The Sustainability Institute at Ohio State announced a new collaboration with IGS Energy to support research, student engagement and other university programs promoting sustainable energy. The initiative reflects the urgency of transitioning to low-carbon options for energy to reduce climate change, a priority for both Ohio State and IGS Energy. The company will invest $1 million over five years in sustainable energy research and student learning with an aim of developing new innovations and emerging leaders to facilitate this transition.
“This new initiative with IGS Energy aligns with Ohio State’s commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and to help others reach the same important goal,” says Kate Bartter, executive director of the Sustainability Institute. In 2020, the university detailed its plans for reducing 55 percent of its current carbon emissions by 2030, including improving building energy efficiency, diversifying sources of energy and addressing transportation-related emissions.
The initiative comes at a time when the U.S. economy is starting to recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Biden Administration has prioritized federal investments in greener infrastructure. Locally, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission has forecasted that Central Ohio will reach 3 million residents by 2050, bringing increased demand for energy for homes, businesses and jobs.
These expected changes are not lost on IGS Energy, an independent retail energy supplier headquartered in Dublin, Ohio. Last year, the company announced a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2040.
“By partnering with the Sustainability Institute at Ohio State, we can help apply the sustainability knowledge generated by university researchers to the energy needs of the real world,” says Scott White, IGS Energy president and CEO. “What we learn from this collaboration will ultimately end up in the hands of our employees, customers and the communities we serve.”
Consumer awareness and behavior related to sustainable energy, demand response programs, and energy policy and regulatory systems are high on the list of areas to investigate with Ohio State researchers, according to White. While technologies are expected to continue to drive more breakthroughs in clean energy, consumer behavior and market incentives will play a critical role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The new initiative will invest $750,000 in sustainability research, student programs and other projects based on an annual assessment process between the company and the university. The arrangement was designed to provide flexibility and permit changes during the initiative in recognition of the rapid changes taking place in the field of sustainable energy. The remaining $250,000 will support the Sustainability Institute’s continued outreach to the business community.
“We see a great opportunity to transfer the knowledge our researchers have to offer to the wider community through collaborations with the private sector,” Bartter adds.
The initiative with IGS Energy also will build on work by Ohio State to better engage students from diverse backgrounds in sustainable energy pursuits.
“With help from the Sustainability Institute, Ohio State recently secured a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to create a new graduate specialization for sustainable energy,” Elena Irwin, Sustainability Institute faculty director, says. “The program will help teach students the advanced skills that future employers need as energy markets become more decentralized and digitally driven.”
The university also has launched a Sustainable Energy Student Community of Practice and Engagement to provide students from all backgrounds opportunities to learn not just about technology but also the broad implications and effects of sustainable energy.
“Ohio State’s engagement of students from underrepresented populations compliments our corporate commitment to diversity, equity, belonging and inclusion,” says Jen Bowden, vice president for brand and social impact at IGS Energy. “As a purpose-driven company, we believe that IGS has a role to play in making the world a better place for all no matter what your background is. That includes partnering with Ohio State to provide emerging leaders from among its graduates with the opportunity to get hands-on experience.”
Ohio State students like Robert Yengo are expected to benefit. Yengo has accepted a summer position with IGS Energy in its solar business and likes the potential that the new initiative between the university and the company offers for learning.
“I’m excited to explore opportunities to design a capstone project based on my experience with IGS,” Yengo says.
For Sustainability Institute co-directors Bartter and Irwin, the new relationship with IGS Energy fulfills many of the roles that the Sustainability Institute was created to play.
“The Sustainability Institute was formed to help Ohio State solve global sustainability challenges through an interdisciplinary approach that leverages not only the expertise of our researchers but also taps the power of external collaborations,” Bartter says. “At the end of the day, this initiative is an investment in a more sustainable and resilient future for all.”
Learn more about this IGS/Ohio State collaboration: https://youtu.be/09wKKXxJJSM