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IE, CE3 launch Energy Transition Initiative

September 9, 2022 wind turbines in ocean

The UNC Institute for the Environment and UNC School of Law’s Center for Climate, Energy, Environment & Economics (CE3) have teamed up to launch a new program called the Energy Transition Initiative (ETI). The program, led by UNC law professor and director of CE3 Jonas Monast, will tackle some of the most pressing environmental challenges facing North Carolina and the world.

“The energy system is undergoing a rapid change right now,” said Monast. “Coal plants are retiring, electric vehicle sales are expected to increase significantly, the cost of renewable energy technologies continues to fall, and developments in energy storage technologies are making renewables even more competitive. The clean energy provisions in the new Inflation Reduction Act will only accelerate many of these trends.”

According to Monast, the choices that energy regulators and electric utilities make in the next few years will affect energy prices and environmental impacts for decades to come.

Housed in the Institute, the ETI will help identify creative strategies to guide the electricity sector to an affordable, reliable, clean and equitable future.  The Institute recently hired Alex Hopkins as a research associate to work with Monast on the project.

The ETI will build upon Monast’s ongoing work in North Carolina and the Southeast. For example, Monast recently partnered with Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions to complete a year-long study of carbon reduction policies in the state as part of North Carolina’s Clean Energy Plan. The research team worked with state policymakers and stakeholders to identify realistic policies to decarbonize the power grid and released a detailed report in March 2021. Read more.

The ETI is taking a similar approach to clean energy policies in the Southeast. Through this work, the ETI has established ongoing collaborations with other universities like Colorado State, Georgetown, Harvard and Duke that are focusing on changing energy systems in different regions of the country.

As Monast looks to grow the Energy Transition Initiative, he is energized by the partnership with the Institute for the Environment.

“The Institute’s history of successful stakeholder engagement and deep connections across campus make it an ideal partner for this project,” he said. “We can provide fact-based, non-political conversations about the factors that are influencing the energy transition and identify the critical value choices that are going to determine how the sector electricity evolves.”

Mike Piehler, director of the UNC Institute for the Environment and chief sustainability officer at Carolina, also expressed his enthusiasm for the partnership.

“I am exceptionally excited about the ETI,” he said. “Our country, state, and university are at a critical moment that requires thoughtful and decisive action to advance the energy transition. Partnering with Jonas and the law school builds new capacity to make significant and novel contributions towards improved energy systems.”