University of California Carbon Neutrality Research Landscape

Sunday, 15 February 2015
Exhibit Hall (San Jose Convention Center)
Emily L. Rader, University of California Office of the President, Oakland, CA
Background: In 2007, the University of California campuses signed the American College & Universities Presidents’ Climate Commitment and later pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, committing UC as the first public university to achieve this goal. In 2013, UC President Janet Napolitano advanced the net zero goal for scope 1 & 2 emissions to 2025. To identify research strengths, gaps, and areas where further investment would have the greatest impact, the UCOP Office of Research & Graduate Studies compiled an inventory of all research awards to UC PIs over a five year period on topics relevant to UC’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative.  Methods: Using UCOP’s Contracts and Grants (C&G) database, data on energy-related research awards was culled for the five years between 4/1/2009 and 3/31/2014 using key words based on the NSF’s Science and Engineering indicators on clean energy and pollution control along with a PI name search.  Data was categorized at the systemwide and campus levels according to four broad research topics, and sorted into relevant subcategories.  Awards less than $50,000 were excluded from the analysis.  Results: The data set had 825 awards from 241 sponsors, totaling $429.2 M.  The 25 sponsors (~10%) providing the greatest total amount of funding accounted for $330.1 M and 472 awards, or 77% of total funding and 57% of total award count.  Awards were primarily from Federal ($166.6 M over 170 awards) and State ($105.9 M over 156 awards) sources.  The high count and total amount of State funding is unusual compared to award patterns in other disciplines; however, given the date range, some portion of the State funding was ARRA pass-through. At the systemwide level, awards in Energy Efficiency accounted for 27.9% of the total and $119.7 M across all C&G categories; Renewable Energy, 25.0% and $107.5 M; Alternatives to Natural Gas, 25.0% and $107.3 M; and Economics and Policy, 15.3% and $65.6 M. A category for Other awards (6.8% and $29.1 M) included transportation-, sequestration-, and refrigerant-related awards.  Basic Research awards totaled $261.5 M (60.9%), with nearly one-third of that total supporting research in Alternatives to Natural Gas.  Applied Research accounted for $98.0 M (22.8%) with approximately $30.5 M in Renewable Energy.  In Developmental Research, awards totaled $21.1 M (4.9%) with approximately half in Energy Efficiency.  Conclusions: Of the 825 awards only 20 were for collaborative research performed by two or more UC campuses, presenting an opportunity to leverage UC’s research productivity by increasing cross-campus collaborations.  While the distribution of research activity among the major topic areas appears to be well balanced, the subcategories reveal gaps, notably in research on developing biogas from agricultural waste and landfill sources.  This is important given the campuses’ need to substitute alternative biogas fuels for the large quantities of natural gas currently used by co-generation facilities for heating and on-site electricity generation.