Massachusetts Institute of Technology Energy Initiative

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Type: Policy

Status: Established in September 2006

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The MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI), established in September 2006, is an Institute-wide initiative designed to help transform the global energy system to meet the needs of the future and to help build a bridge to that future by improving today's energy systems.

MIT President Susan Hockfield first announced an MIT energy initiative at her inauguration in May 2005. She said, "[It is] our institutional responsibility to address the challenges of energy and the environment....Tackling the problems that energy and the environment present will require contributions from all our departments and schools...bringing scientists, engineers and social scientists together to envision the best energy policies for the future."

She subsequently established an Energy Research Council (ERC) of 16 faculty members from all five schools, charged with exploring how MIT could best tackle the world’s energy crisis. After gathering extensive input from MIT faculty, students, staff, and alumni as well as key industrial leaders, the ERC prepared a report and submitted it to Hockfield in May 2006.

Drawing on the recommendations in that report, Hockfield launched MITEI the following fall, thrusting MIT into a new era of highly focused energy-related activity. The MITEI program now includes research, education, campus energy management and outreach activities that cover all areas of energy supply and demand, security and environmental impact.

MITEI's research program

The MITEI interdisciplinary research program focuses on the following:

  • Innovative technologies and underlying policy analysis that will improve how we produce, distribute and consume conventional energy.
  • Transformational technologies to develop alternative energy sources that can supplement and displace fossil fuels, including the economic, management, social science and policy dimensions needed for this transformation.
  • Global systems to meet energy and environmental challenges through a multidisciplinary systems approach that integrates policy design and technology development.
  • Tools to enable innovation, transformation and simulation of global energy systems through strategic basic research.

Through its research program, MITEI addresses a critical link in the energy innovation chain—the pairing of MIT's world-class research teams with the best in industry who will be responsible for moving the products of this collaboration into the energy marketplace. The structure of MITEI supports research that addresses key industrial concerns including the development through basic research of enabling energy technologies that have the potential to address multiple energy challenges; the delivery of energy products and services at scale; and the provision of energy products and services in highly complex policy, legal and regulatory environments.

Specific MIT research focus areas include:

  • Advanced nuclear fission
  • Biofuels
  • Buildings/urban design
  • Conversion
  • Enabling sciences
  • Global climate change
  • Industrial processes
  • Markets and policy
  • Oceans
  • Oil and gas
  • Sequestration
  • Solar
  • Geothermal
  • Storage
  • Systems/power
  • Vehicles/transportation systems

The merging of the "real-world" experience, vision and focused needs of industry with the creativity and research capabilities of MITEI's interdisciplinary teams of scientists, engineers, economists, architects and planners, management and innovation experts and social scientists will provide a powerful transformative tool to help meet the energy challenges of the 21st century.

MITEI's focus on students

MITEI engages MIT students who are interested in energy and related disciplines through classroom education and campus-oriented activities.

  • The MITEI education program catalyzes student learning and enthusiasm to help solve the many scientific, technical, social and political challenges associated with meeting today's energy challenges. It will do so by developing cross-disciplinary learning opportunities and assisting students with energy opportunities beyond the classroom.
  • The MITEI campus energy program seeks major reductions in campus-wide energy use, utilizing the campus as a learning laboratory. Among the activities are energy system upgrades, student-run projects to reduce energy use and emissions, on-campus testing of specific innovative measures, a major study to look at all options and web postings of resulting guidelines for use by other universities and institutions.