Making Energy Efficiency And Electrification Programs Work For People

The Inflation Reduction Act allocates billions of dollars in rebates and incentives for home and building upgrades over the next ten years. U.S. Department of Energy guidance was just issued in March, and funds will be available later this year. These rebates and incentives can cut energy bills, reduce energy burdens, improve public health, and slash emissions, but state and tribal governments must work quickly to develop and implement well-designed programs to realize their full potential. In this episode, host Sara Baldwin speaks with leading energy policy researchers Dr. Yunus Kinkhabwala of PSE Healthy Energy and Dr. Arjun Makhijani of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, as well as heat pump and energy efficiency expert Dana Fischer with Mitsubishi Electric US. They discuss program design, data-driven approaches, and strategies that will ensure that all people, especially low- to moderate income households and underserved communities, benefit from new funding.

Guest Bios:

Dr. Arjun Makhijani, PhD, President of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. Arjun holds a Ph.D. in engineering (specialization: nuclear fusion) from the University of California at Berkeley. He has produced many studies and articles on nuclear fuel cycle related issues, including weapons production, testing, and nuclear waste, over the past twenty years. He is the principal author of the first study ever done (completed in 1971) on energy conservation potential in the U.S. economy. Most recently, Dr, Makhijani has authored Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy (IEER Press), the first analysis of a transition to a U.S. economy based completely on renewable energy, without any use of fossil fuels or nuclear power. He is the principal editor of Nuclear Wastelands and the principal author of Mending the Ozone Hole, both published by MIT Press.

Dr. Yunus Kinkhabwala, PhD, Senior Data Scientist, PSE Healthy Energy. Yunus develops sophisticated data-driven models to guide decision making and policy. Projects include optimizing the geospatial siting of solar and storage resilience hubs for vulnerable populations; incorporating societal costs and benefits into the economic modeling of hourly electric generation models; and estimating detailed household energy usages and costs to investigate impacts of policy scenarios aimed at improving energy affordability for low-income households. He received his PhD in Applied Physics from Cornell University as a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow where he developed methods inspired by statistical physics to forecast small area demographic changes. Prior to his PhD, he taught secondary math and science at schools in Austin, TX and Dakar, Senegal; served as a U.S. Peace Corps Education and HIV/AIDS outreach volunteer in South Africa; and earned his BS in Physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Dana Fischer, Director of Regulatory Strategy at Mitsubishi Electric US. He has been with Mitsubishi Electric for 5 years in a few roles engaging with everyone from individual homeowners to utility and industry organizations to the US Secretary of Energy about the transformative power of cold-climate heat pumps. In the prior 7 years going back to the ARRA grant era, he was the Program Manager of the Home Energy Savings Program at Efficiency Maine helping establish the still active residential rebate and loan programs for weatherization, conventional heating systems and heat pumps. He also has background in municipal finance, solar thermal, ultra-high purity manufacturing, and microbrewing with education and training in Philosophy, Sociology, Business and Fermentation Science.

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