Sangeeta Negi of Los Alamos National Laboratory holds a flask of algae, which can be used to make fuel, plastics and other products. Bioenergy and bioproducts are one example of new technologies that can support a carbon-neutral economy. Courtesy/LANL
From wind farms to electric cars, the movement of global markets away from conventional fossil fuels to more sustainable energy sources is gaining momentum. To identify options for the Intermountain West, a new coalition is asking the public for input on regional perspectives as part of a plan for making the shift to a carbon-neutral economy in 15 years.
“People are wondering how the transition to a carbon-neutral economy will affect them, their families, their jobs and their towns,” said George Guthrie, deputy director of Applied Energy Programs at Los Alamos National Laboratory. “Los Alamos is leading the Intermountain West Energy Sustainability & Transitions initiative to create a community-based roadmap of the technologies and industries that will help us get there. We want everyone to have a voice in shaping that plan.”
With funding by the Department of Energy, I-WEST is collaborating with states, regional universities and colleges, research institutions, local communities and Native American tribes and nations. The I-WEST region encompasses Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming—states where energy production plays a big role in communities and the economy. The work capitalizes on Los Alamos’ deep experience providing scientific support to policy makers, industry and others in energy development.
“I-WEST was built around the idea that local communities would be part of the solution, shaping the transition according to their unique needs and circumstances,” Guthrie said. “That way, no one is left out.”
I-WEST is currently offering one-on-one listening sessions through May for tribes, local community leaders, special interest groups, educators, students, policy makers, project leaders, entrepreneurs and others who want to join the dialog and offer their perspectives on energy transition in the Intermountain West. To schedule a session, contact I-WEST at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the initiative, visit iwest.org.
Discussion is open, but topics of interest might include local decarbonization projects and concerns about how energy transition might impact a community’s work force, local economy and environment. Other topics include the various technologies for decarbonization, such as clean hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, bio-energy, wind, and solar, along with local or state energy-related policies that support or hinder energy transition in a community. I-WEST also wants input on how to ensure a fair energy transition that benefits everyone without putting excessive burdens on particular communities.
The listening sessions are in addition to a series of I-WEST workshops and outreach activities over the past year that have focused on the science and technologies of carbon-neutral energy, along with industrial opportunities and community needs.
Guided by this input, I-WEST will create a roadmap later this year to help stakeholders throughout the region make decisions about technological and industrial options to support a zero-carbon future.
“We can do that while making use of existing energy production infrastructure, protecting the jobs of energy workers and supporting them in developing new skills to build high-quality careers as the new economy emerges,” Guthrie said.