate about strategies for unlocking energy innovation to advance electrification of buildings and transportation, Dr. Nyangon acquired Ph.D., M.P.A., M.Sc, and BSc (Eng.) degrees from the University of Delaware, Columbia University, University of Greenwich, and the University of Nairobi, respectively. He specialized in energy systems engineering, energy economics and policy, and computing systems.

Dr. completed a postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of Delaware, focusing on energy economics and engineering systems. While acquiring his Ph.D. and postdoctoral degrees, he was a lead project manager for a U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Science Foundation (NSF)sponsored project underQESST—Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies.

He was also a project-lead for the Delaware General Assembly-funded research studies about trends shaping electric power systems, including the rapid growth of distributed renewable electricity, city-scale solar power plants, and community solar development investigation. All these studies accelerate innovations in net-zero carbon emissions economy-wide.

Dr. Nyangon landed his first job in climate change reporting at the InternationalInstitute for Sustainable Development (IISD), a Canadian-based think tank, as an independent observer of united Nations environment and development negotiations. Additionally, he collaborated with Columbia Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Design in 2013 and launched an energy and infrastructure advisory and consulting firm called Sacital Energy Group, Inc.

Research Career

In 2021, Dr. Nyangon published a new book and colleagues at the University of Delaware called “Sustainable Energy Investment: Technical, Market, and Policy Innovations to Address Risk.” The book provides a roadmap for unlocking sustainable investment in the energy sector and shifting to a low-carbon, climate-resilient development. Dr. Nyangon has authored over 60 publications on topics focusing on energy and climate policy.

His expertise lies in energy economics, policy, climate risk, pricing strategies, infrastructure investment, energy transition strategies, and technological change. He is also an expert in the consequences of three Ds’ of modern energy; digitalization, decarbonization, and decentralization.

A prolific and highly regarded scholar with extensive experience in energy market reforms, Dr. Nyangon, has investigated electricity market design and regulatory innovations for distributed electricity systems. He has assessed game-changing alternative utility regulation and pioneered grid modernization models like the New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV), Illinois’s NextGrid, California’s Energy Savings and Performance Incentive, Germany’s Energiewende, Australia’s Electricity Network Transformation Roadmap, and Great Britain’s RIIO (Revenue = Incentives + Innovation + Outputs).

He has also evaluated resource adequacy, spot market integration, and potential price convergence between natural gas and solar photovoltaic electricity markets in the United States to help deliver competitive ROI (return on investment) for customers. He is actively involved as an advisor and expert in various academic institutions.

Some of the notable institutes include the Payne Institute at the Colorado School of Mines, the Initiative for Sustainable Energy Policy at Johns Hopkins University, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Delaware, the Foundation for Renewable Energy and Environment, and at the Institute for Oil, Gas, Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development (OGEES Institute) at theAfe Babalola University in Nigeria.

Honors and Accolades

Acknowledging his valuable contributions, Dr. Nyangon has received many awards and honors. In addition to being elected a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, he received a postdoctoral Fellowship Award in Energy Economics and Engineering Systems from the University of Delaware; an Environmental Defense Fund(EDF) Climate Corps Fellowship Award; a First Prize Award in the United States Association for Energy Economics (USAEE) and the International Association for Energy Economics (IAEE) Case Competition.

Other awards include a University of Delaware’s Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Leadership Award; a University of Delaware Doctoral Research Fellowship Award; a University of Delaware’s Professional Development Award; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Climate Colab Fellowship Award; a University of Delaware’s Graduate Research Fellowship; Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs Dean’s Environmental Science and Policy Fellowship Award; TED Fellowship Award;and theUnited Nations Environment Programme(UNEP) Executive Director’sWorld Environment Day Citation Award.

Dr. Nyangon’s achievements and contributions to the energy innovation field are helping equip governments, businesses, and organizations to achieve net-zero targets in an increasingly global and interconnected world.

These efforts are worth emulating by harnessing Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies to improve field-engineered advanced analytics and unlock energy innovation. He lives in Hershey, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Jennifer, a trauma and critical care surgeon, and their two children.

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